Why raise sheep?
Tangle Ridge Farm is a beautiful place, but it has its challenges. The greatest challenge is the lack of infrastructure, such as permanent fencing, barns and water supply on top of the hill. The land itself is a challenge. Aside from the acre or two of front land, which the lowest is flood plane, most of the farm is 0.3 miles up a gravel road to the top of the hill. Once there, you will find about 30 acres of rolling hills and ridges of usable but not 'flat' land. It is perfect for small ruminants such as sheep or goats, having plenty of browse and several acres of grass. Again, there are no permanent fences around the land.
We are nearly out of hay, and the sheep want grass. We have grass that is green and growing, but no fences. Our only option on the short term is to use temporary fencing - polywire and posts - to get them in the grass. The risks are, sheep getting out and predators getting in. As long as they have grass, the sheep are happy being inside the fence. It may be time for the Great Pyrenees to prove themselves.
The lack of fencing is coupled with a lack of time - building a house, family, children, 2 jobs... the list goes on.
This has been one of those times that most people experience from time to time, to re-evaluate our farming goals and think, "why are we doing this? Should we continue or should we throw in the towel? Maybe we need to re-visit the business plan?
So, I re-read the mission and the goals. "The mission of Tangle Ridge Farm and Discovery Center is to cultivate and grow a culture of sustainability... many young people grow up without the experience and appreciation of living on or near a family farm. We recognize the importance of embracing and educating ourselves and others in the art of self sustainment, including conservation and preservation of the land and living things for current and future generations...
And ask myself again, 'Why raise sheep?"
1) Tax write off for farming expenses
2) Possible supplement to income
3) Clean up the land - due to their small size, sheep don't tear up the land like some larger animals. They like to eat briars and invasive vegetation and clean up the land from weeds and bramble. Tangle Ridge farm has plenty of these.
Quality of life
4) One of my goals was to get back to and give my children the experience of an agricultural lifestyle. Whether they dabble in it or visit occasionally, or jump in with both feet is up to them. And, maybe some day I will be the cool grandma with the goats and sheep and fresh eggs and blueberries.
5) The satisfaction of growing my own food, and sharing it with others
6) Now that I have a herding dog (Jako) he will need something to do.
7) The love of animals - I didn't know when I started that I would actually learn to love sheep. They are gentle animals, and small enough for me to handle. I am not saying they are easy, because they are not. Every day and every season we learn something new, and as soon as we think we know what we are doing, the sheep teach us something new. They are also demanding - staying ahead of parasites has been our greatest challenge. And then there is hoof trimming, vaccinations, and pasture rotation - which requires fencing.
And so for now, we will keep the sheep knowing that if we ever want to have livestock of any kind, we need a fence. I still don't know how or when, but we will keep working on it.
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My name is Christy Franklin.