Hampshire Sheep ‘Birdie’ Seaver | News, Sports, Jobs
There are many idyllic little farms dotting northeast Michigan.
Some of my favorites can be found on Poor Farm Road in Alcona County, named after the farmhouse for the homeless that operated there for decades, providing the needy with a place to be industrious and grow their own crops.
A small barnyard has goats, sheep, ducks, geese, chickens, horses and cows which mix closely in and around a small barn and pond. Further along Poor Farm Road is Quick Farm, where a row of ancient machinery lined up in the yard looks like an open-air museum of agricultural machinery development.
But Five Trees Farms is the most romantic of the bunch. Or the most cinematic. It looks like the set from the movie “Babe”. Mainly because of his flock of Hampshire sheep. The stuffed animals frolic in a pasture dotted with rocky outcrops and dotted with fruit trees, next to a barn where the whole herd runs whenever a human appears with a bucket.
“Time for food!”
The five-tree farm is the Platonic ideal of the architectural genre of the “farm”, a rambling balloon-shaped structure. It is distinguished by an 8-by-8-foot square quilt-patterned panel on the north wall. Another quilt panel adorns the barn. (Quilters! Check out the Quilt Trail, a tour of all other intricate 8-by-8 quilting patterns on buildings or standing as billboards around Alcona County).
Inside, however, the farm leaves America and lands in Italy. It is designed to evoke an Italian villa. Colorful tiles highlight the plaster and line a paddling pool in an open-air courtyard. Birdie Seaver designed it that way.
Bertha Moe “Birdie” Seaver of Chicago had money and free time after the death of her wealthy husband.
For reasons many of us can understand, Birdie decided northeast Michigan was the place to be. In 1920, she bought a rather dilapidated farm and an area just off Poor Farm Road near Harrisville (to be exact, at the corner of Clark and McLean Roads), and set out to create a small country of wonders.
She goes in search of the perfect furniture for the extreme makeover that she imagines, crisscrossing Europe for it. She returned from her travels with many treasures for the farm: terracotta tiles, hand painted wallpaper, 18th century furniture and a Sicilian donkey cart painted in bright Mediterranean colors, as well as a miniature donkey to pull it around the property.
And sheep! As the interior of the old farmhouse transformed into an Italian-style villa, the grounds transformed into a scene of the English countryside, with cartoonish, fluffy Hampshire sheep resembling cotton balls on a pool table.
The Birdie’s Hampshire sheep have won awards on the elite breeding circuit, making a name for their farm.
After Birdie passed away, his eccentric retirement became a B&B, before B & Bs were one thing: The Seaver Country House. The hospitality side has fizzled out and now the farmhouse / villa is a private residence.
But Birdie’s Hampshire sheep herd continued to do their sheep work and continued to win prizes. Now the offspring of Birdie’s English immigrant animals are a separate business: Five Trees Farm, a registered supplier of Hampshire sheep and their wool.
The whole unlikely story calls for a song, to the tune of “Old McDonald Had a Farm”:
Birdie Seaver bought a farm,
oh oh oh oh oh
And on this farm she had sheep,
Oh woo …
With a baa baa here, there, everywhere …
Birdie was not your average sheep,
No no no
They were the special Hampshire breed,
Yes indeed they were!
With fluffy wool and a pretty black face, here, there, everywhere …
She brought her flock across the sea,
No way no!
With a whole menagerie,
No way, seriously?
With a small donkey to pull a cart, a colorful Sicilian cart …
Birdie’s sheep won all the awards,
Fancy, fancy sheep!
His eccentric fame was on the rise,
Due to fancy sheep.
With a blue ribbon here, there, everywhere …
The sheep stay while Birdie has passed,
Rest in peace in peace!
But his Hampshire lineage will last!
Thanks to Birdie Seaver.