When picking up a soft batt, or running your fingers through luxurious yarn, have you ever wondered where it came from? Often, I find that people appreciate knowing the story behind the wool they buy. So let me take you on a quick tour and give you an idea of what Artisan Meadows is all about.
First, you arrive after about a 45 minute drive east of Memphis, to Oakland TN. It’s one of those 2-stoplight towns that you pass through on road trips and wonder, “What do people do for a living around here?” Well, perhaps they raise wool!
|Raised Garden Beds, Early Spring|
After driving a few more miles on narrow, country roads, you arrive at a small house perched on a hill, with a tree lined, gravel driveway leading up to it. The front yard is massive by city standards, nearly an acre in size. You notice a pond and picturesque foot bridge leading to a small island. Looking further, you notice a vegetable garden planted in a network of raised beds, several bee hives, a small vineyard, and an orchard of fruit trees.
What really catches your attention, though, is a small flock of sheep grazing in a section of the yard -- a section very deliberately fenced off from the garden and orchard. If it is spring or early summer, the lambs are obvious. They watch their mother’s every step, while adventurously running and chasing each other.
After walking past the house, to your left you pass a series of small greenhouses where garden plants can start growing before spring arrives, or keep growing well into the fall. To your right you pass the barn with the rabbits, and then the chicken coop.
Next comes the main pasture, where you see even more sheep looking curiously at you.
|Red Barn, Paddocks to the Right|
The biggest pasture runs down a hill and up another. It can get a little wet and soppy during the winter rains, but in the summer the grass has no trouble staying green. A series of small paddocks runs along one side of the pasture. They can be closed off to allow the grass to grow up tall and delicious, then opened for a special grazing treat. Or they can be used to isolate an animal if it needs special attention or some “privacy," like when a ewe is expected to give birth.
The big red-sided barn rests towards the back of the pasture. Well, actually it’s a carport structure specifically erected, and modified, to serve as the barn. Inside is a storage area for winter bales of hay, and feeding troughs. Here is where the sheep spend most of their nights, or to go when it rains too hard. With the help of several hundred feet of extension cord, this is also where the sheep shearer does his work every spring.
Behind the barn runs another fence, with another gate. This leads to the back pasture, nearly as big as the last one. To the right stands an ancient, majestic oak tree that shades the sheep in the summer. To the left runs yet another paddock with a large hedge of willow trees.
Finally, in the very back, fenced off from the sheep pastures, is another acre of woods. Sheep aren’t allowed back there, there isn’t really anything for them to eat. But it is a perfect place for our collection of Guinea Hogs to live. By rooting around and foraging for food, these small, robust pigs are helping transform what was an overgrown thicket of brush, brambles, and trees into what will one day be a park-like grassy meadow with large shade trees.
Now you can picture where the wool from Artisan Meadows comes from. You can see how different this is than some factory-farmed operation that is so common these days. Anonymous, mass production is the furthest thing from Artisan Meadows.