A Rhode Island Red is a chicken. A Rhode Island strawberry blond is a woman who left the northeast for the promised land of Perry County to escape the rat race. And yes, she has chickens, sheep, horses, Australian Shepherds and a husband who buys and renovates old buildings on Main Street in Linden, Tennessee.
Kathy Dumont came to Tennessee with the purpose of becoming self-sustaining; not necessarily off the grid, but able to do so if need be.
Buying the land in 2003, it was not until 2007 that she and her husband Michael moved here, renovated the Commodore Hotel (an awesome place to dine and rest for the night) and settled into a rural lifestyle.
“The hotel was not part of the original plan. We came here to get away from Rhode Island wanting to raise our own food. So we read up on it and became experts,” she laughed. Dumont’s neighbors, introduced to them by their realtor, often joke with Kathy, “I know this isn’t in the book, but this is how you do it.”
“One day we are going to write our own book,” Kathy sheepishly remarked. Kathy acknowledges,
“Michael and I would not be able to run this place without them, really.” Sheep shearing, hay cutting and mechanic work are some of the chores with which the neighbors help. Kathy also laughingly admitted that it did take a while for the locals to be able to interpret the Yankee accent of the Rhode Island natives.
The Australian Shepherds were the first animals at Ridgehaven Farm. Traits including being protective and great companions; possessing innate, herding ability; and closely bonding with family make the Aussies ideal farm dogs. Kathy raises one litter a year and sells the pups.
“Baby Doll Southdown sheep are miniatures we are breeding for smaller size and are less difficult to handle,” she stated. “One ram, Trojan, rammed me and Michael’s dad. One time, that was it!” she firmly declared. Imagination not needed regarding to Trojan’s fate.
Bred mainly for the meat market, the Baby Dolls are crossed with Katahdin Hair Sheep (which shed and are not sheared) providing a longer, unique, softer wool. However, the Baby Doll Southdowns produce a short staple (length of wool) that Kathy says some people prefer for ease of spinning.
Idyllic, early, foggy morning chores are not quiet at Ridgehaven Farm. Chickens, sheep and herd dogs beckon the farm hand (Kathy Dumont) with incessant crowing, clucking, bleating and barking until their food and water is delivered. Then peace returns. The farm hand switches gears in stride, changes clothes and heads off to Linden to manage the hotel and help her husband renovate the other two buildings they recently purchased.
So, why did the Rhode Island strawberry blond cross the road? To get to the land of milk and honey in middle Tennessee.