Starting a farm is hard. Starting a Valais Blacknose Breed Up Program AND a farm is even harder! There is a steep learning curve to go from non-farmers to having sheep, pigs and chickens. And there are a LOT of things you need to learn and learn fast to make 5 acres into fields, pens and shelters, and to be able to breed healthy, happy lambs, piglets and chicks.
For the 2021 breeding season we took another plunge and bought two Valais Blacknose Sheep embryos, imported from New Zealand. We are happy to announce that one embryo survived the procedure, so Gratitude Acres will, if all goes right, have its first 100% Valais Blacknose Lamb born in March.
There are days when I feel that I’m just treading water, and then there are days where I just stand looking at what we have accomplished and feel so very privileged. The hills that once were covered in stickly prickly thorny brambles are now lush green pasture. The little run-in shed that served as our sheep shed for the first 2.5 years has given way to a barn 4 times the size and a separate little shelter for our breeding season visiting ram. Our one little pig house has turned into 5, all surrounded by their own pens and fencing. Our one chicken coop has turned into 4. All my animals are happy and content and growing. They all act like pets. Spoiled pets wanting treats every time they see us 🙂
I love this winter picture of our farm. Although you can’t really see any of the animals in it, it is so silvery and serene and depicts one of those moments when I’m just happy to be part of it all.
When things go wrong you cry and adapt. When the numbers of chickens lost went over the count of 50 we bought a Livestock Guardian Dog. Freja is an absolute love, we are in awe over the Colorado Mountain Dogs- who were specifically bred for farmers like us: farmers with smaller acreage who live with neighbors and friends but who still need to keep birds and livestock safe. With our little purebred Valais lamb on its way, we are very happy to have Freja as an extra security measure. We are so in love with her that we have decided to breed her and have found a very handsome Tornjak, another LGD breed to be the dad of her future pups. I really do feel like there was lemonade made from all those losses.
The year of 2022 is just filled with exciting projects. The Philadelphia Handweaver’s Guild who closed due to Covid after I had my first weaving lesson has started again and I’m feeling quite hopeful about the prospect of using my own wool for my weaving this year. I also finally took a class in how to make lotions and creams- I have been playing around with body butters for a while, but don’t always want to be as greasy as the body butters make you feel. I’m thrilled to be using both lard and lanolin in honor of my pigs and sheep in my lotions, not to mention how happy my dry skin is!
There are bumps and sadness in everyone’s lives, my mother-in-law is in hospice after a 4-year-long battle with cancer, and my beloved dad — whom I can’t even fathom life without — is losing his fight against pancreatic cancer. I’m sharing this only to point out that life is hard for everyone, in different ways and at different times. I recently read a study made on rats. The study (which I don’t like because I feel it was abusive and which I shorten extensively to get to my point) put rats into water. They all swam for about 40 minutes before they gave up trying and drowned. 4 new rats were put into the water, but these were picked up, dried off and given a short period of rest right before they gave up, and were then put back into the water again. This time the rats kept swimming… for 60 HOURS. They went from 40 minutes to 60 hours. The study wanted to highlight the effects hope has on us. My thoughts couldn’t help but to go to my Savior, Jesus Christ and His role in my life. He is that hand that lifts me up, who gives me hope and my life meaning. And He does that for all of us. It’s when we see it and feel it that we go from fighting for 40 minutes to being able to face all the hardships we face for as long as it takes.
I have so much to feel grateful for. On my very muddy wet and cold days I have hope of spring. I just saw that my Daffodils are showing their greens in my gardens, so spring is on its way even if I can’t feel it. There is hope all around us, we just have to notice it. It is with gratitude and a hopeful heart I look forward to the lambing season, to our 3 litters of expected piglets, to hatching more chicks and of course our very first litter of Colorado Mountain Dog Puppies in the fall. Keep swimming!