Bordertown Sheep Farm

With a head count of 75 million sheep, the second largest sheep population in the world, and traditional sheep shearing bush songs like Click Go the Sheers, Australia is definitely known for its sheep farms!

I’m a sucker for those timid but wild beasts and am always telling my husband to pull off the road so I can get a photo! I’ve even written about them in one of our songs, where I dream about one day owning a sheep farm. So, a¬†few years ago, when we meet a sheep farmer named Trevor Thomas and his family at the Bendigo Blues and Roots festival, we made sure to stay in contact in hopes of one day visiting their sheep farm in Bordertown, South Australia. Their oldest daughter, Sarah and I exchanged Instagrams and eventually we wound our way through Bordertown for a lovely afternoon meal and tour of the farm.

Bordertown, SA sits about 18 klm from the South Australian/Victorian border and is the halfway point when you drive from Adelaide to Melbourne. It’s a small town of about 2500 population and the hub for many of South Australia’s farmers. This part of the country is ripe for¬†agriculture, specifically cereal crops such as wheat, barley and oats, as well as, livestock such as sheep, cattle and pigs. The terrain is flat, with thinly lined trees here and there, similar to the landscape of Nebraska in the USA. At night, you can see the stars all the way down to the earth’s horizon and on clear day you can see a good three miles out.

The Thomas farm was established many generations ago and is home to hundreds of sheep and a few large wheat fields. When we arrived, Trevor invited us into the shearing shack where we got a little homeschool lesson on the in’s and out’s of this very manual process of shearing.

Sheep shearing 101: Cutting or shaving the wool off of a sheep is called shearing. Shearing is similar to getting a hair cut. However, shearing requires skill so that the sheep is shorn efficiently and quickly without causing cuts or injury to the sheep or shearer. Most sheep are sheared with electric shears and the fleece is removed in one piece. A professional shearer can shear a sheep in less than 2 minutes and the world record is 37.9 seconds, set in 2016 by Ivan Scott from Ireland.

Sheep are usually sheared once per year, before lambing or in the spring before the onset of warm weather. Sheep with long fleeces are sometimes sheared twice a year. Shearing prior to lambing results in a cleaner environment for the baby lambs. It also keeps the fleeces cleaner.

We were in the shack for approximately thirty minutes and during that time we saw about 20 sheep get their annual hair cut. It was intense but the shearing team, (a father and son) were so calculated and precise that the sheep barely had time to really understand what was happening before it was all over and they were ushered out of the shack in to the greater holding pen. They would then be washed in a special liquid that would help clean and heal any nicks or cuts and finally set out into pasture.

As the sheep were sheared, Trevor explained the process of taking the wool to market and which would eventually bring the wool into the hands of spinners and finally to the yarn shelves across the country.

It was intriguing to be in able to learn about this fantastic tradition of sheep shearing! However, the highlight of our visit was sharing a meal around the farmhouse table prepared by three generations of Thomas ladies! The aromas were delightful as they had been cooking all morning and the spread they made was that of a Christmas feast!

I asked if it was a special occasion and they answered, “no, that this is what they make every day for lunch during shearing season.” The three coarse meal, of roast chicken, lamb and veggies, potatoes, and a salad also including a delicious homemade dessert. It was part of their offering to the sheep shearers for their hard work, which by the way, the shearers only had thirty minutes to eat and get back to the shack. That thirty minutes was so fascinating however, as we were able to ask all sort of questions about daily life on the farm, how they handle the uncertainty of weather patterns, global warming, farming technics, the costs and factors that make up good farming practices.

It’s one thing to learn about these sorts of things from a text-book or a TED Talk and a wholly other thing to actually sit across the table from those you are curious about and unpack ideologies, preconceived notions and ultimately talk about dreams for the future. Thankful for kinfolk like the Thomas family, willing to take in us weary travelers and allow us to engage, even if just for a moment, catching a little glimpse into their every day, extraordinary lives.

