It’s a funny thing when Rick and I start brainstorming about the projects we want to take on. Our ideas have a way of growing and expanding.
After our first winter living in Tunbridge, we decided that we really wanted to have a garage (so that we would not have to dig/chisel out our cars every time we had a snow/ice event). But why pay for just a garage when, by adding a rental unit on the second floor, we can make back the construction cost? So while we’re at it we asked Dick Robson to design in the perfect apartment for a law-school student, and asked George White & Company to build it.
Of course one major building project was not enough for us. Oh no. When we cleared the invasive white pine trees from the front of our property, we had in mind that it was not only to improve the driveway but also to provide a sense of open space and an area for a big garden. Keeping land open in the self-reforesting climate of Vermont is no easy task, nor is converting the thin, acidic soil into a medium to support vegetables.
So we started thinking of solutions to both of these problems. What would be the most economical, environmentally friendly way to keep the land open and improve the soil? Why, animals of course, specifically sheep. (Besides, I’ve become enamored of knitting and having wool producers would be an added benefit.) Fortunately we met Marian White of Land & Lamb and she introduced us to her Navajo-Churro sheep , a rare breed that is diminutive and hearty. We’ve raised rare and heirloom vegetables, so why not sheep while we’re at it?
Before getting our sheep, we realized we need to provide shelter and protection for them, so we enlisted the help of our friend Justin Ferro to build a small pole barn to shield the flock from summer sun and winter winds. We’ve also contracted with Gordon Barnaby of the Corner Rail Fence Company to install an electric fence for us. But, after further research, we weren’t sure if an electric fence would be enough protection for the sheep. Sure, it would keep them in the pasture, but would it keep predators out?
While we’re at it, we decided to enlist the help of a proven guard species: llamas. Llamas have demonstrated their ability to intimidate and literally stamp out livestock predators. They are naturally curious and instinctively move towards anything “new” or threatening. Their large size is a deterrent to coyotes, dogs, foxes, and even bear. Several shepherds I’ve talked to also said that their guard llama(s) move the flock into the barn at night, or herd them to different grazing areas during the day.
Unlike sheep dogs who require months of training, llamas work purely on natural instinct. It took several weeks of searching before we found the right llamas for our situation, but thanks to Don and Sue Mellen of Autumn Mountain Farm , we found two males (Guinness and Kuzco ) who we think will be excellent guards for our starter flock. (They have excellent fleece to boot!)
When we moved to Vermont it took a while to find a small, well-built house on good property. It took longer for us to both find jobs that we enjoy. Now we’re looking forward to our new roles as landlords and farmers. There is a lot to learn, and sometimes we feel overwhelmed by all of the changes. But we moved here not just to escape city life, but to have new adventures.