BROOKSVILLE — The first few weeks of a lamb’s life are critically important to its development, according to John Altman, a farmer who owns and operates David’s Folly Farm with his wife, Emma Altman.
The summer is for pasturing and the fall is for slaughter, but lambs’ first weeks are best spent socializing with their mothers in a dry space, Altman said. The young, bleating animals can easily succumb to pneumonia when wet or cold, and their growth can be stunted if they expend too much energy staying warm.
So on a blustery day in the middle of March, when gale force winds came from the south and ripped the plastic cover off the greenhouse that was sheltering 50 ewes and 40 newborn lambs, the Altmans were faced with a tough situation.
The farmers had no shelters that would fit all the ewes with their lambs, and they did not have time or funds to repair the greenhouse. With rain and snow on the way, they risked losing a number of lambs, along with the meat they hoped to sell around the Blue Hill Peninsula next fall.
“We were very vulnerable,” Altman said.
Luckily for them, one Hancock County business was all too happy to help out another.
The Altmans called Wallace Events, a party rental company in Ellsworth, to check if any tents were available and quickly found themselves on the receiving end of a very large act of kindness.
The two companies have a working relationship. The Altmans often rent out their farm for weddings and other events during the summer, and Wallace Events often supplies the tables, chairs and other equipment for those parties.
“We said, ‘This crazy thing happened,’” Altman recalled of the phone call, and the Ellsworth company offered to loan them a 20-by-30-foot party tent indefinitely and at no cost.
“They said, ‘We’ll bring a tent down tomorrow morning,’” Altman continued.
The vinyl tent now serves as a de facto shelter for the ewes and their lambs. It does not warm up the way the greenhouse did, but a little hay and bedding makes the space comfortable for the animals, and Altman is most grateful.
“I think Wallace [Events] saved us in a big way,” he said. “They don’t just have a crew around to set up tents, but they were here the next morning. I think they went above and beyond.”
According to Jake Taylor, who along with Brian Spencer owns Wallace Events, they commiserated with Altman’s situation. He described the favor as “the right thing to do for a fellow neighbor.”
“John’s a local guy who’s working hard trying to make a living,” Taylor said. “The farming industry is hard enough to try to make it in, let alone when an unforeseen thing like this happens.”
The Altmans do not have the finances to repair their greenhouse right away, so for the time being, the tent will remain home for the lambs. Not all of the ewes have even give birth yet, so more are coming, Altman said.
The Altmans also raise pigs and goats, among other animals, and grow vegetables in the warmer months.
Reflecting on the Ellsworth company’s favor, Altman added, “One small business served another small business in need.”
And given the chance, “I think we would do the same thing, too, if we had the opportunity to help someone in need.”