Monday, August 17, 2015

We Started a Sheep Dairy

Two years ago we set out to start a sheep dairy. When we started the farm, we had two employees named Scott and Anna-Lisa. Anna-Lisa also had a full time job off the farm, so there wasn't much time at all for blogging. Fast forward two years later, Scott still works full time on the dairy, Anna-Lisa still works full time off the farm, but we've added an additional full time employee, so I finally have time to start sharing our story. 

I'll spare you the general overview of our experience and what we do, but if you want to read about it, our friends at Nevada Farm Bureau wrote a great story for their magazine:

A couple of disclaimers as I begin to transition this blog into writing mostly about our life and our farm:

1. T-Swift won't stop asking and you're probably wondering too, we are only in our second full year of business and no, we aren't out of the woods yet. However, our farm is very successful thus far.

2. We aren't expert business or farm consultants. I'm sure can find somebody to pay a ridiculous amount of money to fill that role if you think you need it.

Now let’s begin.

You started a sheep dairy?

My husband Scott is definitely the visionary of our household. He has an ability to see potential in things other people wouldn’t think twice about and I’ve known that about him the entire 8 years we’ve been together. So, it wasn’t difficult for me to agree to help him start a sheep dairy when the idea came up. He spent a couple years trying to figure it out and then it was time to pull the trigger. 
We left our cushy jobs in corporate America, moved to the Oasis of Nevada and did it.

So he got a loan through FSA’s young farmer program, rented an old dairy facility in his home town and bought a couple hundred sheep and we haven’t turned back since.
If you’re starting a business, here are some things I think you should keep in mind. 
  •  You don’t have any money. You need to live like that.
  • Your time isn’t worth that much money either. Anything you can in-source and do yourself is going to help you cash flow at the end of the year. 
  • You don’t need anything that’s new or nice. We feed our sheep with a pocket knife and pitchfork, hardly the capital investment you see on many dairy facilities. That wouldn’t work if we were milking cows, but it works for us. 
  • Learn how to be frugal. See number 1. Maybe at some point I’ll blog more about being frugal and what works for us.
  • You can’t stop believing that you will be successful. Even when it’s 10 degrees outside and you can’t feel your fingers and toes you can’t give up. It’s amazing what the body will do if the mind will let it. 
  • Team work makes the dream work.  I have ALWAYS worked off the farm, but that has never meant that I don’t pitch in and help at the dairy. (Some seasons more than others.) The same goes for Scott at home. He’s my best floor sweeper, chopper and breakfast chef!
Do you have a dream of something you’d like to achieve? You can do it! We were told over and over again that our idea was dumb and that it wouldn’t work. But guess what? We are heading into our third milking season and doing just fine. Most people who are negative and try to convince you that you’re not going to be successful are just jealous. They are going to talk about you no matter what, so you might as well give them something to talk about.

Monday, February 24, 2014

You ARE Making It

I have been clinging to this blog post from my "friend" Becky. I say "friend" because we've never met, but if we did I know we would be fast friends. If you need some encouragement, read below and then be sure to head over at follow her blog Scissortail SILK. The Lord is doing some amazing things through this young momma from rural Oklahoma.

"When the situation that we are in overwhelms us, it feels impossible to see past today. It doesn’t matter if someone offers the advice that it won’t last forever. We don’t really care that somewhere someone is wishing for our struggle. We don’t think twice about how sad we will feel when this stage is a memory.

It feels impossible to see past the moment. We only want relief from the exhaustion. We can be sad about how we will feel when it is over… tomorrow. It is today that seems to overwhelm our hearts.
So, to you in your moment, I won’t say any of those things. I won’t say you’re going to regret wishing this away. I won’t remind you how short this will really be… especially when today feels like an eternity.

I will just say this.

Girl, I feel ya.

I understand right where you are.

You don’t have to feel guilty for being overwhelmed. You don’t have to feel inadequate for just barely making it. You don’t have to feel like a failure if it isn’t turning out like you thought it would.

You’re not alone in how you feel.

