Tag Archives: Lambs

Hope Springs


By Mary

Spring is here after a long and very cold winter. When I first felt that balmy spring winds stir up and circle around me, I let them blow through my hair. It was freeing to feel the gusts of wind as they blew over the brown landscape and danced with me near brush and upturned soil on a warm March afternoon.

spring wind

Ever since the first spring winds came upon me many more have come. Spring brings such a wonderful feeling of new life along with colors and noise that have been absent for so long. There is a certain harvest that comes with spring, and it’s much different than a summer or fall harvest. Spring’s bountiful harvest is one of hope.

Hope springs from beauty and spring is full of beauty. Getting outside and into the spring sunshine is an amazing gift full of welcome sights and tasks. Below are some of my favorite things to do and see in the spring.

Who doesn’t love daffodils in the spring? There is nothing quite like the first blooms of the season.


Before most blossoms come though, there is much work to be done. Unbeknownst to me, Clare took this picture while I was working on getting a bed ready for snapdragons and statice. I encouraged her to come help me…but her interest in digging up mounds of dirt seemed to be surprisingly lacking.


Spring coincides with lambing. I love lambs and am known for my habit of collecting orphan ones. This little guy is named Paschal. That seemed like the right name for the ram lamb that I picked up on Holy Saturday.

paschal and rosie

Easter is a glorious time of year. Here is Paschal on Easter Sunday with a cousin and my nephew and niece. I swear to God he isn’t dead in my nephews exuberant arms. The level of commotion may not have thrilled him though. Doesn’t Thaddeus look like a perfect shepherd boy?

spring lamb

The cows at the ranch have started calving this spring. My brothers and I were out moving them with the horses the other week. It’s amazing to be out riding my horse again. He’s on the comeback from a major injury that he suffered last August. But he seems to be as able and athletic as ever. Patrick enjoyed his morning coffee before cows got checked for pregnancy. I bet he felt very office-like and corporate during this coffee break.

working cows

I could make mention of so many other things that I Iove about spring. But really, why do so when I can go outside and let the balmy winds of springs toss my hair into the air? Happy Spring to all of you reader. Enjoy it to the fullest!

Slow Spring

By: Mary

Though this is just a mason jar filled with last fall’s jam:


to me- it a vessel filled with the sweetness of summertime. Since making jam last September and October, the supply has slowly been consumed with the exception of one jar that I held on to. That is, until the other night when I used it as a substitute in a blackberry cobbler that my niece requested for her First Communion party.

I don’t usually hoard jam. The problem is that after 6 month of winter I am reluctant to believe that soon enough I will have fresh produce and fruit to use again.

I know I believe in God, and the Blessed Mother, and heaven and hell…. but I am not so sure I believe in spring anymore! This week has brought on more snow and ice. It’s less than amusing to be having to use windshield wipers to clear off snow and heat my car to thaw off the ice that coats it on early Ridge mornings. On Thursday I went to Tractor Supply to pickup more pellets for my pellet stove and was told they were out of them. What the heck? Hello we are still in the midst of a 6 month winter…. I say that with snappy assurance after having been on a long Saturday run with a winter stocking cap on my head this very afternoon.

This morning I showed my god-daughter how to make flowers out of egg cartons while Clare finished off the rest of the jam with some pancakes.


The jam is gone and egg carton flowers are this spring’s April substitute for fresh blooms.

But next month…

spring green

Might just be a good time for daffodils and apple blossoms



and kites


and dabbling with sheep


and coveting how adorable they are as lambs,


and of course, digging in the garden and fields.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALife will bloom soon enough under sunny spring rays,


but until then I’m hoping the Tractor Supply will keep getting shipments of wood-burning pellets, because this is one slow spring.

Ali: My Iraqui Brother

by Patrick Slattery

Last week while packing cabbage in the root cellar, I entertained two visitors. The first was Jaris, a very polite, well-dressed, 24-year-old Jehovah’s Witness. After pleasant conversation and giving him a bag of free squash, I took Jaris upstairs to share his message with Peter Drake and Terese’s mother, Grandma Cummings. They both received copies of “The Watchtower”, and after my coaching, were supposed to have shown “The Watchtower” to Terese after she came home from school and tell her they had converted (they failed to execute my plan).

