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Spring 2024 : Updates and feelings. Brace yourself.

It’s been a minute.

Spring Happenings

Renewed life is yawning and budding here.  The stone fruit trees have started blooming.  Old homestead daffodils abound.  Little Tammy is due with piglets this week. Guard dog Storm is due with her very first litter of pups next week. Lambing season is JUST about done. The brooder is full of fluffy butts (Rhode Island Reds for the layer flock) who go out into the field next week, and the first meat chicks will be arriving at the end of the month. And thank the heavens the chickens have started laying eggs again!!

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Farming the way we do, taking a bit of a breather in the winter and the growing season being so intense, means that spring is really spring training. It is limbering up and deep breathing to the scent of peach blossoms so as to psych yourself up to ride that narly amusement park ride again. You know that intense roller coaster which is equal parts exhilarating and death defying and nausea inducing? The one that makes you panic thinking what have I gotten myself into? That ride when they snap your picture you look like you’ve seen a ghost. You get off weak kneed swearing you’ll never be so gullible as to do that again. You’re getting too old for this. Your inner ear function isn’t what it used to be. Don’t get me started on your joints. But by the time you’ve walked back at the entrance, you’re grinning like a fool and buying another ticket.

Winter is for safety checking the roller coaster tracks, for making sure the safety harness is in good working order. Are all gears greased? Are the line employees competent? Is this the same ride we want to get onto again this year? Maybe we should try a gentler toddler version? One that is so tame it only requires loose fitting lap bars instead of a five point harness with neck braces?  Because we all know once the coaster is in operation getting off means death or dismemberment.

So, here we are. Getting back on. I tried to tighten up all the loose nuts and grease all the bearings back in December. We’ll see how it goes!


I am 95% sure I’m going to shut down the sheep operation here.

Ok, maybe 92%.


Their mortality rate this winter was outragedly abysmal.

I’m overstretched and not managing them well, clearly.

It’s an operation that has always been in the red, despite my passing along the high processing and growing costs to the customers. Which I detest btw. The way we raise our sheep, with portable electric fencing is terribly labor intensive. In the beginning we said, “Oh isn’t it lovely to get out and walk the fences every week, what fabulous exercise and fresh air!” Six years in we are accounting for how every spare minute is being spent moving some fence or another. During the winter the ewes need to be moved twice a week. It’s just too much.

Volunteers, you say? Eh. Maybe. I cannot bear being yet another farm that can only make ends meet by guilting community members to ‘come on out and substitute your gym membership for farm work!’. While that’s not totally wrong, and I acknowledge a volunteer relationship can be mutually beneficial, is this really how we’re going to REQUIRE our small family farms to run?!? Constantly and forever on free labor?

I’ve considered permanent fencing. It has its own set of problems. Keeping the fencing clear of trees/weeds. Upfront cost is steeeep. Did you know permanent means permanent? Meaning, it’s awful hard to mow or run other animals through it? And, everybody with me now: solutions to sheep operation being in the red CANNOT involve throwing more $ at it. Now, if I was the recipient of generational wealth, in the form of fencing, then maybe we’d be able to talk. But here we go again. Farming only being sustainable if you’ve been born into farming wealth and you employ unpaid labor…. Sigh.

Moving on. I don’t like giving up on something I’m doing poorly when I know I can and have done better. I am tempted to say, “Oh I must not be good at this. That’s ok. It’s ok to not be good at EVERYTHING.” Guild absolved. Except, well, no. I am capable and observant, a willing student, and a solid caretaker. I feel how they feel. I see what they need. I’m just too overworked to do the job well.

If midlife with children teaches us anything, it’s that there’s only so many hours in the day. I must make hard choices about how I’m spending those limited hours.

Reasons I worry I’m making a mistake:

A breeding program is a long term investment. Giving up early is stupid and I’m just being a whiner.

Quitting just because it’s hard right now (bad year)(bad ram?)(bad guard dog?)(all three???)

Efforts to be sustainable were always going to mean heavy losses early on. I want ruminants that can tolerate this climate, this flora, this parasite load. I don’t want to have to deworm them every 4-6 weeks. I don’t want to have to mother lots of forsaken babies. I don’t want to have to import and feed grain just to get decent sized lambs. By making hard management choices early on I have been hoping to hone in on a genetic strain that survives my management style and my area. Then we can hone it to thrive.

Is this impossible with this genetic pool of domesticated hair sheep?

Is this impossible period?

Or am I just giving up during this hard period but it’d get better?

