The Girls of La Moutonnière
Small Farmer's Journal, Fall 2005




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At first blush, the village of Sainte-Hélène-de-Chester, Québec appears to be no more than a cluster of houses surrounding the church, post office and Chez Gaston, the local mini-mart. On the bluff overlooking the village, my car tires crunch to a stop in the gravel driveway of La Moutonnière – Quebec’s first sheep dairy and cheese-making operation.

The muffled pat-pat-pat-pat of a vacuum pump echoes off the distant hillside and a white line of East Friesian dairy ewes slowly winds its way from the milking parlor to the mountainous pastures above. As I stop to take in the view, the milk house door flies open and a fiery, red-headed Quebecoise in her early 50’s greets me with a warm smile, a big “Bien le bonjour!” and a welcoming kiss on both cheeks. One hand beckons me into the barn; the other holds back a Maremma sheep dog named “Belle Gueule” who guards the flock and would clearly like to eat me for lunch. “Arrête Belle Gueule!” she yells, commanding the woolly mammoth to back off. I’ve finally found her, Lucille Giroux, the mother of sheep dairying in Québec.

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