As the end of the year approaches, I’m reflecting on the changes that 2016 has brought. Unity Farm Sanctuary was a distant strategy for leaving a legacy at the end of our lives. Now it is a reality with a population of wonderful creatures who will be able enjoy their days in the pastures, forests, and gardens of a safe, vegan, organic space surrounded by permanently protected rural trust land.
The current capacity of the sanctuary is a 5 stall barn, a two adult horse run in, and a pony/donkey/goat run in. Our theoretical maximum capacity is 4 adult horses, 3 ponies, 3 donkeys, and 3 goats.
Next week, we will remove a few trees between Unity Farm and Unity Farm Sanctuary, creating a few acres of additional paddocks connected by lanes that will enable us to rotate animal locations easily and sustain natural grasses throughout the year. Once completed, these new paddocks will support a dozen more horses, cows, pigs, goats and other farmland creatures in need of rescuing. Sherborn has no restrictions on hosting farm animals - we could rescue elephants and emus - so we do not know what possibilities each day will bring.
At the time we’re developing the new paddocks, we’re repairing fences, putting up electrical fence tape and carefully thinning trees near the barn and existing paddocks to keep the animals safe from falling branches.
We’re also preparing the Unity Meeting House for public use. Although we are not zoned commercial, there are no restrictions on our use of the property for farming and educational purposes. To host seminars, retreats, and group events, we’re making a few improvements to the infrastructure. This week, we replaced the heating and hot water system of the building with an Energy Kinetics System 2000 boiler. This enables us heat all aspects of the structure which has a combination of state of the art radiators, warm floors, and a very old ventilation system. Here’s what the new central heating and water plant looks like.
The floors of the meeting house include pine from 1830s, beech, chestnut, oak, and maple. We’re refinishing all of them with a tough high traffic finish to accommodate the wear of public traffic.
The structures on the property have a total of 150 light bulbs inside and out. This week, we replaced every lighting fixture with LED technology, recognizing that the public visitors are likely to use a lot of light and leave them on. At this point, all incandescent, fluorescent, and halogen lights have been removed.
Antique furniture seems to be falling in popularity - millennials don’t want it and trendy middle aged folks are seeking mid-century modern. That means that a vast amount of 19th century furniture is available at low cost in New England right now as people downsize and clean out their attics. Since the Unity Meeting House was built in 1830s, we’re trying to furnish all the public spaces with items that would have been present in the house when it was fist used. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be moving the 19th century items from estate sales and moving sales into the Sanctuary. For example, here’s the work in progress in the sanctuary library.
Whenever Kathy and I take on a property, we use our accumulated life skills to make it more robust. I do electrical, plumbing, and carpentry. Kathy does painting, decor, and furnishings. We have a number of public events scheduled for 2017 and we’ll be ready. You can expect the next year will be building inside and out, followed by a daily influx of volunteers, students, and educators who will keep the property vibrant.
Kathy and I are contributing 50% of our income to the sanctuary this year and we hope that over the course of our lives we will leave the sanctuary with an endowment that sustains it in perpetuity. Our daughter is completely comfortable with the notion that her inheritance will be smaller so that the sanctuary can last beyond us all. As Warren Buffet says, you should leave your children the resources so they can do anything, but not so much that they can do nothing.
Soon, all the family will arrive for the holidays and we’ll put them to work, brushing the pony, smashing pumpkins for the pigs, and hauling hay. Time on the farm with physical work and the joy of sustaining living things bring me all the holiday spirit I need.
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