The farm would be losing it’s ONLY animal that I don’t have to import feed for (nearly). What will our farm look like without ruminants? WHO WILL EAT THE PRIVET AND POISON IVY???

Can I rent out fields for other people to run their ruminants? Is this a case of grass is greener? Aka new stress new problems, but still stress and problems? I still don’t have those mfing fences.

Kids and I will miss the dogs. Very much. And lambing season. (me yes and no)

I like to eat lamb. It’s what got me into this mess in the first place.

Things that make it (maybe) ok:

Another sheep farm desperately needs experienced guard dogs. I can rehome my beloved working dogs into a (hopefully) perfect (as close as it can possibly be) scenario.

Said sheep farm has agreed to sell me some of their lamb so I can still feed my customers. And me.

I’ve been begging for some local farm collaboration. Maybe this is a beginning?


Conflicted grief.

And then I eat a lamb roast which melts in my mouth and I’m happy to eat leftovers of for a solid week. And I discover a new butcher shop opened up down the street. And I go out into the field and watch the babies bouncing all around and my resolve wavers. Ugh. Stay tuned I guess.


We spent most of our winter with various viral illnesses. It was a bummer. And while that was uncomfortable and annoying it sort of worked out. Because it turns out when you can barely maintain an upright position for over a month, you really get serious about your lifestyle, your responsibilities, and your priorities. You do an awful lot of meditating when all you’ve got energy for is lying still and watching the trees. I exited the illness era with a renewed sense of honing and simplifying all the facets of my life, the farm, and my work/life balance. Hence the guillotine for the sheep.

I’ve been fairly quiet on the blog and on social media. Not just this winter. It’s been intentional.

Beginning any new venture (or relationship) has a post honeymoon coming to terms with reality season. And we’ve been in it. Some of that is perfectly normal. Some of it is feeling disillusioned with all the back to the land homesteading family farming is going to save the world messaging that’s out there. And while I have my evolving thoughts about all of it, I really hesitate to contribute to that particular camp. So, I’m quiet. And working. And thinking.


Maryville’s Farmers Market is ramping up to start soon. April 20th is the official start date and I’ll be there.

We’ve been working to install a new orchard space here at the farm, and I’m so excited I may burst. We’ve put in 4 peach trees and 150 rabbiteye blueberry bushes so far. Still more to go! And possibly a few other things. Muscadines? It will not be a pick-your-own, but we hope to have berries in a couple of years for market and various other avenues.

The egg flock is expanding a wee bit this year. We’ve been picking up some local restaurant relationships who love our eggs as much as we do. So, our pastured eggs are parading around town! Hopefully with a flock increase we’ll keep ya’ll stocked!

We’ve been building up our pastured pork operation. This year is the first time we were able to get a USDA butcher spot, so we are offering pork cuts finally! I’m struggling not to eat all the sausage myself…… it’s a real problem.

Seriously though, we’re so proud of our pork. Our piggies are as healthy and happy as you’ll ever meet in a pig. Even the butchers comment on it. They are born and raised in the pastures and forests. Never in confinement. Never medicated. Eating grubs and grass and roots and acorns and garden extras (in addition to a daily grain ration). Sisters Big Tammy and Little Tammy are doing a swell job of supplying ample chops and roasts and BACON! Ah, my life is complete.

Little Tammy with some of her chillen


If you made it to the end of this rant, thanks for listening my farmy friend. I appreciate you. Truly. Ya’ll are (mostly) the thing that makes all this doing worth doing.

Also, only listen to 35% of what I say.

Now, get yourself outside. It’s too pretty to be sitting there looking at a screen.

3 thoughts on “Spring 2024 : Updates and feelings. Brace yourself.”

  1. Reading this gave me a real appreciation for all of your hard work -had no idea what farm life entailed. I love eating healthy food but no way could I produce it myself-even if I were 40 years younger-thanks for the best eggs I’ve ever had. And if you ever gave up farming you could be a writer-you have a real talent for expressing yourself !

  2. Thank you for sharing your heart. You, my friend, are a talented writer! (Have you ever read Ben Hewitt? You two share a very similar writing style.) I remember when you were searching for your farm… and it’s so beautiful to read about your journey. You are inspiring! (If only I were about 10-15 years younger and knowledgeable enough for such a farm-life undertaking myself…) Thrilled for you all and the life you are creating!

  3. I’ve always known your true calling was writing but having stated that I can tell how much you love farming. Whatever you turn your hand to has always been exceptionally done and if you “change” your mind about one part of what you do well that’s ok!! I read that most Farmers are optimist or they couldn’t continue to farm day in and day out. I would like a bite of that roast please ????

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