Icelandic sheep are one of the oldest breeds of sheep in the world. The Vikings brought them to Iceland around the year 1000. They have been isolated on the island since then and to this day are the biggest source of meat for Icelanders. Connoisseurs consider Icelandic lamb the best in the world and when you are used to the best you cannot accept anything else.
The Icelandic sheep were bred over centuries for a very practical purpose: to have good meat, good wool, good milk, good temperment and to be good mothers. Their genetic variation is huge. They come in a wide range of colors. Some are multi-colored and some are spotted. Both ewes and rams may or may not have horns. This makes every Spring (lambing season) an exciting time here on the farm as we anticipate the numbers and color variations of our ever-expanding flock.
Icelanders, who live away from their island, have a difficult time finding farmers raising Icelandic lamb in other countries. As they travel back and forth between Iceland and their adopted country, they often fill a suitcase or two with lamb before leaving the island.
We raise Icelandic lamb here, in the State of Washington, so there is no need to go 5000 miles for the best.
We started off in 2001 with three sheep and a ram and have been expanding our flock ever since. In 2010 we have 18 ewes, a ram and our guard Llama, Dali. Having spent many years on a farm in Iceland, Selma has a very particular way of raising the sheep. The basic principal is “give them everything they need and then leave them alone”. During the winter months they stay in or near the barn and are fed local hay. But as mid March approaches, they go out into the fields where they are moved to a clean pasture every few days. In late summer when our fields go dry we move them to greener pastures at both Helsing Junction Farm and Rising River Farm. Both are vegetable farmers, neighbors and good friends. The fields they lay fallow our sheep get to graze in late summer. It makes all the difference to have irrigated pastures. This has become a wonderful working relationship where as the sheep graze the cover crop down and leave fertilizer behind. The sheep are moved from pasture to pastures until the rains start in the Fall, at which time they head back to the barn.
Our sheep, lamb out on pasture, weather permitting. It is the cleanest and most comfortable place for the ewes to have their lambs. In April during lambing season, Selma does not get a lot of sleep since she monitors the ewes every few hours in case one needs help. It is amazing how many births take place at night. As with any births, most of them happen without any problems, but it is good to be close by in case help is needed. Over the years we have had to pull a few and turn one that was coming out the wrong way, but most of the time Selma stays at a safe distance so the ewes can give birth to their babies in peace.
We take care of our pastures by fertilizing, harrowing and mowing when needed. From good healthy pastures come healthy animals. The only supplements we give our sheep are salt with minerals and Icelandic Kelp. It might seem extravagant to feed them kelp that comes all the way from Iceland but, since Selma knows the fjord the kelp comes from, we feel safe that we are getting very high quality kelp from non polluted waters.
Our animals do not receive any vaccines or hormones. The only treatment they get is being wormed two the three times a year depending on parasite load. If we have a sick animal that needs antibiotic (has happened twice so far) to get well that animal is not offered for sale to our customers.
The animals are slaughtered here on the farm. A local slaughter business comes to our farm. We feel the less stress there is to the animal the better the meat is. We take great care in making sure the process is fast, calm and efficient.
Our customer base is Olympia and Rochester although we have a growing customer base in Seattle. Because of this growing customer base in Seattle we are making one delivery of lamb to Seattle in the Fall. The response from our customers regarding the quality of the meat has been fantastic. Here are some testimonials:
Bill: As a former chef in Chicago and serving the best lamb available in the city I thought I knew what fantastic lamb tasted like but then I had your lamb and it is by far superior to the lamb I was serving in Chicago.
Brian: My wife used to be vegan but after bearing two children her body was asking for animal protean. Now your lamb and beef is the only meat we eat. We feel good about consuming meat raised by you.
Dan, Kathleen, Maggie and Quinn: I would like to express our gratitude for the wonderful lamb you raised. In the past few days we have enjoyed some chops and some sliced leg steaks. We grilled them lightly with some olive oil, salt and pepper. I have to say that I have eaten lamb from some of the most expensive restaurants in America and none, and I’m serious, have even come close to the succulence of yours.
Lis: The lamb is wonderful! we have grilled chops and I made a Norwegian dish with the lamb steaks, had my mother over and she went wild over it! It is such nice meat, we’re very happy. The beef is great too.