All the animals at McIntyre Ranch have an important job. In the beginning, we started with horses, who serve as therapists in our Equine Assisted Therapy Program. They are also amazing teachers, mentors and friends that challenge students in Jane's Horsemanship classes.

S Soon after we moved to the ranch we adopted two goats. A pregnant ewe and a whether. Sweet Potato had two kids. The baby boy grew up to take on all of his uncles bad habits; escaping and climbing on top of cars, into trucks, and getting into the trash. They are now working in a bigger herd eating back brush. We kept the girls as pets. Though Nubian Dwarf goats make wonderful milkers, we have never breed them for that job. Instead, they welcome all of our guests, and love the petting and attention they get.

In June we decided to expand the program to include other ways we can become more self sustaining. We added two dairy kid goats, a Nubian, and an Alpine to the flock. They are part of a longer term goal in producing milk and cheese at the ranch. We will breed them in the fall of 2017 and have a guild of milkers helping to harvest the milk six months after that.

In the summer of 2013, we welcomed a set of chickens who roost at night in the old White Barn and free range throughout the day in the yard. This required a tighter fence around the garden, but in exchange we get dozens of eggs each week. Managing the flock has been fun, and the chickens have become comfortable enough with people and show off their unique personalities.

Sheep paintingEarly in 2015, we became interested in the work that sheep do, clearing weeds and providing fiber for yarn to be turned into cloth. After admittedly limited research, a flock of four adult Shetland sheep were brought to the ranch. They escaped my carefully prepared enclosure and stayed in the neighbors pasture for nearly six weeks as we tried all manner of things to get them to come home. The worst part was when they did come back, they went into the horse area and were chased like the aliens they appeared to be to the horses. Though we were happy to have them home, it was clear, they would never be the demonstration animals we were looking for.

Dee with a group of sheepAfter some serious research, and a further definition of what we wanted out of a Fiber Program on the ranch, the Shetlands were returned to Ukiah and we found Romney and Cotsworth lambs being breed for their beautiful long locks. We brought home two sets of twins. These are banded males who were headed for the dinner table, if not coming to McIntyre. Having decided to not do any breeding for this project, they were perfect for our program. We were told wetheres would give some of the best fiber since their only job is to eat and grow fleece. As these boys were growing by leaps and bounds, we added a Wensleydale and 1/4 Merino cross with a beautiful brown fleece and a Lincoln/Suffolk cross who even as a lamb looks like a cotton ball. They came from a ranch in Marin who was trying to breed for both long locks and density. At this time, we were still missing the short fine fleece of Shropshire and Southdown. We got one of each from a family breeding for 4h projects. So by the fall of 2015, our sheep family was complete.

Sheep paintingIn the summer of 2015, we found an Angora goat and kids just one month old in Butte County. The ewe is a beautiful Badger face gray and her baby. We were hopeful that she might be the beginning of our classroom friendly animals, but she remained strongly bonded to her mother.

Bottle baby sheepIn the early spring of 2016 we set out to expand our classroom program, it was suggested that we take on bottle babies so that they were easy to handle and bonded to humans. We bought a sweet Romney kid from a set of triplets in Ocidential. He lived in the tack house and grew into a beautiful big boy friendly as a dog. He was so friendly that we could not keep him fenced in and safe. So reluctantly returned to his home ranch.

Bottle baby goatThe other bottle baby that spring was a barter from the sale of the first sheep, Shetland ewes, we bought and sold. They brought us a runt from a set of twins that had been abandoned by its mother. He was so small he had to live inside for weeks before he could be safe outside among the other animals. He became bonded with humans that he began to act more like a dog, so we made a special effort to move him back into the flock. Still he is the first to greet visitors. The ranch has been a part of every trip off the ranch to schools.

HoneyHe has been such a success, we found an Angora goat bottle baby from a small ranch in Merced County who works with their local 4H. He came home at just two weeks old and was a sweet baby from the beginning. Later we were contacted by the same breeder and offered a Cashmere goat. The goat had survived an illness as a kid but it was left partially blind. She was unable to keep a special needs animal so we found a third animal to join our classroom petting zoo. She has also produced for us beautiful fine light grey fiber.

Balls of yarnIn March 2016 we had a first shearing of the sheep, which produced beautiful long thick fleece. We invited experienced fiber folks to teach classes in cleaning and skirting, spinning, felting, weaving and knitting and crocheting. The classes ranged from fleece to fabric so that anyone attending could have the experience of the work that goes into making a knit cap or a sweater. Locally made clothing is always special.

NATURAL DYES Balls of yarn
Through the summer we managed a garden that included parts that could be used as natural dyes for the fiber we had collected in the spring. Through some research, we found that cotton was being grown locally, so we gave that a try as well.

Balls of yarn In early 2017 we decided we had room for one more fiber animal, an German/French cross Angora rabbit. We found him in Marin County breed by a hand spinner who would shear her rabbits and spin the fiber for soft silky hats and scarves. The rabbit was three months old and by six months we needed to shear his first coat. He is a beautiful fluffy gray with a white spotted under coat. He arrived just in time to join the other babies at youth AG day for third graders.

JACOB SHEEP Balls of yarn
Just a month later, we were visiting our friend Robin and her Jacob sheep in Vacaville. Since our babies were no longer bottle babies, we couldn't resist when offered a three week old lamb that had been neglected by his mother. Jacob sheep have two and four horns and spotted with a black markings making them quite exotic looking. It has been fun watching his horns grow as fast as he has.

The AlpacasNow we know why Alpacas, the only native fiber animals in the Americas, are so popular. They are as irresistible as you might think, to our growing fiber project. At first, I didn't jump at the chance to bring them to the ranch, but then we attended an Alpaca show in Dixon to see what the buzz was about and fell in love with these amazing creatures. Julie a breeder in El Dorado County, had just what we needed. She offered two of her male yearlings who were especially well socialized and looking for a pet home where their fiber would be appreciated. By the time we had worked out the details she added a third to the flock and as of June we have a party of Alpacas. We are still trying to imagine how they might be transported to visit the schools.

5 Ducks Summer of 2017, we welcomed a flock of ducks who sleep at night in the old White Barn and free range throughout the day on the ranch. Our ducks spend their daylight hours enjoying the grass, bugs, and sunshine. One of their favorite pastimes is splashing in pools.

Ducks are experts at yard and garden pest control. They provide us with garden fertilizer and make good use of excess or second-grade garden produce. Is it any wonder that so many gardeners love ducks?

In total we have added five new animals to the ranch in 2017, but we have also seen the passing of our oldest horse and a goat. One of our first lambs was taken down by a coyote shortly after his first sheering. Ester the older Angora ewe was rehomed to a small farm owned by a hand spinner. As on any farm, there is the coming and going of animals. We try to remember they are livestock not house pets, but either way, we want to give our animals the best possible quality of life. We work hard to maintain safe housing and proper feed as we educate ourselves and visitors about the needs of each critter living here. We love watching them grow, and caring for them is shared by many volunteers.

Tucker and the ducksIn the fall, it seems the animals get as much feed from the garden as we do. We are lucky enough to be isolated from any traffic and can allow the animals to free range graze often. It is good for them and brings many laughable moments as the sheep make themselves at home on the porch of the tack house or chickens and goats wander into the office space.