A Year After the Fire

A year ago this evening we lost our barn and cidery to a fire.   Worse yet, our dear sheep Laverne and Shirley and their lambs were in the barn and perished.   In all, seven sheep died that night, and we lost quite a few of our chickens.
Looking back to that night brings back a combination of memories – from devastating to wonderful.   

The devastating was looking out to see our barn completely engulfed in fire.  Getting the phone call asking if we were ok, wondering why our dogs were barking their heads off – and realizing in that split second that the fire was happening and the uncertainty of it all.  Were the sheep ok?  (no) Was the cidery on fire? (oh boy, yes – very) and would the house catch on fire (thank God, no – and as the night progressed and the fire stations responded we realized that the house would be saved).  Was our ram wether Ernie ok?  That night – we didn’t think he’d made it because his Mom was inside the barn, but we found him the next morning – very burned but still alive.  

The wonderful was the aftermath.    People.  We got a lesson in the kindness of our community. 

River Valley Vet – responded to the call that next day.  We feared the worst – but after listening to Ernie’s lungs and looking at his burns we were told that he could be treated.  Antibiotics, salve for his burns (his face got the worst of it, but his wool protected the majority of his body).   

Dawn Emken – for being there with us the night of the fire, crying with us and holding our hands through it.  And for her Mother Pat Krawczak – for advising about the insurance process.

Cecilia Thaczyk & her husband Eric – who loaned us two of their Jacob sheep so that Ernie wouldn’t be alone.  Check out Cece’s operation at https://www.ceceswool.com/ – another local small business that stepped up to help us.   We had many offers for sheep- I am so sorry that I didn’t take better care to thank everyone!  

Nanci at Peaceful Acres Horses – for loaning us her stock trailer to pick up & bring back Cece’s sheep.  Peaceful Acres Horses is a sanctuary for formerly at-risk and slaughter-bound equines.  Check out their wonderful operation here:https://www.peacefulacreshorses.com/

Bob Miller from Amsterdam Tractor Supply for reaching out to us and bringing us some new water buckets.

John & Stephanie DeBrita, our dear friends who brought us a power supply for the fence, a riding lawnmower to use for the summer until we could replace what was lost in the fire, and shared a bottle of wine & commiserated with us the day after the fire.

Tabatha Rein who coordinated donations from Rotterdam Junction folks – and for all the people who donated to us in the first few days! Buckets, Straw (from the VanValkenburghs), a hose, wood chips and feed for the chickens… so many things we were too shell shocked to remember we needed!

Kyle Cejka & Glenville Construction – for getting his group of wonderful friends together to build us a new chicken house.   And for Kyle himself who came that next week to help us start to clean up. Ultimately it was Kyle and team who cleaned us up and enlarged our existing foundation in preparation for the metal building we had erected in July.

Phil from River Road House – for bringing us a new power supply for so we could electrify the sheep fencing again.  

So many people posting wonderful things about us on Facebook (Caroline Bardwell from Schenectady Trading Company, Mark Guifre from Street Soldiers, Music Company Orchestra, First Reformed Church of Schenectady), and came into the store to let us know that they are here – and for donating money to help us rebuild.  Emails, calls, friends, family – we felt the force of our community and it humbled us.  

James Lawton – for advising us through the insurance claim process.  And for our insurance company – Farm Family. All in all we both agreed that they were very professional and caring during this process.

Ginny Milgo – for being our “rock”.  While I know she was as upset about the lambs as we were (which she had helped us deliver!) – she helped us through this in so many ways.  EVERY DAY.  I am so glad she’s in our lives.  

Rachel & Alex + Paul – who showed up for our work day April 24th 2021 to help us plant over 100 new apple trees.  One of our biggest material losses of the fire was Jeff’s John Deere tractor – but we had all these trees to plant and needed all the help we could get.  

Our Customers of the Hungry Chicken!  – who showed us they cared by coming in and telling us.  I can’t begin to tell you how many times I heard “How Can I help?”  

We must also thank the Fire Departments that responded to our fire at 10pm on a Thursday evening. They left their warm homes to battle the flames and kept the flames from spreading to neighboring trees and structures.

We have rebuilt.  Our existing foundation was enlarged and we erected a large metal barn. The east side is our new cidery, and the remainder houses space for hay and a back section for the sheep’s winter enclosure and hen house.  New equipment was purchased for the cidery:  a new bladder press, apple washer, pasteurizer, tables, sink.  Plumbing and electrical was all done by Glenville Construction, and a walk-in cooler installed.  

We were able to get one of our original lambs back – Kitt.  She was one of Shirley’s lambs who we had sold the previous year.  She and another ewe, Penny, came back to join Ernie and become his new flock.  This Spring we helped Kitt welcome two new ewe lambs into our flock – Snow and Flake.  

I am CERTAIN that I have forgotten to thank some people.  The early days were a blur, but life and other concerns tend to blur memories.  Please know that Jeff and I both appreciate our community and all the love that we received during this last year.  

A very humble thank you to our whole community.  Louise

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