p_dendelion.gif  Shepherd's Green Sanctuary

 

The Early Years

For 15 years Dragonwood Farm, shown below one early summer morning, operated as a private sanctuary/farm in the community of Silver Point on Center Hill Lake. A magical place where life took its own meandering path

.

 

In 2000 I took over the failing sanctuary, Engelschwein Farm and brought the pigs to Dragonwood where we elected a new board of directors and changed the name to Shepherd'S Green.  Over the next couple years, as pigs in need kept finding their way to us, it became apparent that we needed more space and we kept looking for the perfect place., And even more importantly, all the money I had invested in restoring the old house was going to be needed to keep the sanctuary solvent.

The Sanctuary since 2004

We moved here to the present sanctuary location in June of 2004, after searching for three years for a suitable property. Leaving the old farm behind, with all its memories I found a treasure of another kind for the pig children who had taken over my heart and my life.

Here, the woods are resonant with the activities of wildlife, the fall mast of nuts is enough to keep many pigs from coming back to the barns for days, the wild fruits drop in the fields, in the woods, along the creek and next to the barns.. seeming to be widely distributed so that every herd has its share in season. And fresh spring water flows freely through most of the pastures. It is truly, in every way, home.

There, amid hundred year old oaks and old pear trees and heirloom shrubs, my husband Ralph and brother Tad and I restored the oldest house standing in our county. While leaving no cornice without painstaking repair or reproduction, and graceful brass swans from Portugal adorned the master bath faucets, Lucy, my best friend, a 700 pound  farm pig, wandered in and out the house at will, across the new hardwood floors,  looking for cookies. It was an unusual lifestyle.   

Growing up at Dragonwood, Lucy never knew any fear, her life was one of great friendships with me, Ralph, our two dogs Gypsy and Aussie Marie, Willow the cat and as time went on, many other pigs.  And she logged more miles on company expense reports than many of the employees did. As a management executive I traveled to 2 new jobs during her lifetime; to Virginia for 3 years and to Georgia for 2. Each time she moved with me, riding in her hired trailer hauled by cowboys who I trusted with her safety. Lucy lived to be nearly thirteen and spent the last year and a half unable to rise. Back then (1998) we knew a lot less about arthritis in pigs and Adequan, the wonder drug, had not been invented. She was content and out of pain as long as she stayed down. The vet visited her regularly to check her for bedsores (never got any) and general health. The day we finally put her to sleep, she was unable to raise her head, and was ready to be helped to her final exit. I cried, the vet cried, the vet tech cried and my friend and neighbor JR, waiting with a backhoe to bury her, cried. She did not leave this world without her name being remembered with love. What more can any of us hope for?

    

 

 

 

Nellie takes a tour one winter morning

A little bit of Paradise in Tennessee

Located on a high ridge, with the meadows protected by a second ridge on the back of the property, the sanctuary has a sense of privacy I expected to find only in a remote location. Instead we are only 5 miles from our vet and 13 miles from town.  Several acres of woodland cover the southern end of this long property, with meadows and trees dotting it from the woods at the south to the woods at the north. The back ridge top is wooded and thick with old trees felled by storms and underbrush. Our road has only three farms on it and keeps things very quiet and peaceful for the animals grazing near the fences.

In the last 3 years we have been planting fruit and nut trees to enhance its sustainability and provide more nutrition of the kind they eat in the wild. One of our interns, from Thailand where these pigs are native, said this was the closest she had seen to the natural terrain of their origin. It is at once rugged and tangled with underbrush up on the hillside and open and verdant in the fields. The climate is generally mild and has plenty of rain, with a few bitter cold nights to remind us that winter has its privilege.  As I write this morning I worry that Harvey and Abner still have not come in for the winter. They will appear in the barn tomorrow morning or the next, when their "hide" up in the woods has seemed a bit too chilly overnight. They choose how to live and who to socialize with. We lay out the infrastructure for them to develop what is most effective for them, and stand back and let them do so. As they age and cannot compete well they are moved on into a special needs/elders habitat depending on their needs. For most of them, life continues to include grazing and mud baths and normal pig activities, just at a slower pace..