“Mary Had a Little Lamb”
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My little flock: 2008

While growing up I was always drawn to sheep and lambs.  I’m not sure what started it, maybe the few pictures and books on sheep that my mother had around, or the fact that I enjoyed reading about the “olden days” when there were shepherds living with the sheep.  Whatever it was though it stayed with me.  From a simple liking it became a  dream to one day have my own flock.  We moved to the country when I was 12 years old and with that move my dream came closer.  By the time I was 16 or 17 I had saved up some money and researched sheep enough that I was finally able to start my flock.  Two bred Shetland ewes were purchased from a friend and the adventures began.  There were joys, (lambing, getting them to trust me so that I could catch them, bringing them to grass and watching them enjoy all the fresh greens) and the sorrows, (a lice infestation, losing a lamb to an early birth) but I relished every learning curve.

After a few years I sold the Shetlands and bought a mix of sheep that could be used for meat as well as wool production.  That brought a new level to the learning as I had to now have the sweet things butchered and eat them.  But I came away with a new understanding of the “circle of life” and a love for lamb meat prepared correctly.  Move forward a few more years and I was trying to figure out how to graze my sheep effectively.  I read about rotational grazing, but no one around us was doing it that I could learn from.  Joel Salatin’s name was re-mentioned to me and so I looked into Polyface.  They weren’t raising sheep, but they were grazing the way I hoped to, so I contacted them and eventually came for my internship.  My intention was to learn what I could about the grazing and return home to start an intense program with my sheep.

God had other plans.  Grady and I met and started getting to know each other that summer and as our relationship progressed I had a feeling that I wasn’t going to be staying in Michigan when I returned home.  And that’s what happened, the following spring we were married and I had moved to Grady’s home in Oklahoma with him.  And guess what, his dad was running sheep!

Dad Phelan's flock

 

 

I was able to help to some extent with the 300 ewes while we lived there and at some point Grady and I would like to have sheep again.

 

 

 

 

I have been so blessed in all the lessons God has taught me through these years of raising sheep, not the least being how appropriately used the term sheep and lamb are used in the Bible, one of the most meaningful to me is that Christ is called the Lamb of God and that He died for me.

 

Isaiah 53:4-6

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

But the best part of all is that He is not dead, but alive.  Easter is special to me because we remember all that happened to Him for our sakes and yet rejoice because: “He is Risen”!

Do you have any sheep stories?

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About Erin Phelan

Born and raised in western Michigan, Erin came to Polyface first as an intern in the summer of 2009. While here she met and got to know Grady Phelan, an apprentice at the time. The next spring they were married and after a couple years in Oklahoma they are back, working as sub-contractors for Polyface. Erin keeps herself busy with the jobs of a wife and mother, as well as helping with the animals, gardening, sewing, cooking, baking, knitting and reading.
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9 Responses to “Mary Had a Little Lamb”

  1. Rachel Hershberg says:

    My name, Rachel, is of course from the Bible. You probably know this, but I wanted to share that “Rachel” is Hebrew for an ewe, probably meaning that the Biblical Rachel was a shepherdess. I also always felt connected to sheep, because of my name….we celebrate the traditional Jewish Passover, and lambs figure prominently, as we remember the Paschal sacrifice that was offered in the Temple in Jerusalem, and long for its return. (We used to put a little stuffed animal sheep on our seder table, until it got lost.)

    • Catherine W. says:

      Your story is beautiful and you are blessed to have found your calling and your soul mate in one! Love to you all this Easter. Catherine W., West Australia

  2. Dawn says:

    No sheep stories of my own (maybe someday), but my father was raised on a large sheep farm in North Wales in the UK in the 1920’s, and after a long career in the Navy became a preacher, and his preaching nearly always involved sheep or shepherding. He would use his personal experiences to explain the bible passages in a way that really brought them alive for me. He’s been gone a few years now, but I always hear his voice in my mind when I read those passages. I love that your shepherding aspirations brought you to your future husband. God works in amazing ways! He is Risen indeed – Alleluia!

  3. Annie says:

    I have tons! I was raised with sheep (literally, my favorite place was with them). Sheep are wonderful and we’re looking to add them to our farm this summer.

  4. Traci says:

    Have you read Phillip Keller’s, “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23?” I’ve never had any sheep but don’t need to to still love this book. But you, as a Christian AND a shepherdess will love-love this book! Obviously you are quite busy, but it isn’t very long at all – 142 pages and a paperback. Guaranteed to be very enjoyable to you!

    • Erin Phelan says:

      Yes, that is also one of my favorite books! 🙂

    • Kutsal says:

      My name, Rachel, is of course from the Bible. You pbblaroy know this, but I wanted to share that Rachel is Hebrew for an ewe, pbblaroy meaning that the Biblical Rachel was a shepherdess. I also always felt connected to sheep, because of my name .we celebrate the traditional Jewish Passover, and lambs figure prominently, as we remember the Paschal sacrifice that was offered in the Temple in Jerusalem, and long for its return. (We used to put a little stuffed animal sheep on our seder table, until it got lost.)

  5. Halle says:

    Forewarning: this has nothing to do with sheep. I have been reading this blog regularly for a few months and it all seems amazing! From the photos you take to the language you use to describe your daily life, it sounds like paradise. As someone who tends to romanticize possible careers and often needs to look at the world more realistically, I would love to hear about what has been the hardest for each of you as you transition to living on a farm or some of the challenges that you are faced with in daily life, from spiders to gender roles to condescension from non-farmers.

    I love this blog and hopefully will be applying for a Polyface apprenticeship for next summer! Keep up the great writing, ladies!

  6. Naveena says:

    No sheep stories of my own (maybe sdoemay), but my father was raised on a large sheep farm in North Wales in the UK in the 1920 s, and after a long career in the Navy became a preacher, and his preaching nearly always involved sheep or shepherding. He would use his personal experiences to explain the bible passages in a way that really brought them alive for me. He’s been gone a few years now, but I always hear his voice in my mind when I read those passages. I love that your shepherding aspirations brought you to your future husband. God works in amazing ways! He is Risen indeed Alleluia!