Okay, first of all, a big thank you to everyone who voted in the 2011 Juniper Moon Flock Giveaway! I am so grateful to each and every one of you because you made my job a whole hell of a lot easier. Deciding who will win and take home a flock of the sheep and goats that I care so deeply about is incredibly hard for me and y’all help out by narrowing my choices. You have my sincere gratitude.

I would also like to thank all 12 of this year’s semi-finalist shepherds for putting together such lovely essays and videos. There is a reason I require entrants to either make a video or put their thoughts down on paper: I think it really makes them focus on if and why they want to raise sheep. I’ve heard from several people who started their entries only to realize that they really weren’t ready for the responsibility that comes with properly caring for these animals.

Every single one of your entries touched me and I know in my heart that each of you will make dedicated, caring, watchful shepherds. There was something in everyone of your entries- a moment, a facial expression, a well-crafted sentence- that touched me. Thank you .

Now on to the part I hate. Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that I hate that everyone can’t win. I can barely stand to watch the second half of football games because I hate that half the people on that field are going home disappointed.  Alas, I do not have 12 flock of sheep to give away, so two winners must be chosen.

Since I firmly believe that each of you would be a responsible steward for my animals, I’m going to go with the will of the voters.

Winner number one, with a total of 614 votes (26.56%) is… Mariah Oliver. If there is anyone in the entire state of Iowa that didn’t vote for Mariah, it isn’t her fault! I’ve received emails and phone calls from Mariah’s local tv station, newspaper and radio station. She really worked for those votes and I know she’ll apply that same energy and drive to caring for her flock. Congratulations, Mariah!

Winner number two, with a total of 561 votes (24.26%) is…Leslie Cooper. What can you say about a woman who recruited Matt Damon for her entry video! Leslie,  you inspire the hell out of me. We’ll have to work the timing a little differently with the delivery of your flock to ensure that they have plenty of time to adjust to the Texas heat, but we’ll figure that out together.

And that’s it. Except it isn’t. Because there was once video that touched my heart like no other, one entry that stuck with me from the first time I saw it, one person that I was rooting for and pinning all my hopes on. If you haven’t watched it yet, please take a moment to meet RJ Straw right now.

RJ, you are something else! You are obviously a hard worker and you have a heart all out of proportion for your short time on this earth. I can’t think of better qualifications to be a shepherd. So I’m giving you the first ever (cause I just made it up) Juniper Moon Farm Young Shepherd Award. And a small herd of Angora goats to go along with it.  You should know that these young goats mean the world to me and I wouldn’t entrust them to your care if I didn’t believe in you. Make me proud, okay?

We will definitely be doing this again, calling for entries in the fall, and I hope that those of you who didn’t win this round will submit again. I sincerely wish I could make all of you shepherds this time around, but don’t give up on your dream. It’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.