It was with a tinge of sadness when the latch on the livestock trailer was locked into place, closing the door on one chapter of our farming lives. Our six remaining Scottish Blackface ewes headed down the road to their new home in Iowa.
The decision to sell was a gradual process. After peaking with a flock of a couple dozen several years ago, we sold off our crossbred Suffolk sheep and focused on the Blackface. But with no money for the wool and little demand for lamb meat, we kept reducing our numbers.
As much as we enjoyed our sheep — particularly our ewe Daisy who was a bottle lamb blessed during a church service that I wrote about several years ago — there comes a point in farming when you have to make tough decisions. You need to put aside the emotional connection to your animals and view it from a business perspective.
So imagine if you’re a dairy farmer who has worked the farm all your life, as your father and grandfather did before you. You’ve never known anything else. Caring for and milking cows is your life.
Your heart is on the farm but your head — and your balance sheet — tells you it’s time for a change. Your head tells you it can’t take much more slamming into that brick wall, day after day. You’re so accustomed to the pain that you’re surprised when there is relief when you stop.
There’s a big difference, though. We never intended for raising sheep to be a primary source of income. We knew better than that. I would have settled for breaking even. I feel deeply for the farmers going through the great dairy exodus.
For us, it became a matter of priority. With a growing inn, winery and wedding business, and Father Time not working in our favor, it was the logical decision. And we still have a few cows, goats, donkeys, chickens and some rams (anyone want to buy a great ram — I’ve got a heck of a deal for you!).
While logic prevailed, there’s still a small feeling of loss. I’ll miss scratching Daisy under her chin and the sight of frolicking lambs. But I won’t miss lambing season in the bitter cold and other farming frustrations.
You have free articles remaining.
Somehow my head feels just a little bit better today.
Not much garden harvest
Speaking of time constraints, the vegetable garden this year is pretty much a large weed patch. Sherry did harvest beans, and we have beets, carrots and potatoes to dig. We’ll have a few squash and some spices and herbs. If the frost holds off, we’ll finally get some tomatoes and maybe some corn.
It wasn’t a lost cause, as there are some spectacular flowers to enjoy. Sherry has had fresh arrangements of gladiolus and zinnias for several weeks.
The blackberry season was a good one — with Sherry doing all of the picking and me enjoying the fruits of her labor. Along with putting berries in the freezer she made some pies. I recently had a double helping one morning for breakfast. No need for donuts when there is pie.
While the blackberry season is over, the apples are just beginning. A few of our trees are loaded while others skipped production this year.
Did someone say apple pie?