It will be 10 years officially on October 15th. Back then, we had far out plans; 5, 10 and 15 year goals. They have been, for the most part, shattered. We are pretty happy about that.
2001 – Man marries girl and we are expecting! He buys girl a puppy to keep her company during the nights he is away working the ‘night job’.
2002 – Shepherd husband is going crazy. Sheep he says, this is our future. Say….about 1200 of them…..in about 10 years. 8 o’clock Ranch is founded. Girl smiles and thinks she has the handsomest husband and chubbiest baby boy. ( current status; 1 boy, 1 dog, 12 sheep & 1 ram)
2003 – Sheep flock is growing, girl attempts a website ( ha!) and the first draft is out. Baby Boy#2 is born and puppy two is purchased, you know, to help shepherd our burgeoning sheep herd. ( Status update – 2 boys, 2 dogs, 30 sheep & 1 ram)
2004 – ahhh, the year of really interesting happenings. Shepherd becomes full time as layoffs happen at the ‘night job’ in September. Girl is oh SO happy! Time to find out if we can actually do this ‘thing’ called ranching.
2005 – lots of reality, sheep get sick ( severe lack of selenium) lambing was oh so rough. Lots and lots of learning going on. We start on our path of grass fed/no antibiotics, etc after being so discouraged with the status quo. We scrimp, we save, we DO NOT buy, pretty much anything. We do, however start to sell some lamb in earnest. Shepherd also becomes part time herdsman for his brother who has started a dairy.
2006 – well…..hmmm. This, would be the year that almost broke us. We applied, and were denied a loan from FSA in March because; among other reasons, we were too cutting edge, ” who would possibly want grass fed, locally raised lamb?” So, we wavered…..and then applied for a boat load of credit cards all at once. We REALLY don’t recommend this! 180 sheep/lambs were purchased along with enough fence to keep the predators away. Small hiccup, the fence did not arrive for a full five weeks, Shepherd really did shepherd almost 300 head of sheep all day, every day. Then he added making shipping boxes using steak knives to cut the insulation board and putting up fencing at every possible moment. Did I mention…..we didn’t have a vehicle? Oh yeah….those were the days we rented from Enterprise getting the weekend rate of about $55. Showing up at our processors to pick up meat in a Dodge Neon would always be cause for some snickering. Yeah, exciting times……..(Status update; 2 boys, 2 dogs, 5 puppies ( woops!) 300ish sheep, 3 rams, I think the animals are winning.)
2007 – We are learning….far too slowly of course. Sheep have died in our transition from grain to grass fed, from antibiotics to all natural. Why does learning hurt? So you remember it! All of the lore, the forgotten is being relearned, gleaned from books written in a different century and of course being passed on to our two boys, who hopefully, will never make the mistakes we did. Farmer’s markets are good to us, Girl LOVES to meet customers. Ebay is our friend with lots of lamb samplers going in all directions. First year of offering beef and CSA shares! We purchase a truck…getting too close to breaking Enterprise cars 🙂
2008 – we are expanding, other farmers around us like what we are doing. The Huntley family is raising beef for us, we have started a small herd of pigs! A CSA member from Boston contacted us about our website and offered to create us a new/better one, we jumped at this chance and the website you see now is due to her amazing talent and expertise. THANK you Elisabeth!
2009 – Remember those credit cards…yeah, those. Still paying, still a daily act of responsibility, especially with all those ads offering ‘debt consolidation’. Nope, we are gonna just keep paying on them like any other loan. Swine flu, economy tanking and we are busier than ever. First year of chickens! Seems all the food recalls have everyone (including us) thinking more about what we eat.
2010 – Boys are getting big and involved. They are growing so fast……600 chickens during the summer, two bouts of Strep Throat for the Girl ( change your toothbrush, duh!), this fall we will swap 6 chest freezers for one large walk -in. Instead of bending over until all the blood rushes to your head, oh the fun! We finally have enough money to put siding on the house….
2011 – Spring lambing was….sparse. Seems the hot fall of last year ‘affected’ the rams performance and no sooner had we started than we were dwindling to nothing. We tried to help by doing more chickens than last year, 1000 more to be specific. Paid off tractor.
2012 – Started the year with a bang… The Girl updated the website just after Christmas, website is down for almost three weeks. Ha! ( maybe I should stay away from that….) We struggle to keep up with orders and have been trying to do more thinking instead of just ‘pushing through’. Lambing was slightly better than last year, ( thank GOD!) and all the animals are doing well. Pigs, beef, sheep, chickens….everything. Kind of hard to believe. Its dry though. As of today, we only had 1.4 inches of rain in the last month and a bit. Even so, our heavy clay soil has been a blessing and the animals still have some pasture. Hoping the fall rains will set in soon.
and now…..we are planning on taking a bit of a break. As soon as the CSA shares and as many orders as we can fill are shipped out in September we plan on doing a little traveling. Don’t worry, we already can’t wait to get back. We love the ranch, the life, all that it offers. So totally blessed by meeting/speaking with each one of you and we pray another 10 years will pass that are as exciting as the last.
Soli Deo Gloria!