Farming with animals
When I started farming back in 2001, I wanted to be surrounded by all the animals varieties that I was fond of.Such as Romney sheep, known for their beautiful thick course wool, a hand spinners dream. I first laid eyes on these lovely sheep at the Big E, in Springfield Massachusetts. With colors of white or black. So when Kenya was younger I found her a 4h club and 2 registered Romney sheep, she showed those ladies for 5 years at local fairs and festivals and 15 years later we still have a 6 member flock that we hand spin when possible and create wool socks to use and sell in the farm store, we also sell our skeins of wool. The sheep were the first animals residents on the farm.
Next were the horses, I grew up riding show quarter horses and I knew that I wanted to have a purpose for the horses on the farm and having a team of horses that I could drive and do some heavy lifting and moving vegetables and equipment around the farm made the most sense. I had not driven a tractor before nor did I know how to repair them, so I sought out a team of small horses and Heflingers fit the bill, small hoofs and all. We discovered Nestor and Ginger at the Fryeburg fair and they have been working on the farm ever sense. There degree of labor all depends on what is happening on the farm. But for sure they show of their skills in the winter months pulling a antique sleigh for customers and us as the farm family at the holidays. And in the spring they are hitched to the fore cart and they bring down the irrigation supplies and other hard and heavy equipment, in the summer they are used a couple of times each week cultivating with the one horse cultivator. And now in the fall they think there most import job is mowing down the pasture to just the right length of grass to get the pasture threw the winter safely. Now in their senior years nestor and ginger are 8 and 13 years old and used a lot by sage as riding horses, she puts them through their paces lunging and over fences and then ends her riding time with them on a long walk in the field.
After the horses came the bunnies, just two for the kids to enjoy especially on Easter morning, I used to show bunnies as a young girl at the Lebanon country fair in Connecticut, so I just had to include them on our farm for nostalgic reasons.
Well then Gil turned 9 and he needed a project right? So I went back to my childhood again and remembered visiting the Old Sturbridge village in Sturbridge Massachusetts and the oxen specifically milking short horns were most memorable, I pulled out a copy of Farmer Boy and as in the book for his 10th birthday I hid a hand made yoke in the wood box, and pair of 2 week old calves in the barn. So 8 years later his team of boys are members of our family, and they have together Gil and his boys grown up together tall and strong and very capable young men.
The other animals on the farm are for eating, such as pigs, meat birds and turkeys. All free range and living a happy existence on the farm. Even the laying hens are able to get outside and stretch there wings in the farm yard.
The last but not least animal on our farm, are the ducks. This duck thing all started 13 years ago when Kenya and Gil decided having a pair of pekin ducks was a necessity on the farm, we answered a add in Uncle Henrys and came home with pumpkin and ping. Soon after pumpkin broke her neck and Sing came to the farm and was Pings new best friend. Then we organized a duck wedding complete with a blue bow tie for ping and cracked corn on the carpeted aisle way to a card board box designed to be the chapel. Ping and Sing were officially wed ducks. They stayed together for several years, Sing developed a infection and after several attempts to keep her alive, she was laid to rest in the farm pet cemetery. Ping died shortly after (of a broken heart) I’m certain. So with a couple of years now without ducks, we decided to fill that duck void with 6 runner ducks, that are quite simply the most rewarding animals to just sit and watch.
That is my animal story on winterberry farm, they are a intricate important part of our farm and family life and have helped me raise responsible hard working kids. And they have filled our long car rides and long with nights with stories like no other.
Ps you noticed I did not include the farm dogs RoseMary and Chaga in my farm animal list, those too farm dogs are farm family and right fully so deserve their own story.