FROM AROUND THE RANCH...
How it started:
We were looking for about ten acres a little farther out in the country where "city water" (and the resulting neighbors) had not arrived. Mostly though, it was because our equines kept whispering in our ears that two acres was just not enough grass for two horses.
The old farm on "Horse Branch" hadn't been worked in years. You had to fight your way through the head high blackberry to even see the barns, and the fences were just whips of barbed wire still nailed to trees here and there.
But it had a year round spring, small stock pond, bordering creek, and a nice balance of woods and what we could see in our minds would one day be pastures. It was slightly rolling with a gorge in the center and all manner of wildlife: deer, turkey, rabbits, hawks and owls, squirrels and herons, and chiggers - LOTS AND LOTS of chiggers! The only thing that came close to the number of chiggers were the ticks. Thus the name: Chigger Ridge Ranch (Tick Ridge just didn't have the same ring to it.)
We fell in love with the land - although didn't know what we would possibly DO with almost 100 acres.... We found out that Tennessee was the second largest goat producing State in the country - sounded good to us... So we bought some Boers and let them clean up the land for us (They did excel at that, we'll admit, but at little else). As we began to educate ourselves about small ruminants, we found out that Boer goats were not really a breed of animal designed for the hot, humid, parasite heaven we call the South. At the same time we were struggling to develop a stronger, parasite resistant, crossbred Boer, our tiny flock of Katahdin hair sheep kept growing and expanding with almost no care from us.
Epiphany! You shouldn't try to adapt an unsuitable animal to the land, but find what species fits your land naturally. Before we knew it we were shepherds....
Of course we couldn't do it without our most important helpers....
"all right Nell, here's the plan..."
"That'll do... Good dog!"
"This is one of your new charges, Lummox".
"yeah, right, you're a 'guard donkey', uh huh, I believe that..."
A little bit about us...
We run the ranch with just the two of us (and the helpers above). Between us we have worked with over 100 species of animals from alligators to armadillos, bears to baboons, zebus to zebras. Our experiences have included work in zoos, vet clinics, pet stores, and in wild animal rescue.
We both have college degrees in the sciences and experience working in biochemistry, heart physiology, and cancer biology. So our commitment to raising grass finished animals without hormones, antibiotics, and insecticides is more than just following a consumer dictated trend - we believe in it.
Just couldn't let all that beautiful spring water just run off to the creek without stopping to feed us a catfish pond. Well, now it has catfish, bluegill, grass carp, bass, minnows, and koi.
"Yup, I'm working on it..."
"Uh, huh, almost done..."
"What's for dinner?"
Someday we plan to offer organically grown fruit along with our meat at the Farmer's Market. We have 17 trees planted from apples, to apri-plums, cherries, peaches, pears... mmm...good. I guess they're going to need a little while yet though....
Hey, we got some apples!
Ongoing non-stop rabbitries... Problem is, just as we get all the cages built - they have more bunnies and we have to build more cages, and then they have more bunnies, and we have to build more cages.... We just put up our fourth rabbit barn!
"all right Rabbit. We are changing your name from Romeo!"
The rabbits are helping us in more ways than one toward our goal of sustainable agriculture.
Who knew rabbit "crap" could be so fertile? Wow! This is just 4 tomato plants! We got literally hundreds of tomatoes.
Our farm project for 2011/2012 is setting up enough bee hives to be able to offer honey and pollen at the farmer's market. They need to build up enough for themselves first though...
It's not all fun and games...O.K. maybe it is...
"Yep, I'm a sheep mom...."