What happened to Martha’s Vineyard Fiber Farm? Why did you leave the Vineyard?

In the Fall of 2009, I made the very difficult decision to leave the magical island of Martha’s Vineyard. I loved living on the Vineyard, but it just wasn’t sustainable running a farm there. By moving to Virginia, I was able to cut my expense nearly in half! MV will always have a special place in my heart and I hope to spend time there every year.

I love Virginia and would like to stay here but life has a funny way of surprising you. Whatever happens, it will be an adventure.

Where did the name Juniper Moon Farm come from? What does it mean?

When we left the Vineyard, I wanted to find a name that was a bit more portable and not tied to one location. I made lists of words that I liked and tried them in every imaginable combination, using my family and friends as a focus group. Juniper Moon Farm was the only name that everyone agreed on.

Are the animals on your farm slaughtered or sold for meat?

Never. Never ever. We may sell breeding stock next year, but only to farms who agree to abide by our no-kill policy. When I have as many animals as I need, I’ll take a couple years off breeding.

How can you stand having your dogs outside all the time? Don’t they get cold?

Maremma Sheepdogs are working dogs, not pets. They would be miserable and anxious indoors, something I’ve experienced first-hand when we’ve had to have them inside to recover from surgery.  Like all Maremmas, Cini, Sabine, Lucy, and Gnocchi all have an all-weather coat that prevents cold and precipitation from reaching their skin.

How can I get people to read my blog?

My best advice is to be authentic. Write the way you speak, about things that are important to you. Let yourself be vulnerable sometimes. Be self-deprecating. Give people something of value: a recipe, a poem, one really great photograph or a link to something you like. Develop a style of your own.

Make thoughtful, interesting comments on other people’s blogs. When you start to get comments on your blog, respond to them. Set up a twitter account and tweet when you put up a new post. Have cool cards printed with your blog address on them and give them to people when they ask about it.

It takes time to build a readership, so be patient and don’t give up. We all started in exactly the same place, with zero readers and even fewer comments. You’ll get there.

I’d like to raise sheep. Can you tell me how to get started?

Read everything you can get your hands on. Find a couple of local farms and volunteer to help out on weekends. (But be sure to show up when you say you will. Nothing is more frustrating than counting on an extra pair of hands that never arrives.) Contact your County Extension agent and find out which breeds work best in your area. Do your homework.

How much money do you make in a year? / How many shares do you sell?

Hmm…how can I put this? I would never in ten million years ask you how much you make and I’m not sure why so many people think it’s okay to ask me. I’m not trying to be difficult, but that information is private.

I want my/my client’s product to be featured in “Probably something you would like…” Can I send it to you?

“Probably something you would like…” features things that I actually like and think my readers will too. If you’d like me to check out your product, email me at susie [AT] fiberfarm [DOT] com to receive our mailing address. If I like it, I’ll include it in a post. For information about sponsorship opportunities, email me at advertising [AT] fiberfarm [DOT] com.

What kind of camera do you use? Can you tell me how to take better pictures? 

I have a Nikon D7100 and I am positively evangelical about it. I’ve shot with both Canon and Nikons and I prefer Nikons, but it’s just a personal preference. I started off using a point-and-shoot but quickly found that it just didn’t take pictures fast enough to use with animals. I usually use a 18-55 lens, although I have a longer lens (55-200) that occasionally comes into play.

As for taking better pictures, I’m afraid I’m not qualified to answer that. I take hundreds of pictures and hope to get one or two good ones. About all I can tell you is not to use the flash that came on the camera pretty much ever- natural light is always the better choice. I have learned a little bit about taking pictures of animals which you can find here.

I wrote a post about my camera that goes more in-depth.

How do you come up with names for so many animals?

Luckily, I don’t have to. We use a different naming convention every year for the new lambs and kids. We accept nominations from readers and then put it to a vote. In the past, we’ve done herbs and spices, candy, famous nannies and governesses from literature and movies, Muppets, Jane Austen characters, Downton Abbey characters, birds, U.S. Presidents and Islands.

When is lambing season?

It all depends on when we put the ram in with the ewes. Generally, sometime between March and May.

Would you come speak to our group?

Maybe. Email me at susie [AT] fiberfarm [DOT] com with the details and we’ll see if we can make it happen.

Do you still do farm consulting?

Not so much anymore, because I just don’t have the time. I still have a couple of clients that I work with and if a space opens up, I will post about it on the blog.

Other questions and answers may be found in our Ask the Shepherd feature.