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Specializing in Icelandic lamb, breeding stock and fiber  
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Hedgeapple Farm's History

 Diversification

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 great fleeces.

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 predators out. 

 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 ponchos.