But the fellow I wanted to tell you about was the next visitor, Ariat. He is a bald little fellow, aged 53, a member of the very small Arab community that resides nearby in LaCrosse. They all know one another, and hang out at a gas station owned by a Pakistani. Ariat was  looking for onions and garlic, which I gave him along with a package of frozen venison.

“Where’s Ali?”, I asked of him, “haven’t seen him in a long time.”

Ariat replyed: “He’s gone from LaCrosse. Living in Rockford, has a new wife.”

“That’s too bad”, I said, “because I’ll miss seeing him.”

But before he fades from memory, I’d like to tell you about Ali, as a fellow farmer and occasional visitor here at Sweet Ridge Farm. Ali grew up on a farm in Iraq. He was one of twenty-three children (his father had four wives). He didn’t like Sudam, and had spent some time in jail in Iraq. Somehow he got to this country, and after living in Chicago and a number of other big cities, ended up in LaCrosse. Ali is a Halal butcher, meaning that he kills and processes livestock according to Islamic law. He worked in a number of Halal slaughter houses. “Despicable work”, he told me. And although he wasn’t employed in that capacity while in LaCrosse. He none the less continued butchering Arab style, and thus was always on the lookout for sheep to “do in”. I don’t remember how we connected several years ago-Ali just showed up in our driveway one day and asked if I knew of any sheep or goats that were for sale. As a city-dweller, he was always in need of a place to butcher on the farm, which is illegal of course, but that makes it only more fun to say yes when he suggested that he might do so at our place. We didn’t do it often, maybe a half-dozen times, but I do remember his excellence and skill with a knife. I believe his ritual was to face the animal  east, shout “Allah is great!” and then proceed to slit its throat. He could entirely process a sheep in 10 or 15 minutes. I well remember the time he pulled into our driveway, honking the horn of his old Cadillac with three lambs and various fowl in the trunk, yelling out the window, “Hello brother!”.

Ali had the most gravelly voice that I’ve ever heard. A most impressive fact about Ali is that he never spent one day of his life in school, yet somehow he passed a driver’s test in the U.S. and was able to find his way all over the interstate highway system. Ali had lived in some pretty rough neighborhoods in Chicago and elsewhere, and was grateful for how safe LaCrosse, WI was in comparison. He especially liked being around farmers, as he considered himself a kindred spirit. He like the “Ameesh” (Amish) but they used to haggle ferociously over price. He could tell how old a sheep was by looking a the number of teeth in its mouth. He prepared us a lamb and rice dinner one Sunday, and my son Raphael well recalls it as one of the most delicious meals he ever ate. I also remember him once eating here with his cousin, and they twittered in Arabic and pointed to my wife Terese, who was barefoot at the time and sweeping the floors and had also poured them coffee. “She is just like the women in my country”, Ali pointed out with marvel in his voice. Ali’s wife in LaCrosse was American, and this proved to be his undoing. She was a nurse who worked odd hours and didn’t share his rural interests. I had never met her, and Ali seldom talked about her, but I can only presume that she wasn’t very satisfied with her husbands way of life. He did however bring out his daughter, Alia, a pretty, well behaved little girl. We were all struck by what a fine father he was.

So we can only presume their marriage bond had dissolved and Ali went elsewhere to find a new bride. Ariat said Ali had come back to Lacrosse several times to look for his daughter, but mother and child had disappeared, and there was no tracking them down. Ariat promised to come back next spring and help with the garlic. If the need arises he is welcome to slit a lamb’s throat now and then. I am sure he is good, but no one I suspect will do it with as much grace and style as Ali-my lost Iraqi brother.

