Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Few Rays of Hope

We are still dead broke, but there are a few hopeful signs on the horizon now.

I have two horse sales that are in the "almost definite" stage, plus another couple of potential deals still in the inquiry-and-negotiation stage. Anything that reduces the number of horses we have to feed and also brings in some much-needed cash is cause for celebration at this point.

Ken and I are so VERY tired of being desperate all the time!

But, with those rays of hope encouraging us that this whole horrible situation may be resolved eventually, we were actually able to start looking around the farm and begin making tentative plans for how we will readjust the farm to our new situation.

Surprisingly, the farm itself feels more amenable to the new course of action. The old antique barn, which is completely inadequate for the number of horses we have had---and not particularly useful for sheep, either---is quite beautifully suited for the greatly reduced number of horses we hope to have in a few weeks or months.

And the old run-down former country store that is on the property---it's spacious, and we kept wanting to find a way to convert it into a horse stable. But its layout and dimensions made it totally unsuitable for horses. However, now that we look at it a different way, it would be incredibly easy to convert it for sheep!

Not that the sheep need to be inside much, but it has plenty of room where they could go in during ice storms and such, and plenty of room for me to set up as many lambing pens as I'm ever likely to need.

In looking at these buildings differently, we also began to look at the adjoining pastures differently. Currently, the horses are in the front pasture, next to the store. While this is convenient for feeding them (we keep our hay supply in one part of the store), it's also unsightly, because whenever it rains, the pasture gets muddy from the horses' hooves tearing it up, and that's the first thing anybody sees when they come to our farm. Yuck!

But if we have only a couple of horses, we can switch them to the paddock near the barn, which attaches to the back pasture. Nobody sees that pasture, so if the horses muddy it up during the rain, it's not going to make the whole farm look bad.

The sheep, on the other hand, don't destroy the ground they stay on. So, someday when we have money again, we're going to disc up and reseed the front pasture, divide part of it up into additional sheep breeding paddocks (we'll need more breeding groups now that we have added polled sheep to the flock), and then the nice neat green sheep pasture will be the first thing people see when they come in the driveway.

In time, we'll add a permanent run-in shed to each breeding paddock, instead of the cheap-but-unsightly tarp shelters we now have. I think it will be very convenient and will look very nice.

I'm so tired of having our resources stretched so thin we can't do right by the farm, as far as maintenance and improvements. This could be such a beautiful place, it was just so incredibly far run down when we bought it, we started out with a huge handicap, and have been playing catch-up ever since.

Here's an interesting thought I had about using the store to shelter the sheep. It has WAY more space than the sheep will ever need. Which means I'll be able to store my fleeces for sale in there too, instead of having them take up huge amounts of space in the house.

That got me thinking what else I could use all that extra space for. If my wool is going to be down there, why not my spinning wheel and loom as well? It could become my fiber studio. And if it's going to be my fiber studio... there's not much of a step to go from that to having it be a store again, where I could sell stuff I produce. Plus I know a lot of other creative people who might like an outlet to sell their stuff too.

The place would need lots of renovation to fix it up, but it IS already set up as a store, with shelves everywhere, large counters with tons of storage behind them, and even a nook where the cash register would go.

And don't you think it might be a fun gimmick for the people to be able to come to the store and buy, I don't know, a handwoven blanket or something, and be able to see the sheep the blanket's wool came from, right there in another part of the same building?

The sheep wouldn't spend much time inside, so it wouldn't be too hard to keep the sheep part of the building clean and presentable.

I don't know, maybe it's a silly idea. But I know *I* would enjoy shopping at a store like that, so maybe other people would too.

What do you think?


Tikabelle said...

I think it sounds like a great idea. I like the picture of an old country store with an old cash register that is mostly a fiber studio. Perhaps you could teach classes? Is there an old iron stove in there? I imagine it would get pretty cold in the winter, but a wood stove might make it homey and give you a way to make tea to go with your spinning. :)

Nancy Chase said...

I don't know that I'm qualified to teach classes at this point, but with more practice to fine-tune my fiber skills, maybe. There is certainly space to do that there.

And yes, there are a couple of old stoves in there, but I'm not sure whether the chimneys are in good enough condition to be safe.

Of course, I'd have to get the electricity in the building fixed so it would work again, so electric heat would be a possibility.

I do like the image of a pot of tea keeping warm on the wood stove though!

Actually, the place used to be heated with coal. There's the remains of the old coal pile right behind the store.

There was originally an old outhouse there too, but we had to tear it down because it was so rickety it was no longer safe.

markmc03 said...

It sounds like a plan. I'm glad to hear things improving.

Anonymous said...

The whole time you were describing the store, I was thinking "fiber studio! yarn store!" I think it is a great idea. I bet you could easily find people to teach if you don't feel up to it yet. You could start getting traffic by inviting people to come by for spin-ins and knit-ins; dying workshops; etc. (I guess you would need to work out the plumbing issues eventually but for now a port-a-potty might do...) I would love to see pictures of the store, it sounds awesome. -- Kris

maureen said...

Hi There. I just came across your blog and wanted to say I'm enjoying reading about your adventures (and misadventures). Have you considered converting the store into a "guest house" and offering farmstays or B&B. Your property and animals are gorgeous!

Best wishes...

Nancy Chase said...

I've thought about doing a small-scale B&B in the house after we finish fixing it up. But the reality is, I like my peace and privacy, and would not enjoy strangers in my home all the time.

The store would take a HUGE investment to turn into a B&B. It has no plumbing, no septic, no electricity, no insulation, and is in need of many repairs. Plus its layout isn't conducive to be split up into guest rooms.

I did think of turning it into some kind of tiny community theater---the layout inside is excellent for that. But again, it would be a gigantic investment, with a very small chance of return.