Nina Fuller is crazy. I mean, she’s a genius, a philanthropist, and a shepherdess, but she is also crazy.
Although I have spent more than my fair share of time at the ever-healing Lily Brook Farm, I spent one afternoon there this past summer just talking to Nina about her life and her sheep flock. Here is my take on Lily Brook Farm.
Farm Name: Lily Brook Farm
Primary goods: Fiber, lamb, eggs, art, healing, photography
Sell to the Public?: Yes! 555 restaurant in Portland is a lamb-buyer, you can buy eggs and sheep right on the farm.
My personal favorite part of the farm: The window from the kitchen that opens right into the pasture.
Most interesting part of the farm/event: The sheer winging-it factor that the farm employs.
In 2004, Nina bought a non-llama-occupied llama farm in Hollis after her children graduated from high school. Her two kids live in the jungle of New York City, which couldn’t be more opposite to the lifestyle that Nina leads.
Nina has since turned the non-working farm into a non-profit organization, which provides equine therapy services, farm therapy services, and also she raises sheep, which is why I was visiting her farm. On top of all of this, Nina is a renowned professional photographer who has shot photos of rock stars and National Geographic pages alike.
She is as gentle as she is hilarious, and as hilarious as she is adventurous. Her sheep are a breed that are not yet popular to the area. They are called Scottish Blackface. Her particular flock-genetics hail from an island off the coast of Cape Elizabeth, where the sheep are left in relative isolation for most of the year. They are an extremely hardy breed, bred for their meat and also their world-renowed tweed-wool.
They are characterized by their hardy nature; ewes of this breed very rarely need assistance in lambing, although Nina has a few harrowing stories about playing midwife to several of her sheep, as well as nursing dying lambs back from the brink of death, and sadly burying some as well.
Nina’s flock is roughly 34 sheep strong, depending on the time of year. Her ram is co-owend by Lily Brook Farm and another flock of Blackface in Monmouth, Maine. The most beautiful thing about Blackface, in my opinion, well… there are two things I love about them: First, their wild faces which are bordered by gorgeous, wily horns, and also their shag-rug type wool.
This is a lamb, so her horns aren’t quite as impressive as her mother’s, but look at her face!
Another thing I cherish about the farm is the mingling flock, consisting of: Several very mischievous goats, a couple therapy horses, and two donkeys; Jenny and Go-Go. I absolutely love the donks. I wanted to snag one and bring it right home with me, but I assumed she would notice.
The below photo was taken by Nina as I somehow did not get a good shot of her.
The farm is willy-nilly in the best, most homey sort of way possible. There are chickens of all sorts running amok, and the goats tend to get onto her porch and eat her flowers. But Nina, who is finishing up the capstone to her Masters in Equine Assisted Mental Health, isn’t bothered by the unorthodox pasture set up, nor by the free spirited nature of the goats. Nina, I haven’t mentioned, is in her 60’s. She is one of the most inspirational people I know, because there is nothing that stops her from pursuing her dreams, and helping others.
The thing I admire most about the farm is that Nina is a beginner; Her flock is just beginning, and so is her knowledge. Her many, many years of experience with horses and farmlife has translated into a rockstar of a beginner shepherdess. And YET, this does not hinder her. It does not stop her from pursuing education in the realm of sheep, it does not stop her from reaching out and finding the answers to questions she has, and it does not stop her from continuing to pursue her goal. I am just absolutely blown away by how brave she is.
Her sheep, which are sold for either breeding stock or as lamb to local restaurants, are part of her family. She has spent nights sleeping in the barn with a laboring ewe, and has worked this enormous farm all by herself, with some help from others along the way, but honestly… she does it herself. It is terribly admirable.
On top of the sheep, there is a healing aspect to this place. There is art everywhere: In the barn, in the stalls for the sheep, in the woods surrounding her barn and pastures. This is a place many people, from those who are familiar with Nina to those are complete strangers, come for healing through talking to her, sitting with her animals, or visiting her famous Blue Bench. (You can check out the Blue Bench Facebook page here)
All in all? I realize this post was less about how to raise sheep and more inspirational, but sometimes these posts have to be a little inspirational rather than educational. This place is beautiful, and it is a wonderful place to visit for education, for buying sheep, or for just having a cup of tea and talking about art and life. Nina can be contacted here:
The Maine Farm Chick