We started our first farm northeast of Winterset, IA in
1997. Lorraine had read an issue of Organic Gardening magazine
that had an article about sheep and the rest is history. We
started with seven Suffolk ewes and grew from there. Later that
year we bought five Dorsets which we ended up selling shortly
thereafter. In 1998 we answered an add for a flock liquidation
that included Romneys, Lincolnshire and Jacobs. We went for two
or three and bought the whole flock of thirty for $250.
In the summer of 1999 we bought an old farmhouse and
forty acres, giving up a gorgeous twenty acre parcel for a bigger house
and more land. We packed up and moved the six kids twenty-five
miles to our new home. As a rental property for over thirty years
the "new" seventy-five year old house had a lot of deferred maintenance
that was needed. With a toddler about and home schooling the
other kids, Lorraine couldn't get to the lambing problems that
occasionally come up during the day. I sometimes had to run home
from work, deliver a lamb or repair a prolapsed uterus and then clean
up and get back to work.
In 2002 we decided that it was time to either sell the
kids or get out of the sheep business. The kids stayed.
Even though lamb prices were down to about $.60/lb.and nobody wanted
the wool, the demands on Lorraine's time were too great, so we decided
to take a loss and exit the sheep business.. We put ads in the
paper and sold several head that way. The rest went to the auction
barn. We had a little cash and a lot less work.
After taking couple of years off from sheep, in the
springs of 2004 and 2005 we bought a few head of Suffolk feeder lambs
with the intent of putting a couple in the freezer and selling the rest
at auction in the fall. Lamb prices at the auction had improved to
about $.80 by then. It put food in our freezer but it certainly
wasn't a money maker for us.
In 2006 we had already bought nine Suffolk/Hampshire
crosses for feeder lambs. Prices were pushing $1.00/lb..
That summer Lorraine took a class on hand spinning and she was
hooked. It occured to her that having her own supply of wool
would fit well with her new passion. After much research we
decided that Icelandic Sheep would be a great fit to our
property. In addition to having a high quality wool they also
thrive on pasture alone. We knew we didn't want a breed that was
dependent upon grain for finishing due to health issues for us and the
animals, as well as escalating costs of grain due to the demand for
corn created by a burgeoning ethanol market here in Iowa. We also
are excited to be involved in the rebuilding of a breed that wasn't in
the U.S. until it was introduced in 1991.
By the fall of 2006 we had acquired nine Icelandic ewes
and one ram to begin building our flock. We supplemented the flock by
retaining six of the Suffolks that we hope to improve by crossing with
our Icelandic ram. We were also given three Romney whethers
which give Lorraine some diversity in her wool supply. We lost
one of them since then but the remaining two provide
In July, 2007, I took a road trip to Miles, MT with some
of the kids and we picked up nine more Icelandics which included two
adult rams, two ram lambs and five adult ewes.
In June, 2008 we acquired Thunder, our sire for the 2008
breeding season, from Tongue River Farm in Missouri. This guy has
a very nice fleece, a great set of horns and a very gentle disposition
which we're hoping will be passed on to his progeny. You can find
his picture on the Breeding Stock link on our site. In 2010 we
traded Thunder for Grady who is the sire of our Spring, 2011 lamb crop.
While we don't specialize in
broilers,we have raised broilers in the past and intend to try it again
in 2011. We'll be raising these using all organic feed and on our
pasture with a new chicken trractor.
The picture above is of our chicken tractor used in
prior years.. This is made of PVC with chicken wire
covering. I got the plans from pvc.com and modified it a
bit. I opted for the taller option which I regret. This is
too tall to manage the chickens and required adding a door on the front
rather than the top door in the plans. It's designed for turkeys
which we might get in 2011, but, if I had to do it over, and I will,
I'd opt for the two foot tall version that's accessed through the
top. Tthis way our two little girls will be able to step in and
out of the tractor for feed and water. The fence around the
tractor is poultry netting from Premier Supply and works great after
the chicks are about four weeks. Before then they just walk right
through the fence. We do electrify the fence to keep varmints and
In addition to
broilers we'll be expanding our flock of layers which has shrunk
considerably over the past two years since we didn't raise any chicks
last year. Welll be offering eggs in the fall .
We'll also be triying our hand at ducks this year. We have
Muskovey and Pekins and plan to sell these for meat, as
ducklikngs and their eggs.
Lorraine's fiber business has also expanded in recent months.
She's been doing a lot more hand spinning, producer more yarn.
She's also been weaving using a triangle loom to make shawls and