A librarian, a horticulturalist and a management consultant milking sheep, how does that happen?
Our story is one of chasing dreams. We had always wanted to go farming and after hearing about the emerging sheep milk industry in New Zealand we decided our time had come.
After attending the inaugural NZ Sheep Milk Conference in 2015 we agreed that sheep milking ticked all the boxes important to us, i.e. environmentally friendly, could be achieved on a relatively small block of land, potential to involve multiple family members and of course involved sheep and lambs.
Our first challenge was to source some sheep with milking genetics. That got crossed off the list two months after the conference when we received a phone call asking if we were still interested in buying some sheep. We said yes instantly and became the proud owners of a very small flock of East Friesian sheep, this led to challenge number two - we didn’t own a farm.
We were living an urban lifestyle in the North Island on a hectare of bush covered land, nowhere to graze one sheep let alone a small flock. We had to find a home for them - fast. The girls ended up going south. Way south. All the way to Invercargill where they spent the next 12 months grazing happily and producing lambs while we trawled the internet and visited real estate agents in search of the perfect sheep milking property. At the same time Heather undertook distance learning gaining a ‘Certificate in Sheep Knowledge’ and Rod brought his Agricultural Science degree back from the depths of his memory. Skip forward 12 months - farm bought, home sold, jobs quit, car packed and we’re going south with a one way ticket.
With limited hands-on farming experience we've had a lot of learning to do. We have found the farming industry to be filled with people generous with their time, patience and knowledge. Friends, neighbours, colleagues, professionals, the list could go on forever of the people we will be eternally grateful to.
The soap making began as an experiment, something nice to do with the milk. We liked using the soap, gave some away as gifts and soon people were asking to buy it. It wasn’t long before our home was filled with the smell of freshly made soap. The spare room became the storage room and guests were obliged to share their room with bars of soap. Soon the hallway was closed off and designated a storage room. As our adventure unravels we will update our story. For now we will continue running with the cycles of nature; the grass grows, lambs are born, milk flows and the house smell of soap curing in every available nook and cranny.