You are going to be okay, but until then, a reminder that God sees you. He doesn’t sit on a throne far away chuckling at your problems. He isn’t disappointed with your feelings of defeat. He isn’t surprised by your situation. He loves all of you. He cares for all of you – and that includes right where you are today.

He is right there with you.

He is a constant encourager – the cheerleader for your soul.

Can you hear His words today? Can you hear His heart?

He says He loves you. He says you’re doing a great job. He says that He is proud of you and reminds you that you’re not alone. You’re not unseen. You’re not inadequate. He promises that He won’t leave you. He promises again and again and again… continually reminding your soul of His presence.

He quiets the storms before they come. He calms the chaos before it begins. He is your constant friend.

Maybe this sounds like something I have written before, but I will say it as many ways as I can until it reaches the heart that needs to hear it in this moment.

You’re doing okay, momma, friend, wife. You’re not only going to make it, you ARE making it. Today, I pray for the grace to let that be enough." - Becky Thompson, Scissortail Silk

Thursday, February 20, 2014

#LambWatch14 - Light At the End Of the Tunnel

The busiest time of the year on our farm is without a doubt lambing. This winter we have spent the last 45 days lambing in 300 ewes. Here's the thing. Our ewes live outside and since we live it the desert it gets really cold at night. Therefore me and the farmer take turns getting up in the middle of the night to make sure new lambs are cleaned off and warm. This also means that the farmer can't get all of the chores done by himself in a timely fashion so my schedule is a little bit crazy. I spend my mornings and evenings bottle feeding around 100 lambs that aren't weaned yet. My future sister in law does the same, so we are a pair of exhausted girls! 

We recently counted the ewes that haven't lambed yet and there are only around 60 left! About 20 of those are smaller framed yearlings and will probably end up open, which means they won't have lambs this year. Therefore, the long days and sleepless nights are nearing an end ad I have a new found respect for mothers of infants.

What is the winter like on your farm?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Farm Girl Beauty Swap

This month my friend Crystal over at Crystal Cattle teamed up with the lovely Courtney Nolz of Cowgirl Crush to organize a beauty swap!

Here's how it worked, those who wanted to participate sent Crystal our information and she paired us up randomly. As it turned out, my swap partner and I have quite a bit in common.

Annaliese over at Modern Day Farm Chick is also spends a lot of her time on a dairy farm, although she and her husband milk cows not sheep. Therefore, we like a lot of similar products including nail polish!

I was so excited when I received my package which included new eye shadow, new lip gloss, a new Redkin root booster, a new favorite nail polish and a yummy valentines day treat! I've worn the nail polish and the new lipgoss by Victoria's Secret hasn't left my side since it arrived even when I'm just headed to the dairy to feed lambs. Seriously love it!

Thanks for everything Annaliese, I haven't tried the root boot booster or eye shadow yet but can't wait.

Thanks for organizing the swap Crystal, it was a great highlight of our tiresome lambing season!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Four Days Later: Life Happened in Rural Nevada

So there you have it. Day THREE and I fail at my 30 consistent days of blogging. I blame most of it on not having a plan and the rest is just life. While my life is busy, so is everyone else's so I'm not going to dwell on that. I'll just give you some highlights from what's been going on around here and then tomorrow I'll write about something educational. So you know, you can actually learn something about Nevada.

- My sheepherder shot his deer on Sunday and we are going to cut him up tonight. I'm told it's a nice dear, its horns are not too big, but it had a huge body so I will probably have to spend some time this evening cleaning out my freezer. Now the question is to mount or not to mount. Honestly I don't know much about hunting but the thing looks big enough to hang on the wall from my perspective.

- Yesterday with the help of the sheepherder's brother sister-in-law and three nieces we moved all of the sheepherder's sheep to new fields. In the winter time sheep can graze alfalfa stubble that is left from the last time they cut the fields for hay or silage. Grazing stubble goes fast, the good news? The sheepherder and I now have a standing daily date. Hey, who says moving fence and drinking hot chocolate isn't a date!?

