A long time ago, in a town not really that far away, Lynda and I bought a house with a little bit of property. Our own place to do whatever we wanted with. Soon after there was an offer of some free older hens, the old metal shed could serve as a temporary hen house. Then Lynda took a spinning class. Then she was offered a couple of free sheep. We could use temporary fencing for the front yard. Then we went to a sheep & wool show and decided to check out the auction, and another sheep came home. Then I discovered Scotch Highland Cattle at the local highland games and a breeder just twenty five minutes away. We could make a barn yard in the woods behind the house! Which is what we did, and then I just kept building things that should have been built before we got any animals at all. Eventually the infrastructure caught up and our knowledge increased. At one point or another we had cattle, pigs, goats, sheep, chickens, and bees. During that time we also started a fiber mill processing animal fibers and our own shetland wool, with wholesale egg sales to an organic foods store. All of these endeavors were intense experiences with steep learning curves. However, in the end only the chickens and sheep remained because we just didn’t have an appropriate property to support anything more than a few laying hens and a handspinners flock.
We lived at that property for seventeen years and dreamed about a better property for most of that time. The problem with using your property as a place to try out one experiment after another is that you end up with a place that probably isn’t ready to go on the market anytime soon. An old house with several additions that were never really finished by a person learning how to work on houses as he does it, leaves you with a long list of must do’s before you try and sell. Combined with the pressure of wanting to move to another school district as our children finished elementary school left us feeling trapped. So we decided to give away what sheep we had left and simply move out by renovating a portion of a famly friends old farm house which we would then rent. With our house empty, it would be much easier to finish it and the kids would be in a better district. We made the move in the last week of August 2009, and then the effects of the 2008 economic crash reached us in October. We lost our primary income and were left with unemployment and my part time adjunct professor pay. Luckily a potential tenant appeared through word of mouth and we didn’t lose the house. The old farm house we were living in was uninsulated and had two woodstoves for heat. It was a very cold winter!
During that first winter, insulation and repairs improved the situation considerably and we made the best of it for about three years. During that time we started a new small flock of shetland sheep and kept a few chickens. As our finances improved we started looking for property and eventually found the one we live on now. It has been a very long road, we finally sold the old house, our kids have grown, and we live in a very nice old house on a piece of property with lots of potential. Our flock is around twenty animals and includes both shetland and icelandic sheep. And we still have chickens!