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Tie That Binds

IMG_2559I want to tell you about our awesome time in Frostburg, MD; sharing in community with Jon Felton and his kinfolk at the Savage River Farm. And, I will tell you of all the practical ways we shared during our time with these friends, but first I need to get out a few poetic musings about community. For, as we travel, we are continually blown away and encouraged by the ways we are “put together” with others.

So, if you’ll bare with me…

Blessed be the tie that binds… There is a beautiful community out there, hidden yet available, woven together with a tie that binds our hearts in love. The deepest love possible, the love of One who would lay down his life, lay down his life for every tongue, tribe or creed. This love is unfaltering, secure and safe. It is a tie that brings freedom, not bondage. For this gift, we are thankful.

The tie allows for the flow of life to transpire, like that of the interdependent relationship of vine and branch. We stay close to the source waiting with anticipation for opportunities to be united with kinfolk, in order to exchange the witness of our creators goodness, faithfulness and grace; slow to anger, quick to love. When these moments happen, we are filled with such amazement and joy, and our cup runs over.

Honestly, I could geek out about community all day. None the less, our cup surely did run over in Frostburg, MD and continued on through Harrisburg, PA, Shepherdstown, WV and Philadelphia.

IMG_2569We’ll start with Frostburg. Our host was Jon & Leslie Felton, who we had know about for years. Many of our friends, spoke of this “Jon Felton” and when we were coming through this area, we knew we needed to spend time with his¬†family. So, we reached out and his response was welcoming and encouraging. He invited¬†us into his community, linking us up with friends at Savage River Farms as a place to park our bus and neighbor alongside for the week.

We arrived on a sunny afternoon and settled into our field at the farm (which later we had quite the adventure getting stuck and unstuck). We sat down with Ben and Hana, the owners, and came up with a plan that allowed us to learn, serve and share in community with them.

IMG_2570The fella’s got busy in the fields, replanting and pulling weeds.¬†It was fun to see our bus rider, Chris, get his hands in the dirt for the first time, soaking in the goodness of growing food. The guys also learned about how shiitake mushrooms are grown, including¬†holes drilled into logs, a spore paste lathered into the holes and once in that position, a solid years of rest. Then, moving the logs to a water source where they soaked for 24 hours, were stacked like lincoln logs, covered and with in the next few days, mushrooms began to burst forth!

Meanwhile, Graciana and I spend most of our time in the farmhouse kitchen, making meals for the crew. The farm, about three years old, offered much to do, and with the longer summer days, the crew was making hast to get things done. Needless to say, meals seemed to be the last thing on anyones mind. So, it was natural to offer this gift. Plus there was nothing more pleasing that seeing the smiles on folks faces after they enjoyed a meal, refreshed and ready for more hard work. We also helped Hana with the Farmers Market, setting up, selling, meeting town locals, and packing up.

IMG_2603Mid-week, we went to the school that Ben and Jon taught at and we shared our merrymaking, encouraging the youth in identity, reconciliation and moving towards a life that is filled with joy and love.

Later, we spent a little time in Jon’s studio laying down gang vocals for fellow creative, Mark Van Steenwyks book, Wolf at the Gate. 

At¬†the end of the week, we moved the bus to downtown Frostburg,¬†city of¬†about 8,075 residence and home to¬†Frostburg State University. We hit the area just after school let out, so got more of the local feel for the place. We learned that¬†Frostburg was originally called Mount Pleasant until 1820, when the government developed a postal service, and the town was renamed Frostburg. We also learned that¬†the town was one of the first cities on the¬†‚ÄúNational Road,‚ÄĚ US 40. But most of all we learned about Jon & Leslie Felton and their love for their family and community. We learned about Jon’s involvement in a¬†traveling arts carnival, “demonstration village” experiment, and education and social outreach project,¬†call Carnival de Resistance. We also met many of his kinfolk and one evening we all shared a foraged meal sourced and served up by local chef, Horvey.

IMG_2649At the end of the week, we shared in song at Dante’s Bar, a local establishment on the main drag. We opened the night with a song circle, then a Holland’s set and Jon’s band, Soulmobile finished out the evening with a rollicking set of originals! That night we met, fellow band mate, Jake Compton, who invited us to his hometown of Harrisburg, PA. So, we exchanged info and set a date!

