I grew up in Murray, Iowa. My grandfather had horses and he and my parents always made sure I had horses and ponies to ride.I can remember helping Mr. Todden, a retired US Calvary officer break horses. Mr. Todden would work unbroken horses on a lunge line from the ground. When he had them ready for a rider he would stop by my dad’s filling station and say, “I need to borrow your Indian.” I was the Indian. I was only seven. I’ve always been interested in Horsemanship. Its a talent I’m thankful I could develop.
I have been married for forty years to my husband Bill. We have six children, and several grandchildren now. Livestock and pets have always loomed large on ‘my’ Kindergarten Farm. (My husband insists all the creatures are mine: except his dog). I just love introducing children to the joys of animals and all aspects of animal husbandry. I’ve taken ponies, horses, donkeys and lambs far and wide for people to enjoy in all sorts of unusual venues. For over twenty years I have spent a week each June helping with the special needs (ARC) summer camp in Columbus, Nebraska. Interacting with the animals is a highlight each day for the campers. We all have the best time together.
I’m very interesting in breeding quality stock. I have faithfully participated in the various registries for miniature horses and the Olde English Southdown sheep. I don’t show. It was an easy compromise, and a necessary one, with my husband Bill. Our week-ends, our Sabbaths and our family didn’t leave us any time for horse shows.
I love and respect my animals for all the ways they serve and benefit us. We share with them the gift of life and I am thankful for them.
Laura Abbott – Babydoll Sheep
I grew up near Dodge Center, Minnesota. My great-uncle gave our family its first horse – Blue, a show mare who’d bowed a tendon. She and I were both teenagers, and she had more pep and miles left to run than expected. My brothers and I had several horses over the years and I did a lot of riding. After I went off to college, my parents moved to Africa to be missionaries. So when Ben took me to visit his parents’ place in rural Nebraska, it felt like coming home. We now have children of our own and live a few miles from the home farm.
In 2011, Janette wanted to simplify her life, and asked if we’d manage the sheep flock. Aside from raising a bottle lamb for a neighbor as a kid, I didn’t have much experience with sheep. Ben, on the other hand, had been helping his mom as amateur vet, herder, and butcher since early high school. We had some spare pasture grass, so the flock moved to our house.
That first summer, there were 6 lambs – all rams. They were fun to watch, but it wasn’t until the next spring that I really got involved with the shepherding. Our oldest two children were out picking up brush in the pasture when they noticed a lump of white on the ground that moved. The ewes had been moved that morning, and no one noticed that the first lamb of the spring had a twin, who was consequently left behind. Snowball joined the family as a bottle baby, and we discovered how easy it is to love a sheep who loves people.
I started managing the registration papers, dabbling in wool fiber arts, and really getting to know the sheep. At first, our daughter could tell them apart better than I could. The old ewes have the most character, and are my favorites. We went our first five lambing seasons without having to pull any, but then I found out I can do that too. Not only do they lamb easily, they’re excellent mothers, and we’ve had very few bottle lambs. Janette still ends up with sheep in her pastures from time to time, depending on forage availability, but she doesn’t complain. The flock has been a blessing to our family. We had, and still have, a lot to learn. Sheep have a lot to teach us, even about ourselves.
The name Kindergarten farm was chosen by Janette because for her, a big part of the reason for her animals has always been children - her own, the neighbors,' elementary students, handicapped children, and eventually her grandchildren. She is a wonderful teacher, with a knack for bringing people and animals together. I (Laura) have demonstrated/taught wool spinning and helped with some of the many events in which Janette and her animals have participated. The young and young at heart enjoy learning to handle, groom, work with, and care for God's creatures.