A Closer View

What's left of the Barn & Barnyard


3/11/2022 - 9/9/2022

Joys and Sorrows in Life and on the Farm

Eye Level at the Former Sheep Ranch

A wise man knows that Joy is the living water that seeps in to fill a cavity carved into the soul by Sorrow.

Its destiny is to become a river unleashed when the well breaks open.

The Tragic Fairview Fire Losses

On September 7, 2022 a large brushfire swept through our farm, destroying everything on the property except my home, which the fire department was able to save.  This includes my workshop and contents, storage trailer and contents, the olive trees and shade vegetation, and---most grievously---the barn and barnyard and everything in them except my sheep, which were able to be evacuated to a safer location thanks to the help of an organization called Carret Rescue and an equestrian staging ranch in Temecula, California known as CRC.  Unfortunately, a horse ranch having no need to protect its residents from coyotes, I lost a 2022 ewe lamb, Butterscotch, to coyotes while the flock was temporarily housed at CRC.  I am are still grieving over her, and over all of our losses in that awful fire.

During the 2022 breeding season, from September through February 2023 the sheep were graciously housed by a friend and former ag teacher in the area who also had the facilities to put them into breeding pens so that the ewe flock was able to be bred to my five rams.  Thus we are fortunate to have 2023 lambs despite the 2022 tragedy.  however, whether due to the stress of being evacuated in a rush from a quickly advancing fire and then again to safer quarters after a predatory attack, or from some other irregularity in their usual routine and domicile, our 2023 lamb crop now stands as overwhelmingly male!  We now have thirteen 2023 ramlings, but only six of our 2023 lambs are ewelings!

Our losses due to this fire have truly been devastating. The flock is now housed in sheds hastily erected, none of which is yet complete, and one of which, because floorless and empty, is upside-down after high winds rolled it over onto the sheep's pen fence.  The lambs are being kept indoors at night by sheets of plywood hanging across the doorways in the other two sheds on nails driven into the jamb that poke trough some holes I drilled through the plywood to enable removing it for entry, watering and feeding.

To make matters worse, it has been raining in Southern California virtually all year with very few sunny days.  Everywhere are puddles in water-saturated ground, ponds, and lakes where there never were before, and soaking wet wasted and rotting hay underfoot from one end of.things to the other.  It's going to take days, maybe weeks for this all to dry out, but the weather report shows only a few days of sunshine from today, Friday the 24th of March, until next Tuesday, when rainy days in succession are again predicted.

How I managed to pull a crop of 2023 lambs out of these conditions is an astonishment, even to me.  I'm only one little 73-year-old man with a bad back, arthritic hips, and a weak heart propped up by arterial stents. "Oh, this is just a bunch of self-pity, John."  Right.  And that's all there is to say about Job?

This isn't but the half of the last year's troubles.  Someday I'll tell you more about this truly awful year.  Car troubles, and having to rent a truck because both of mine were down.  As I said to my sister, RE: "Your Arms Are too Short to Box with God."  My thought when I hear that is: Punch drunk.

God help us.

If anyone else wishes to do so, we can accept donations via a PayPal account at  shepherd@rockstairfarm.com, but it comes hard for me to say so.  If I weren't right now on the verge of tears, I wouldn't write that.

God bless us all.

---John Fitzpatrick, shepherd

Rockstair Farm

UPDATE 3/25/2023 : Dorothy and Poko have lambed.  Each had twins, a ram and a ewe.  That makes 13 Rams and 6 Ewes for the 2023 season, with Dahlia and the two 2022 ewe lambs bred in December still question marks.

Easter Sunday Grief

Beloved Ram Tuxedo

February 17, 2016 - April 9, 2023

Quite suddenly and unexpectedly, my beloved black ram Tuxedo died on Easter Sunday.  When I saw only three of the four rams penned together in the northeast quadrant of the new barnyard gather around the pan of alfalfa I was setting down,  I looked around to see where the fourth ram was.  There was Tuxedo at the far northern end of the pen, lying on the ground.  He was not moving.  Even from 50 yards away I knew immediately that he was not sleeping.  Tuxedo did not lie down like that when he was sleeping.  When I put my hand on him to give him a gentle shake as I called out his name, his body was already cool, and completely limp.  From the evidence, his manner of passing was clear.  He had been chewing on some 1/2-inch thick styrofoam insulation board that had come loose from the rams' shed under construction that had recently been blown over in a wind storm and was toppled upside-down nearby.  Evidently he had aspirated a piece and choked on it.  Just a moment before, Tuxedo had been standing right there at my side as I put a roof on a new sun & wind shelter for him.  Then he wandered off.  That was the last I saw of him alive.  He is now sorely missed.  So many tears these last twelve months!  What does it all mean?

Rockstair Farm