As our week came to an end, we took a moment to soak it all in, the goodness that comes when we engage in community, entering into that interdependent relationship, and caring for one another. We are thankful for moments like these where we are woven together with  kinfolk in ways we never dreamed possible. We are forever bound to these friends and look forward to the day we get to roll back to through.

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Small Wonders Farm

Small Wonders Community MealSmall Wonders Farm sits nestled among rolling hills just north of Grand Rapids, MI.  Matt and Dorothe Bonzo founded the farm about 12 years ago and have grown it into a booming CSA servicing over 30 families. Their life is full, purposeful and content.

Funny how connections happen. So, we met them through our friends Troy and Amy who reached out to the Bonzo’s to work the farm for the summer. We contacted Troy and Amy to see about a visit and they suggested that we come and stay with them on the Small Wonders Farm. For the Bonzo’s traveling/workers/visitors was a new experience and we were excited to be their first guests.

We enjoyed hearing their story, sharing community meals, jam sessions, learning about the CSA and helping with harvest. The kids learned target shooting and went on nature hikes where they found large vines that they turned into a jungle gym. Our son had an extra helping of fun when the Bonzo’s son took him fishing.

Thank you Matt and Dorothe for your kind hospitality. We hope more kinfolk find their way to your Small Wonders Farm.

 

 

The Hollands! on WPR’s Simply Folk Radio

Wisconsinpublicradio.jpgThe Hollands! on WPR’s¬†Simply Folk Radio¬†July 7, 7PM.

The Hollands! went into the studio at WPR in Madison Wisconsin to perform/interview with Radio Host, Stephanie Elkins on her program Simply Folk Radio. The program is broadcast on two networks, 32 radio stations and online every Sunday evening from 5 pm until 8 pm.

The Hollands! will showcase songs off of the new album, “Over Land and Leas“, including Old Man’s Town, Lanie Done Did, Over Land and Leas, Amaryllis, and The Great Lake Plains. Tune in to hear the stories behind the songs as well as The Hollands! family banter.

The Program airs on Public Radio, July 7, 2013. 7PM.

Iowa, oh Iowa

20130620-213115.jpgIowa,

You have been good to us; with your kind, hard-working kinfolk, your rolling hills, and your beautiful sunsets. Thank you for a time of rest, for sharing in community, and for the encouragement to keep on our way. Thank you for the Great Iowa Tractor Ride, apple pie and opportunities to offer up a helping hand. Thank you for barn concerts and a lovely afternoon concert on the green of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library. Thank you for time to play, to work  and breath in your air.

We have enjoyed our ten days on the farm and look forward to another visit next time around. You will always have a special place in our hearts. Love, The Hollands! 

Little Sheep Farm

Craig and I, find ourselves half-joking and half dreaming about the idea of someday owning a little plot of land, overlooking the ocean, with gardens and sheep. ¬†We have even woven the idea into one of our songs, “Tears in my heart,” where we mention a little sheep farm.

This week we were invited to speak at the Epiphany Episcopal Church in Sedan, KS and meet a couple who are living the little sheep farm dream. They are Lynn and Rita, both widowed and now married about 5 years. They live on the Stagecoach Ranch in a rural part of Kansas on the edge of the Flint Hills. It’s a beautiful part of the state with rolling hills, trees, creek beds, and tall grasses. They are self-proclaimed hobby farmers. They own a handful of the most beautiful Arabian horses you’ve ever seen. They also own a flock of the cutest little Shetland sheep, a wool-producing breed of sheep originating in the Shetland Isles. Rita, introduced us to a ram The leader of the flock is a funny ol’ Lama, who is their protector from the outlining wolves and coyotes. Lynn and Rita also collect old stage coaches, buggies and other antique miscellaneous¬†articles¬†from early settlement to cowboy days. Lynn was proud of his collection and gave us the grand tour.

I had a blast photographing our day. Enjoy the photos below and dream along.

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