In the farm’s original plan, Jacob sheep would make up the fiber bearing population. We started with two wethers (neutered males) with very nice fiber – one mostly dark, Israel, and one mostly white, Tommy (who has since passed on). But finding more Jacobs proved difficult in our immediate area, so we branched out to another rare breed of wool sheep: the Gulf Coast Native. Like the Jacobs, Gulf Coast sheep are hardy in our climate and parasite-resistant. They are small and easy to handle, and best of all, locally available. Our GCN flock now includes Nathan, Isaiah, Titus, Straw and Mordecai. Our Suffolk cross sheep, Shadrach adds to the flock’s variety, and serves as our chief farm ambassador.
What farm would be complete without the clucking and scratching of barnyard chickens? Our flock has grown to about 30 layers who decorate our pastures and yard, and give us lots of colorful eggs. Many of our beautiful birds were raised from day-old chicks we ordered through the mail. Though free-range chickens face dangers from occasional predators as they go about their daily routines, we feel that the freedom they enjoy, and the normal lives they lead are worth the added risk. Their lifestyle is healthier for them, and allows them to produce healthier eggs. Our girls do all retire to their coops in the evening, where they are buttoned up to protect them during the night.
Our trio of breeding Californian rabbits provide our family with humanely and responsibly grown meat. Sometimes it’s challenging to make the emotional leap from enjoying darling baby bunnies to processing grown rabbits for the freezer, but we feel strongly that we should eat intentionally and with an eye toward sustainability, health, and stewardship.
Livestock Guardian Dogs
As shepherds, we must protect our vulnerable flocks and, unfortunately, predators are part of the natural food web in our area,.
Our experiment with guard donkeys was less than successful. Moses and Aaron were sweet, fun and a delight to own. They just weren’t very good at guarding. And after a tragic coyote attack on the sheep flock, we knew it was time to add Livestock Guardian Dogs to our farm.
Our two rescued Great Pyrenees dogs, Judah and Ruth, have done an outstanding job of protecting the sheep flock, by keeping any would-be predators at bay. (Ruthie has recently retired to an excellent pet home.) To ensure that both pastures were covered well, we added two young Maremma guard dogs, Giovanni and Donatella, who partner with the Pyrs to watch over the sheep and alpacas.
Great Pyrenees and Maremmas look very similar – large and imposing, with a thick white coat. They have been bred for hundreds of years to bond to their flocks and protect the sheep with their lives. These faithful farm workers help us sleep peacefully at night, knowing the flock and herd are safe.
Update: On July 17, 2015, our herd moved to their new home in Argyle with an amazing family who is taking up the fiber torch with our amazing boys. Though we miss them a lot, we now have more time to focus on activities and events to promote fiber and yarn in the DFW area.
We didn’t start out expecting to have alpacas. It was a happy accident. A friend was downsizing her herd and offered us a couple of alpacas at a price that got my attention. These weren’t the crazy-expensive show alpacas I had heard about. These were affordable fiber animals. We brought our first two boys home (Moonstruck and Gizmo) and my husband insisted they looked like muppets. Those big-eyed fluffy faces won us over. They weren’t that much different to care for than the sheep, and their fiber brought a lot of value to our fiber harvest. And the colors! Alpacas come in 22 officially recognized colors, so we’ve been able to acquire eight soft and lovely boys who cover the range – from white (ever so dyeable), apricot, fawn, mahogany and black.