May 8, 2010

Local mom juggles three kids, sheep farm - Beloit Daily News

Center: Suellen Thomson-Link holds up a young lamb born this spring on Kinkoona Farm, the sheep operation she owns and operates along with her children on W. Dorner Road, Brodhead. Photo by Debra Jensen-DeHart - Blog  - VERY CUTE!


Local mom juggles three kids, sheep farm

By Debra Jensen-De Hart
Features Editor

Almost nothing goes to waste on Kinkoona farm.

From rain water to manure and on to recycled lumber, it all has a purpose.

And that’s exactly as Suellen Thomson-Link believes it should be.

A certified permaculturalist, the busy mother of three children bought the farm about eight years ago at 16734 W. Dorner Road, Brodhead.

She and her brood have been making improvements ever since, and continue to use permaculture (ecological) practices as they care for the 35 acres they own plus 13 more.

Born and raised in Australia, Suellen also is a licensed, occupational therapist and a dance movement therapist who goes to work away from the farm, three days a week.

The children: Sundara Link, 11, Acaya Link, 13, and Syon Link, 17, are home schooled.

They and their mom operate the sheep farm which also is home to a variety of other animals, including: horses, a donkey, two pot-bellied pigs, five dogs, cats, ducks, geese, quails, chickens, a turtle, chameleon and a parakeet or two.

“I bought the farm after I was divorced,” Suellen said.

At the time, the home on the property, homesteaded in 1856, was in sad shape.

“When we came here, I tore out the inside of the house,” she said.

Restoring the walls and rooms was hired done.

Meanwhile, the family concentrated on the outside, the pastures, outbuildings and the animals.

Barns and sheds needed to be re-roofed and painted; new fences needed to be put in place and erosion concerns needed to be addressed on the hilly and scenic countryside.

Through her training in permaculture practices, Suellen and the children worked through the challenges.

Living near her Amish neighbors, she also has solicited their help on occasion with getting projects done.

A young Amish woman was hired to wash wool shorn from the 80 sheep at Kinkoona, and on a recent day, she operated a washing machine, the old-fashioned kind with a hand-cranked wringer.

Wool collected gets washed in an organic, citric-based solution in keeping with the natural and chemical-free style of farming. Later it is used for both human and animal needs, for bedding for comforters and liners for coats to keep calves warm in winter, for example.

Among her many talents, Suellen also sews and has a special room for sewing comforters and more in her home.

The busiest time of the year, of course, is the lambing season, just over in March.

“I come out and check every two and one-half hours,” she said of keeping vigil on the sheep giving birth. This year, 84 lambs were born.

In the summer, the family also hosts farm day camp for children who want to experience life on the farm. Participants get to meet Ladybird, the big percheron work horse, Daisy Mae, the friendly pot-bellied pig and the new lambs. They also explore the nearby stream and its inhabitants and learn about plant and wildlife as well as the ecology applied to the farm.

Kinkoona is the Australian Aboriginal word for laughter.

And while the farm is Suellen’s obvious joy, it also is endless work.

“I work from dawn ‘til dark,” she said.

But then, “We are trying to re-establish what nature had here before.”

From no-till planting to managing weeds with machetes, building up terraces to stop erosion, adding gutters to the outbuildings to collect rain water for plants and animals, composting by creating dirt from manure, straw, worm and organic garbage and more, Kinkoona may mean laughter, but working in partnership with nature is serious business.

However, “I love doing what I do — I love being outdoors,” Suellen says.

She also gives much credit to her children.

“My children are fantastic.”

The family does have a computer and an active Web site, but, “We don’t have a television, we don’t have time to watch it.”

The family also is a frequent vendor at Chicago farmers markets where they sell their products and organic plants like sunflower sprouts and mint.

Passionate about living in a chemical free way and in working in harmony with nature, the busy mother says it is all worth it, not only in her daily life, but for another important reason, as well.

“This is my inheritance to my children.”

Kinkoona is one of five farms open to the public for tours today between 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. in the Brodhead area. The farm tours are sponsored by the Brodhead Chamber of Commerce.

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