How we got started

I’m trying to remember the sequence of events that led to us becoming farmers.

Frank bought this land (343 acres of woods) in southern New Hampshire while he was still living in the suburbs of Boston. He had the shell of a log house built on it in 1990, just before we met and I moved in with two kids. We started a business in this little town, and ran it for six years before we sold it.

There was a house fire on December 30, 1996, where we lost everything, but no one. We moved to the city for a few years, outside of Philadelphia, for jobs, and worked on ways to get back here. We rebuilt the house with the insurance money, and moved back in 1999.

After the dot.com era, we made enough money to have the yard landscaped professionally. We weren’t particularly happy with the landscaper that we chose, but it did give us some good bones to the landscape, and we really got into gardening after that, with such a pretty blank canvas to work on.

I’ve always wanted an orchard, and a rose garden, a formal herb garden. It is so much work with all these wooded acres to have any of those things. We’d find the time to clear an area, but it all grew back up so quickly. Frank remarked that we really needed a couple of goats to keep those cleared areas really cleared, to help us kill the tree stumps. He’d gotten a tractor, but we have no way to de-stump the area, and the rocks and hills made it all very complex. There was no way to use the brushhog, for example.

So we started looking at goats, and thought about making cheese with the milk. The problem, though was that I really don’t care for the taste of most goat’s milk cheese. I find the gaminess off-putting. I did, however, like sheep’s milk cheese. Roquefort, in particular, is a wonderful cheese, traditionally made from sheep’s milk. Yum!

So, he started looking for a breed of sheep that would live on browsing our land, because we have no pasture, so they needed to be able to thrive on brambles and weeds and small trees. We also wanted to be able to make enough money off of their fleeces to cover their winter hay. To make it just a little harder to find the right critter, we also wanted good-tasting meat from the lambs.

He narrowed the field down to two breeds, Icelandic and Shetland. In the end, the Icelandic breed was chosen because they are triple purpose, and they can survive on our bad land and tough winters. They’d been milked in Iceland for hundreds of years, too, and we read about the True North Farm, where Jimmy was trying to establish a dairy farm with the breed.

Frank found someone not too far from us, in Temple, New Hampshire (Wendy Powers) who was advertising selling three registered sheep. She had one ram, Sue, and two ewes, Fiona and Kaytla, for $500 each. We drove down to see them, and lo and behold, we fell in love. It turns out that her husband had died recently, and they were really his hobby, not her’s, so she was willing to give us all of their offspring (five lambs) as well as the three adults. We wrote a check on the spot, and arranged to have them delivered to us.

(One of the lambs was outside the pens when we got there. She was so cute! We laughed and thought it was funny. How naive we were! Those escape artist genes are well and truly throughout our flock. We named her Minx, and she is still something else.)

Of course, we had no where to keep them. We had no fencing, no sheds, no barn, nothing. We stopped by at Wellscroft Farm for electric fencing on our way home, and got a quick lesson in grounding. Dave also made a few bad remarks about Sue as well. Evidently, he’d had to go help Wendy a couple of times because he’d knocked down his shed. Oops.

So, that’s how we got started. We now have horses, a cow and calf, pigs, chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys and three dogs.

2 Comments

  1. Posted February 12, 2010 at 3:24 am | Permalink

    Wow. This sounds like me (minus the 343 acres). What I want to do, I mean– the 3-purpose Icelandic sheep, the hives, the dedicated herb garden… but we live in Alaska, and are still looking both for the right sheep and the right land, so I don’t see writing a check very soon…

    Looking forward to poking around your site.
    Cheers!

  2. Joy
    Posted August 11, 2013 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    This is awesome…. We also have Icelandic sheep for milk. Hard to find other people milking them! How is that going? I found your site searching for Icelandic chickens… Just makes sense. 😉 How many eggs do they lay per year? Are you still selling hatching eggs?

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