This article is part of an occasional series written by Patrick J. Slattery, patriarch of the Slattery clan. Pat was a journalist for over 30 years, writing about faith, farming, and family. For the past few years he has stepped away from the keyboard and into the fields as a full time farmer. The first articles in his series are available here:

Gary Elsen: Son of Middle Ridge Soil


Cute Tractor

Rain Boots and Lambs at School

Mary has a really fantastic pair of rain boots this spring, as well as a little lamb. Here she is on the porch at Sweet Ridge Farm.

Well, make that three little lambs.

Everywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go- here it has been imprisoned in a shed by a group of very excited schoolchildren who, while laughing and playing, corralled the lambs into into the shed full of playground equipment.

Did I mention the kids were pretty excited about it?

All photos by Clare.

Mary Had a Little Lamb


To me, the nursery rhyme Mary Had A Little Lamb has been such an annoyance. I have disliked that silly rhyme for as long as I have been teased by it, but I confess that the other day it was quite accurate. You see, I work at a Catholic school. My sister Clare is a student there. Perhaps out of resentment that I didn’t pick her class bulletin to win the Catholic Schools Week contest,  Clare  mentioned to her teacher something about my little lamb adventure.  Her teacher proceeded to invite me to bring  my lambs to school. I was initially quite reluctant.

I think that I am overly sensitive about the socializing habits of my animals based on the past. The first incident was when I was 7, and my goats managed to escape confinement and traipse across the road to St. Peter’s church just in time to greet a wedding party and guest spilling out of church after and exchange of vows. Ouch. I am still sensitive over that one. My horses and ponies also made it a point to visit the neighbors as often as possible after challenging my fencing skills.

Anyhow, I realized that I may as well take up the legitimate invitation extended to take my lambs to school. So on St. Patrick’s Day, I unleashed the woolly little beasts while out on recess duty. Initially all grades from preschool through 8th crowded around to see the commotion, and then the older boys got right back to their game of basketball. Soon all the younger children were chasing after the bleating babies. The lambs ran and jumped over banks of snow in an attempt to escape the herd of kids screaming and running after them. What a spectacle it was to behold with the lambs, children and boys playing hoops all weaving together and around each other in a flurry of energy and color!

Maybe that little nursery rhyme isn’t so off. Children REALLY do laugh and play and nearly run lambs to an early heart attack when seeing a lamb(s) at school. From now on out, I think that bringing lambs to school is a very good manner of amusing myself while on recess duty.

(Kate’s note: Clare took pictures, which will be posted soon. Check back for pictures of spring lambs at school.)

Laundry Basket Lambs


For over a year now, I have been working towards getting sheep. I have read up a lot on them and recently found a lady who lives about 30 minutes from here who has some lambs available. Her name is Brenda Jenson and she is a super amazing woman. Brenda owns about 300 sheep that she uses for milk production. After her husband started in on a mid-life crisis, she went ahead and started her operation which includes an on farm creamery and processing plant. The milk from her sheep is used to make sheep cheese. She makes 6 varieties of cheese that she both markets locally and ships. I have hit the tail end of the lambing season, so when one of the supposed dud ewes has a lamb, Brenda calls me to come pick it up. I take a laundry basket over to her place and ask Brenda a ton of questions. We talk and talk and I wish that I could stay for hours.

So far, I have had success with taking care of my little flock. I am raising the sheep for profit (or so I think…), so I am trying to not get to attached to them. Actually, that is why I choose to get into sheep instead of goats. My business plan for the future is to market them for meat to this Muslim connection that my Dad has. The Muslims will come out, butcher the sheep while facing towards the east, pay cash, end of story. My problem is that I am not so comfortable with Muslim Men….and the sheep are really soft and sweet, a little dim, but really that doesn’t matter so much. To prepare for his vocation I have named my Ram, Ramburger. But I have started to call his Rambo……and I think that perhaps, I could just umm, market his beautiful wool?!?

For the time being, all I know is that I am enjoying my new laundry basket lambs. I love taking my basket and going to Brenda’s farm farm for a sheep shopping binge. The lambs are easy to feed and in good health. I don’t ever have to wake up in the middle of the night to feed them their replacer. The best thing of all about my little shepherdess adventure is that those sweet sweet little sheep make LAUGH!