New Lambs for the New Year on W.Va. Farm

1/25/2014 7:00 AM
By Marla Pisciotta West Virginia Correspondent

AUGUSTA, W.Va. — There isn’t much free time at Tochnoma Farm regardless of the time of year.

The 13.5-acre farm is owned by Christina Baker and her husband, Tony. The couple raise Suffolk and Katahdin sheep, grow a number of herbs and teas, make soap out of ewe milk and compost products to enrich their land.

In the past week, five lambs, including one set of twins, were born on the farm.

“We sell lambs to the 4-H kids. That is why we lamb in January and February,” Christina Baker said.

In many cases, Baker said, lambs are born in March or April.

“Our fair in Hampshire County is the second week of August. The lambs have to be on the 4-H kids’ property by June 1,” she said. Kids come to the farm and chose their lamb, where they are also given instructions on trimming hooves and handling the animal.

Worming and shots are given by the Bakers before the animals leave the farm.

All the ewes on the farm are named.

Sophie, a Suffolk, had the first born this past week, and Mary, a Katahdin, had twins.

Christina Baker said one of the problems when lambs are born is that they are cold.

“You have to watch their temperatures when they are born. When they are shivering they have to be coated. You can tell if they are cold by putting your finger on their tongue,” she said, adding that four more ewes will be giving birth in the next week or so.

“Hopefully we’ll get eight, possibly more. Katahdin normally produce triplets,” she said. “One Suffolk ewe has produced triplets for us several times.”

The Bakers raise sheep mostly for breeding and meat. All the ewes remain on the farm until they cease production.

One ewe, named Catherine, is the matriarch of the farm, and Christina Baker said the animal will remain on the farm and be buried there.

“That is a promise I made to my daughter. Catherine is her favorite lamb,” she said.

Both Suffolk and Katahdin are meat breeds. Suffolk have to be sheared; Katahdin are hairy sheep that don’t have to be sheared.

The flock is small, only around seven ewes. The sheep are raised on pasture.

“We are a pasture-fed operation,” she said.

Tony Baker has a full-time job and works part-time as a pastor. Christina works full-time on the farm. The name Tochnoma comes from the first two letters of each of the family members: To for Tony, ch for Christina, no for daughter Noel and ma for daughter Makayla. Although the daughters were part of the work crew on the farm, they are now both in college.

Firewood is gleaned from the partially wooded farm for heat in the woodstoves.

A large area above the garage is utilized as Christina Baker’s “workshop.” She also maintains the produce and herb gardens along with making spices, teas, soaps and other products.

The farm’s compost is made from sheared wool, manure and straw from the barn, as well as kitchen scraps.

“We maintain our compost pile and when ready, it goes on our pastures and in the gardens to” enrich the soil, she said.

The family sells items at the Romney Farmers Market, and their biggest selling item is the herbs.

“I fresh cut them in the morning and sell them the same day,” she said.

She also makes use of stuff that doesn’t sell. Whatever isn’t sold at the farmers market is dried or dehydrated and made into spices or herbal tea blends.

“I dehydrate the fresh basil not sold, grind it up and sell it in powder form. I make tea bags from Cinnamon basil,” she said. “I grow all kinds of catmint including chocolate, pineapple and orange.”

Herbs and lavender plants are placed strategically around the farm and used for landscaping.

“We can enjoy them and sell them as well,” she said.

When a ewe only has one lamb, the animal is milked out and she keeps the milk in a freezer to make soap out of it.

“Sheep milk is very rich and produces rich moisturizers for the skin. I also make lip balms and salves,” she said.

Christina Baker is currently studying to be a master clinical herbalist.

“What I eventually want to do is consult with clients and show them how herbs help with medical problems,” she said. “That is important especially now with the Affordable Care Act. A lot of people won’t be able to go to the doctor. Many people are going back to the more natural ways of treating things.”

She said that is the way God intended it to be.

“He’s given us everything we need. Medical science and natural science can work hand-in-hand,” she said.

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