Although Jelly Hill Farm was established in 2001, we’ve had sheep for a few years prior. Back in the mid 90’s I knew I wanted sheep and used to drive by a property on my way to work that had a flock. Upon the urging of Mike, I wrote to the owners of the property, thinking they were farmers and asked if I could help out on their farm and learn from them. Amazingly, they responded to me and asked me to come help, but they weren’t technically farmers, Dr. George Longstreth, was a prominent surgeon at Bridgeport Hospital who just happened to raise sheep in his spare time. Over the next few years, George taught me everything he knew about raising sheep, including giving them their shots, mating, birthing, the entire cycle of their lives. “You know more than any vet around here ever would about sheep, that’s for sure,” he would say. Not only did he teach me about raising sheep but we became great family friends as well.
In 1997, when I was pregnant with my first child, the sheep were all pregnant too. Because I had helped out so much with the process of mating and birthing, George gave me the pick of the liter when we delivered the baby lambs. (PICTURE OF RONI AND JELLY AS BABY). My very first lamb, born in April 1997 was named Jelly, after Jelly Roll Morton… 3 months before I delivered my baby boy, Blake. All lamb babies after would always have a jazz or blues name of some sort to follow in the tradition. Jelly would be my special lamb and stay at George’s house because we had no place for it at our own.
When George and his wife Betsy decided to move out of their house in 2001, they offered Mike and I their flock. At that time, we lived in a teeny tiny house with a teeny tiny yard and we knew we had to move quickly in order to accommodate keeping the flock. Immediate impetus to move… wow.
We were lucky enough to find our current house with a little over 2 acres of land in the middle of town. We had to clear a little and clean up a ton… like pull a car, a bed frame, a washing machine and an entire dumpster worth of garbage out of the woods just to start. After a summer of work, we put up our pasture fencing and brought Jelly and about 5 other “girls” (ewes) over to the newly established Jelly Hill Farm. We expanded with chickens, bunnies, gardens, bees and even the gecko shortly after.
Honestly, we wouldn’t be where we are today without the love and support of our families of course, but truly without George and Betsy Longstreth, who are now like family to us (and our daughter’s God parents), my dream of having sheep and a farm in my backyard may never have happened. I can’t thank them enough for answering that letter.