Yahoo!!! We are so excited for our friend Kristen Judkins, winner of the Great Goat Give Away at Martha Vineyard’s Farm! This weekend was the Vermont Sheep & Wool Festival. Kristen was ecstatic when she stopped by my booth early on Saturday to tell me that her essay was in first place with the most votes. She knew that she still may not be chosen to win the goats but she was very hopeful. Sunday morning, Kristen came leaping through the vendor hall unable to contain her excitement. Her face was beaming as she told me about her new herd of goats. Wow!
I felt that Kristen’s essay was fantastic. It revealed a lot about who she is as a person….her passions, what drives her, and her values and ethics, …She is so inspiring! Thinking about Kristen and reading her essay has made me remember what it was like when I first moved to Vermont 20 some odd years ago with my husband. Here is my story…
Kristen reminds me of myself and Chuck, my husband, when we first moved to VT from the Washington, DC area. We were just ecstatic about being here. I couldn’t get over how beautiful and clean it was and our family back home just couldn’t begin to understand. I would just stand in our little meadow in Brookfield and marvel at God’s creation all around me.
We were the laughing stock of the neighbors as we tilled the huge garden by hand with a shovel. Finally, the second year, one neighbor came over with his tiller for us to use. I had no idea they even made such a thing. Then we stood there with our book call Cold Climate Gardening reading the pages we needed as we planted each vegetable.
Our first animals were chickens. There was the egg lady that walked our road everyday selling us her fresh eggs. One day, she came bearing chicks telling me that it was time for me to raise my own chickens for eggs. I remember vividly my little 1 and 3 year old sitting on the kitchen floor with their “blankies” spread out for the chicks to sit on. They cuddled each chick. Our first flock of chickens provided us with many eggs.
A few years later Jenn and Kyle of Fat Rooster Farm took a natural childbirth class I was teaching. They had just begun farming and their farm was quickly growing. Jenn’s enthusiasm for life and what she did was catchy. I pelted her with millions of questions. Jenn was instrumental in helping us begin to raise our own meat. At first she would order the chicks for me and let us bring our few chickens to her farm on slaughter day. Then one year she turned us lose saying we could do it all on our own now. She has always been there when I had a question or a sick chicken. She has nursed my rooster back to health more than once.
Jenn also introduced us to the world of pigs. We began raising pigs for meat selling the extra meat to friends and neighbors. This endeavor became a community event again providing much entertainment to our immediate neighbors. The first time we brought piglets home we put them in their newly built pen to have them escape in less than 30 minutes time. “Did you get pigs?” the neighbor said over the phone. “Yes, why?” we asked. “There are two piglets running around in my yard! was the reply. Chasing pigs became a neighborhood event that occurred several times over the course of the summer.
Then came sheep. The wonderful woman who read stories at the local library to preschoolers once a week introduced us to sheep. She and her husband, long retired from their jobs, raised sheep. We would go to her farm every year at lambing season. Justine would put a little lamb in our arms. She encouraged us to visit with her neighbor who also raised sheep. This man was named Bill and he had the most gorgeous sheep I had ever seen, Romneys. His barn was full of beautiful fleeces just sitting in bags. Bill spent countless hours with us answering our many questions. We researched, visited other farms, and consulted with Chet Parson the sheep expert of VT numerous times. At last Chet said, “Kim, quit researching and go get some sheep.”
So we borrowed a truck, from Jenn, and called Bill to get three sheep ready for us. The truck didn’t have a cap so we had to hog tie the sheep and lay them in the bed. Chuck rode in the back of the truck with them to be sure they didn’t try to get up. On the way home, it poured rain but we made it safely and the sheep just lay very still. It is so funny now that I think back on those early days with sheep. We had no idea what we were doing or how they behaved or thought. The learning curve was steep but fun!
Now, our farm has angora goats….a new adventure with a new learning curve. Life is never dull here on our farm. There is always much to be done, much that should have been done, and much that never will get done. Some days it is all overwhelming knowing that these animals rely upon me for their care but it is well worth it all.