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How did we get here? Starting a Ranch when we didn't know we wanted a ranch - 1 sheep, 2 sheep, 3...

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6/24/2023, By Julie Van Hise

Sheep! Who knew sheep would be next? And...they came from 2 miles down the road! We just got 3 piglets...why not get 3 sheep?!?! Right?!?!

Hi! I'm Julie Van Hise. My husband, Chris, and I are 1st generation ranchers and owners of 4 Bear Ranch - a ranch that not only provides for our family but provides for the local community as well. In 2017, we bought our home unknowing of what it would transform into in 5 short years. From mountain wilderness to mountain ranch wilderness - we have lovingly worked hard in building our dream! How did we get here? Starting a Ranch when we didn't know we wanted a ranch? It's actually kind of strange really...At this point we had our chickens, ponies, horses, and pigs…and then it happened - a post appeared...sheep for sale! And best of all...they were literally around the corner!!

Here we are, Braeden and I trying to figure out how to care for three new piglets, and an ad pops onto Facebook. As we watched the pigs, fascinated by their funny little personalities, squeaks and squeals, and tail wags, we pondered the idea of getting sheep from around the corner. We, again, did not have a place to put them, and had absolutely no idea how to care for sheep. I called Chris, and well, that was that, we ended up with 3 sheep! 1 ewe and 2 rams, American Blackbelly Sheep is what we got. A hair sheep - so no shearing required. A meat and dairy sheep that forages and eats nearly everything - yay for fire mitigation! Thankfully, our friend and the seller of the sheep was able to provide us all the information we needed to know, and has continued to help us over the years.

So, as we were still getting the idea of being pig owners, and the sheep then came into the picture. Braeden and I drove the stock trailer around the corner and up the road to get the sheep. When we arrived back at the ranch, we rigged up the round pen with chicken wire, looked at the sheep in the trailer, and decided to wait until Chris came home the next day. Happy Birthday Chris - we need help moving the sheep! And so, that was the 1st thing we did on Chris's Birthday as a family - move sheep!

The move was successful - Chris carried the sheep to the round pen - though the chicken wire only kept them in for so long. Those little critters figured out how to dig at it and slide under the fence and the round pen. We tried the electric poultry netting - that actually did work for quite a while before they figured out how to jump it - nearly a year later! As time went on, Daisy, Duke, and Boris became the free-range sheep on the ranch. They did a great job staying on the property.

A few years after getting our sheep, we learned that Boris and Duke, while best buds, were quite Rammy. The loud crack of their horns clashing each other sounds like a gunshot - and while pretty cool, not so cool if the other side of that ram is not another ram. Soon enough Mr. Boris made his way to the freezer...shortly followed by Mr. Duke...and eventually Miss Daisy. Miss Daisy started to chase the other livestock babies around - so off to the freezer she went.

We had several adventures with the sheep, to include our first livestock baby losses. A learning experience for sure. While all three of the sheep ended up in freezer camp - we learned their benefit to our landscape, and of the absolutely delicious meat they have. We are not done with the sheep - just on pause, until we get more infrastructure for the ranch set-up.

From the beginning of our ranch journey, until the time I am actually writing this blog post, it has been absolutely amazing the number of adventures we have been on. Let me see...we are on the American Blackbelly Sheep...oh yes, next came a moo moo here and a moo moo there!

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