The family is more than just those of us living in the farmhouse, we also have Jacob sheep, Swaledale sheep, a couple of Tamworth pigs, a couple of bee hives and as many chickens that the fox hasn’t already eaten!! We sometimes wonder how we got here, and how many animals is too many…. But then we look through the window at them and watch for 10 – 15 minutes, and ponder… I wonder if we should get a cow??!!!
It was never in our life plan to be smallholders, and if not for a fateful night in June 2006 when we bought the farm at auction, we probably would have never have made the jump. We had seen a couple of places in the peak district and really liked the area, but didn’t quite find “the one”. We bought our little farm at auction with just over 24 acres. We spent the next three years and shed a fair few tears renovating the farm, getting it to a state where we could move in.
Over that time, the focus was on getting into the farmhouse and we rented the land to a local farmer. We started to consider the beauty of surroundings and our ability to get more self-sufficient. We read a lot of books on what to do with a few acres, it sounded incredibly idyllic and we thought this is something we should do. We took the plunge and bought a couple of Tamworth piglets. We wanted the animals to have the best life possible and we tried our best to give them this.
Jacobs sheep are traditionally a parkland breed, with distinctive brown and white colours, they are a horned sheep, with both male and females having horns. They normally have two or four horns, we have the two horn variety. When we started it didn’t really cross our minds that there was a problem with having horns, and it didn’t faze us. Although we occasionally get a bruise as they brush past our legs, we have seen them as a positive, as it gives you something to hold on to when you initially catch them. Handle-bars as they are often referred to! We don’t know any different than a sheep with horns, but as we have spent time on other farms I still don’t think we do anything different… we’re probably more careful with picking up the lambs as they’ll occasional catch you with their emerging horns in the face, but nothing more.
We might be bias, but we have found the Jacobs a joy, they are very docile and easy to handle, if you train them to the bucket, getting them in and out is pretty easy. They look almost regal in their appearance and are a joy to watch especially with their lambs in spring.
We have found them very hardy, which they need to be as we live in a wild place with more than a dusting of snow at winter, and they are always out.
Our ram is called Six Pack and he is a monster. This helps to make lambs and sheep that are bit bigger, which then produces more wool. The Jacob's have a beautiful fleece, that produces wool in three different colours – white, brown and a grey (combining the two).