- APPLES, APPLES, APPLES.... they are still on the counter two weeks later. Fortunately, it's been cold, even in my kitchen. Unfortunately, if I don't get wedding dress rehearsal pie fillings made soon the apples will be too soft. Yes I'm already making pie fillings for our wedding rehearsal dinner next summer. They freeze well and it is absolutely un-American to celebrate anything on the Fourth of July without apple pie and apples are in season (cheap) now. I'm truly not that organized, I fell into this one.

- I'm gearing up for another stretch of business travel over the next two weeks. My office is a wreck, I have more laundry to do than the dry cleaners and I haven't done my floors in a week. However my life planner came in the mail yesterday so I'm pretty excited to plan my life. I'm making it a personal goal to prove the sheepherder wrong and use it diligently for more than 3 months. 

There you have it, there is life in rural Nevada this week.

Tomorrow I'd like you to meet Nevada's first brandy. Get excited.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Rotational Grazing in Nevada

I have mentioned before that my husband-to-be is starting a sheep dairy. Yesterday, I posted about doing the chores while he is away. Aside from hauling water to the pasture they are grazing, my other job while he is gone is to let them eat more of the pasture. We use a system called rotational grazing. Basically we give the sheep a certain amount of grass to eat each day and then move the fences so they can eat another piece. 

We have about 180 sheep in this group, so they get moved every day to every other day depending on the section of the pasture we are in. Just like any other crop, some sections of the field are denser than others. The electric fence is connected to a car battery. We have two batteries and rotate them from the fence to the charger in the house. There are many types of fence chargers, but we use this simple one because our ewes only graze for the time when they aren’t milking.

Here is a good picture to explain rotational grazing.

The left side has been grazed the right side has not been. They are left on it long enough to eat down to just below where you could harvest it with a swather. We use this system because not only does it allow the sheep to get the most out of a pasture, but it also allows the pasture to rest. It is grazed, aerated and fertilized and then rests for a few weeks which allows the grass to grow back thicker than it was before.

It is also an economical option for us in terms of feeding the sheep. As a grazing dairy farmer friend in California says, “They harvest it for ya, store it and feed it to themselves. Then they fertilize and aerate the grass while they’re at it.”

Rotational grazing isn’t huge in Nevada yet, but my sheepherder and his brother have both had good luck with it. Maybe it will catch on with time, but most likely only for dairy sheep. Most range sheep in Nevada still run on desert ranges taken care of by Peruvian sheepherders that live in sheep camps and only come into the headquarters every few weeks. They are truly a living symbol of Nevada’s history and most of its families’ past.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Hunting in Nevada

No topic seems more relevant to kick off this blog series than to write about the hunting in Nevada. You may have seen my Instagram about packing food for my sheepherder to go on a hunting trip yesterday. This is his fourth hunting trip since September 1, whether for his own tags or those of relatives. Hunting is very common here, whether for elk, deer, antelope, goats, sheep or birds, lots of families spend their fall weekends seeing the wilderness of Nevada. This might turn out to be one of the most memorable hunts of the year, aside from the once in a lifetime mountain goat hunt he went on with his brother-in-law.

This weekend he is hunting to fill his mule deer tag up in the very northwestern corner of the state, close to both California and Oregon. Along on the trip are his uncle and grandpa. His brother, mother and oldest niece drove up to join them today, it should be full of memories for certain. Meanwhile here at home, while I usually love to go with him, the sheep are too pregnant to be left alone. 
Someone has to pack water to them and feed the guard dogs and this time, that someone is me. We have a few sheep that aren’t feeling too good, they have upset tummies. Leaving me in charge of the sheep once in a while is really good for our relationship because you don’t realize what kind of pressure your farmer is constantly packing around until all that pressure is on your shoulders. Putting myself in his size 17 shoes helps me to be more patient when he’s cranky or upset. It’s only been two days, and I’m terrified that something will happen to the sheep while he is gone. Fortunately, my best friend married a vet. Thank you Dr. Z for being on speed dial. 
Hopefully the hunting party is having a blast, fingers crossed they fill the freezer.

What are common fall activities in your area? Do a lot of people hunt?