Seeking: Help for trade

By Candlemas, it’s solidly time to turn our attention to the spring and summer. Plants have been ordered, seeds are on their way, we are carefully watching bred ewes, and deciding which projects to tackle this year.

Our list is long and we’ve carefully pared it down to a few absolutely essential needs. That’s where you come in. We’re offering some opportunities for you to leave your responsibilities far behind for a day or two in order to come bust your chops helping us take care of ours. We’ll happily swap sheepy goodies for your sweat and toil—lamb, wool, yarn, sheepskins, blankets, or possibly sheep. And, we’ll feed and water you.

We hope to host a couple of barter parties over the spring and summer in order to put up fencing (banging fenceposts into the ground is a great shoulder and back workout and is seriously cathartic), build one or two run-in shelters, and wire and install fans and lights in the barn. We’ll begin this work around May, and which project leads off will depend on the weather.

If you really want to get your hands and boots dirty, we will be looking for weekend help beginning in the spring to help with building, barn chores, and pasture maintenance.

Please reach out if you have any interest!

Stormy Sunday

It’s snowing in Maine; you may have heard about it. Our much-anticipated first real storm of winter arrived with notably less snow than advertised. I’m listening to sleet pelt the yurt as I write, but I’m not even thinking of complaining about the wintry mix replacing the two feet of snow we hoped for. There’s snow on the ground. Our sled and snow tube are primed. We’re loading up on Dutch babies and heading outside.

The animals are all tucked into deep straw and shavings in the barn (don’t worry—only Honey and the chickens have shavings). This is the first year we’ve leaned so heavily on the big barn. Because we didn’t have time to build any shelters before the weather turned, we’ve been bringing the whole flock inside each night, and for each storm. They’re pretty unhappy—we’re greeted with icy stares each time we walk in when they’ve been grounded for weather.

One of our big inside projects this winter, along with finishing the yurt, is planning barns for spring building. We typically offer a seasonally-oriented shelter for the animals in each of their pastures, with the exception of rotational grazing, and our first priority is laying out winter shelters. Farm animals are outside creatures and are much happier and healthier when given the option to seek protection from the weather when they want or need it. This gives them more freedom to move and, more critically, much more fresh air. It’s a more natural way for them to live, which is important to us.

If you’re local and handy, or just game, we’ll be looking for extra help in the spring for barter or pay!

We made it

We talked about this move until we were blue in the face, but we have finally, finally made it into our new home. It was a crash landing more than a move and fraught with more problems than you’d care to read about here. It’s a long story involving unscrupulous contractors and foolish homeowners placing trust where it wasn’t deserved. Our brand new, very unfinished home has more “charm” than the 250-year-old farmhouse we left—crooked walls, leaky plumbing. But it it our home and we do love it. One day, we’ll finish it.

As winter began to lay its cold blanket around us, we were just starting to put up our first permanent fence. It’s still not done, and we’re trying our best to finish it up this weekend. For this year only, we’ll hope for little snow so that our electric netting may still hold a charge through the springtime. It has been a hard autumn and winter, and it’s been extremely hard to reframe this bullshit into anything that doesn’t feel horrible. But we’re doing it, difficult as it may be.

A few weeks ago I had the very good fortune of meeting the parents of a new friend of mine. The only way I could describe them is pure magic. They’re the kind of people who feel like your oldest bestest friends minutes after you meet, and who send you home buoyed, feeling like you’re going to be ok. You’re already ok, and in fact, nothing much was wrong to begin with. They moved into a wreck of a house when their children were young and took years to fix it up…they said when they had the time to fix things, they hadn’t any money, and when they had money to fix things, they hadn’t any time. But they loved that house, and so did their children and their children’s friends who always wanted to come over and help them build it up. It was the making of the house, not the house, that made it their home and the time they took to do the making taught them to appreciate each wall, each floor, each new addition. Their children learned more than they could enumerate—construction, sure, but also order, patience, perseverance. The value of doing it properly, of waiting, of having.

Our dream coming here was not to have a glossy new one of everything, but to have a new home and a new barn for our wooly and hairy friends. The house we bought here was falling over and the barn was falling down, held aloft by miles of steel cables wound through its three stories, keeping the beams together as the floor and walls rotted away. It was a ramshackle old place, and it still is, only that dilapidated old barn is replaced by a new steel one with little inside. And maybe that’s just who this farm is— rambling, ramshackle place where much always wants doing and time is in short supply while hope is overflowing.

We’re entering the new year humbled but happy, hardscrabble but hopeful, and determined as ever to salvage, to build, to make better. We hope you’ll come see us in our new place—the sheep and chickens have been hard at work reclaiming pastures, growing gorgeous wool and laying golden eggs, helping us as we settle in and hope to leave our mark on this lovely patch of Maine.

Spring in Maine

Every spring here feels like the long lost season, as in it never seems to arrive. Well after tulips, daffodils, and even fruit trees begin to blossom, Maine languishes in cold, gray mud. The sight of lined boots and parkas are enough to turn your stomach and even the animals look outside in the morning and think, 'Eh.'

But now, days away from May, it seems like—it feels like—spring may actually be here. It's fascinating to watch the tiniest blush of green move across a field. You really can watch the world around you green from one day to the next and some days hour by hour a field will be greener than it was when you woke. It's taken so long that we spend a whole day wandering around marveling over the tiniest new leaves on the lilac bushes, the extra millimeters of grass. When the daffodils do bloom, it's cause for a celebration.

This week we've begun leaving the lambs and ewes out on the dry nights, in part because the rain has been heavy enough that they've had to stay in for stretches of 24 to 48 hours. It's stressful for them, especially the ewes, whose babes are climbing the walls. The lambs are starting to gain independence; they're spending more time away from their mothers and less time with us. When we're out, they'll crowd around for some chin scratches, but they split after a few minutes to go climb rocks. So, it's a good time to give them some space to grow.