Life on thea farm

| 05 Apr 2012 | 12:13

WEST MILFORD — If you drive down Weaver Road and turn into Two Pond Farm you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time, back to a different, self-sufficient way of life.The road takes you between the two ponds that distinguish the property and soon you are pulling up to the farm house and barns.You can already smell the hay.

Two Pond Farm owners, Allison Hosford and her husband Roger Knight, live a hard-working, good life; a life they are fully committed to.Now Hosford has decided to share the knowledge she’s gained over the last three decades of farming by holding workshops on her farm.

Hosford did not start out as a farmer.In the early 1960s she was on the ground floor of computer technology at IBM. However, this computer analyst took to the earth like a duck to water once she changed her life’s course.You can hear her love of farming as she shares her experience.

Her March workshop was entitled “Sheep, Syrup and Sustainability.”Let’s talk about the sheep.

The farm currently has a flock of three ewes, two yearlings and a ram.Right now the three ewes are pregnant and due to deliver within days or weeks, most likely with twins and triplets.They usually have five producing ewes but the yearlings are too young to breed this year.

The one ram is a happy, busy fellow come the beginning of November when he is allowed to hob-nob with the ewes.He’s got his freedom until early January, by which time the “girls” are usually pregnant, then he is separated until the following November.The parting of ways is necessary to keep the ram from being too aggressive with the food supply.

It's birthing time Hosford keeps meticulous records and tracks the gestation periods of her ewes, normally 142-150 days, but she narrows it down to within a day or two of when the lambs will be born.She wants to make sure they’re home when the birthing begins should theirassistance is needed.

“We have a very large ram and the lambs tend to be large.There can be problems with the births since the twins and triplets can get tangled up, or there could be a breech birth,” she said.

Some of the lambs are sent to the slaughter house for meat, sometime between the ages of 7 to 9 months.Selecting those to be kept for reproducing is a big decision.

“If the mom’s have a good temperament, if they produce twins and triplets; you want your flock to get healthier, more productive and easier to handle,” Hosford said.

The flock was recently shorn by a professional shearer, a yearly process.Now Hosford gets busy with the “in the grease” wool, right off the sheep’s back, dirty and full of lanolin.She washes it, dries and then cards it, which is a combing to make all the fibers go in the same direction. Then she spins it and knits her own products to sell.

Hosford keeps a close eye on her flock.Common predators are bears, coyotes and wild or domestic dogs off leash.Sheep, she said, are the meekest animal on earth and have been known to die of heart attacks being chased by a dog, who is basically doing what a dog loves to do – chase something that’s running.

Sharing her knowledge Hosford decided to share her wealth of knowledge because she feels that these skills aregoing by the wayside.

“We’ve been doing this for 30 years and finally realized that we do know what we’re doing.So many people come to the farm and say ‘I always wanted to do this’ but there’s no place that teaches it,” she said.

There are two audiences for her workshop, people who want to farm and those who just want to know what it’s all about.One student from New York City said she wanted to understand it, touch it, feel it, know where lamb and wool comes from.

“It’s a day when you can immerse yourself in something that has become foreign to most of us,” Hosford said.

Her recent class of four came from diverse backgrounds and gave rave revues of the workshop.Two, Hosford believes, will get into it, and the other two enjoyed the day at the farm and all they learned.

Hosford’s next workshop will be on April 21 and will concentrate on onions, potatoes, strawberries and transplanting.It will also veer off for a hike to Hosford’s Christmas tree farm. She serves a morning snack and a light lunch, usually a home-made soup and salad.

Her upcoming workshops will include “Chicken, Eggs and Seedlings” and “Meat, Birds and Composting.”Her full course list is on the farm’s Web site, or call 973-697-2541.

If home-grown food is more on your mind you may want to stop by for fresh eggs, chickens or vegetables.Either way, stepping back into a time when people lived off the land is an experience not to be missed.