Our first visit to the old farmsite years ago revealed fields and buildings long ignored. Rotting timberframes and overgrown pastures were the result of decades of neglect. Once a typical 19th century farmstead with livestock, orchards, woodlot and sugarbush, the property had been reduced to a crumbling barn and collapsing house. The lone structurally sound building was the old schoolhouse set on solid granite foundation stones across the road from the other buildings. It was barely visible through several decades of encroachment of forest and brush, but it stood square and proud of its status as the town's sole surviving one-room schoolhouse. Here was a project worthy of restoring. Schoolhouse Farm would become our rescue mission.
The farm sits just below the summit of Cleveland Hill -- renamed in honor of the summer residence of former US President Grover Cleveland -- and enjoys multiple views north to the Sandwich Range, south to the Ossipee Mountains, and east to nearby Maine. These old farmsteads were remarkably self-sufficient operations. What today would be considered rare models of sustainability were then commonplace. Their ability to subsist, or even thrive, with little external support was driven by necessity and a view towards local or regional markets. Today, we hope to achieve some of this traditional self-sufficiency on our farm. We raise only the size flock that our pastures will support. We harvest enough hay and forage from our own fields so that we do not need to purchase feed from distant suppliers. We heat our home and power our lights with energy captured through solar collectors on the roofs of the timberframe barns. In short, we view ourselves as the stewards of this beautiful piece of land and feel privileged to restore it to its earlier productive heritage.
With the coming of spring, the long sun days return to the farm, bringing with them warming soils and the start of another growing season. All life on the farm depends upon this precious sunlight. Healthy animals cannot thrive without clean water, fresh air and lush, nutritious pasture. It is our goal to provide the ruminant animals of Schoolhouse Farm the finest pastures possible. Every year we submit samples from the various pastures for soil analysis so that we can identify mineral deficiencies. We apply only those soil amendments approved for organic certification and never use any synthetic or petroleum-based fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides. Ph is adjusted by application of pelletized bulk lime on the established pastures and wood ash from a nearby biomass electrical generating facility is spread on all newly reclaimed fields. Additional organic potassium, phosphates, magnesium and other minerals have recently been applied to several pastures in order to bring them closer to ideal condition. Lastly, aged compost from our composting operation is spread each year on our grazing pastures and hay fields in order to build organic matter and to improve soil fertility.
We are grateful for the rewards yielded from our hard work and these old fields. Nutritious hay, healthy animals, superior fleece, flavorful meat, and vigorous lambs are proof that sustainable farming is just as viable today as it was two centuries ago on this small hilltop farm. If you would like more information on our farming practices or pampered sheep, please contact us and we will be happy to answer your questions.
Norman and Wendy