A sign of spring? Let’s hope!

  • Feb. 11, 2008 3:00 p.m.

Three lambs born last week on Adolf Bitterlich’s Tlell farm are more than a sign that spring is just around the corner. For Mr. Bitterlich, the new lambs represent the hope that the tradition of small farming is still alive here, and that islanders can produce more food locally. Mr. Bitterlich said his small flock of Barbados Blackbelly sheep is essential for his “old-fashioned, organic” farm, providing rich manure which improves the soil. “You cannot grow anything without putting something back into the earth,” he said. “So that’s the reason for the sheep… My aim here is soil improvement.” The Barbados Blackbelly is an old breed of sheep brought to North America 300 years ago by Spanish explorers, he said. They look more like goats than sheep because they have hair rather than wool, and this feature makes them well-suited to the islands’ wet climate, he said. The hair can be plucked and turned into material. The sheep can also provide “fantastic meat”, Mr. Bitterlich said, but they are on the light side and he is reluctant to butcher them because he has become very attached to them. Mr. Bitterlich believes more islanders could be raising sheep. A 10-acre farm can easily support 10 to 12 sheep or goats, he said. Sheep have at least one advantage over goats, according to Mr. Bitterlich: unlike a billy goat, the ram does not have a strong odour. His flock will be expanding soon. He has ordered several Friesen milk sheep from Prince George which will be arriving in Tlell this spring. These sheep produce a rich milk well suited for cheese production, he said.

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