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)

cows and sheep going across the road to bigger pastures

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.

Uncle Jess & Eathon putting up grass silage

 

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.

Cole posing in front of the walk-in freezer

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.

our mini tornado

one of our Summer storms

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.

Early morning mist with sheep grazing

Soli Deo Gloria!

 

Comments

  • Cindi

    The first time I’ve gotten to read “the story”…wow…what a ride you guys have had! Congratulations on your decade anniversary, and many wishes for your continued (and much deserved) success! We very much look forward to helping your farm by remaining customers. All the best!

    Matt & Cindi
    Chesterville, ON, Canada

    • It amazes even us! We are thrilled that is continues to be a success and look forward to many more years! See you soon!

  • Jill

    Thank you so much for sharing this story. We appreciate it. We’re trying to remember how long we’ve been ordering from you. You’ve always seemed so together, it’s a surprise to hear what’s going on behind the scenes.
    Good job & we hope you all much success, esp since we had one of your pork chops on the grill for dinner tonight & we were saying how amazing your meat tastes!

    • Ha! We should have a camera follow me around a few days, you could see how ridiculously NOT put together I can be at times. Was a LOT of fun to go back through the years, ( thank goodness for my husband writing so much of this down) and remembering. So happy you are enjoying the meat, truly is the best compliment!

  • Brian Priestley

    I also was fascinated, and humbled, to read your account of the last ten years. What a ride!! We’re so glad to have found you, as we’re able to enjoy delicious, healthy, humanely raised, grassfed meat for the same (or sometimes slightly more) money that we would pay for industrial meat at any local store. So, a heartfelt “thank you” for your hard work and perseverance!!

    I hope you’ve had a great vacation , but I can’t wait til you get back, as I’m REALLY looking forward to my upcoming order!!!! I don’t know why I stopped ordering for a few months, but I’ve surely missed it!!

    All the best on your next 10 years!! We plan to continue to support you while enjoying the fruit of your hard work!!

    Sincerely,

    Brian, Laura, Benjamin and Lyla Priestley

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