“How about sheep?” was the question from Julie to her husband, Dan Wilson in 1990. Dan was adding an additional building to his speaker business, Quality Musical Systems, Inc. in Candler, North Carolina, but he dreaded the thought of mowing more grass, so Julie thought ‘sheep’ could do the mowing. Little did Dan know that the answer to Julie’s question would change the path of the Wilson family from ‘city’ to ‘country’. Julie researched the breeds of sheep and fell in love with the attributes of the Shetland Sheep (size, color, fiber). But since the Wilsons had never raised livestock before and the Shetland breed was relatively new to the United States, they began with two Romney sheep, joined 4-H and participated in local sheep shows and started learning that animals become the teachers, a fact animal farmers have known for centuries.In November of 1992, Julie flew the 1st registered Shetland ram, ‘Patrick’, into North Carolina from Linda Zuppan’s farm in Michigan. In January of 1993, Julie, with her three little daughters in tow, drove up to Terre Haute, Indiana with a make shift sheep pen in the back of a Subaru, visited Pat Hoctor’s farm and picked out three Shetland ewes. All situations during that weekend pointed to blessings that Shetlands were meant to be the sheep that Jehovah Raah Farm should raise. Julie remembers: having an additional day off from school because of Martin Luther King holiday, getting into the hotel three minutes before Danielle’s favorite TV show started, enjoying meeting Pat Hoctor and listening to his wild animal stories, bringing just enough money for two Shetlands, but Julie had picked out three. Mr. Hoctor let Julie buy three for the price of two, and finally, a few months later, discovering that the ewes were pregnant!In the North American Shetland Sheep Association, Jehovah Raah Farm’s Flock number is #64. Presently there are over 2400 registered flocks in the US, demonstrating Jehovah Raah Farm dedication. Shetlands will continue to steal the hearts of many as Julie tells folks about this endearing breed of sheep.
The Wilson Family….
Dan and Julie have been married since 1979, have three beautiful girls, Danielle, Julianne, and Stephanie and two great son-in-law’s, Corbitt and Cameron.
Farm chores became a way of life as the girls grew up. They witnessed the birthing of lambs, daily feedings, and labored once a year with the ritual of putting up hay. Having animals taught responsibility, confidence and ‘stick-to-it-ness’ (you have to do it whether it’s raining, sleeting, snowing or sunshine). This discipline spilled over into their individual passions of tennis, riding horses, and dancing. A major teaching for the Wilson parents was Psalm23. In the same way they took care of their farm animals, the lesson was and still is for their family: God shepherds those who believe and trust in Him.
…And then came the Llamas….
One October weekend while Dan and Julie were on a wedding anniversary camping trip, Julie remembers thinking, as she trudged UP a hill carrying a huge backpack, “Llamas could do this work!” Not surprisingly, in the spring of ’95, the Wilson family visited a llama farm and to everyone’s surprise, Dan picked out and purchased a young llama named ‘Choco’. After Choco, Dan bartered to train six llamas for packing in exchange for a second llama named ‘
Rudy’, to keep Choco company. The llamas soon became famous landmarks in Candler. The Pizza Hut would give directions to their drivers using ‘the corner where the llamas live’.
Rounding the corner of Dogwood Road, the birthplace of Jehovah Raah Farm, became a happy habit of locals. One day, a mother stopped and offered to buy a bag of feed for the animals because she and her children enjoyed seeing them so much.
Julie always had one eye on the task at hand and the other one in the future. Her vision was that she would start spinning fiber into yarn when she retired. Fate had other plans. The spinning adventures began…..during a visit to see her grandmother in Chicago, Julie and the girls were antique browsin’ and happened to ask a street vendor if they might know of any spinning wheels for sale. “Yes” was the woman’s reply. One of Julie’s first sheep was named ‘Willow.” Can you guess the name of the street where the spinning wheel was for sale? “Willow”. Looked like the future jumped into the present! Julie took it as a green light with God’s blessings!
The lady selling the wheel didn’t know how it worked and all Julie had was an out of town check. Trusting each other….. the lady took Julie’s check and Julie took the wheel that no one knew how to work. That is the story of Julie’s first spinning wheel, a traditional Ashford Wheel.
Julie took the wheel to a local craft store and was told the tension knob was missing. It was replaced and Julie set off to find some spinners. She found and arrived at the Blue Ridge Spinners’ monthly meeting in Hendersonville…15 ladies, all spinning and talking. She quietly observed each s.pinner’s hands and feet, taking note of the exact motions used. Julie remembers one lady telling her to go home and treadle for one week. She knew that wouldn’t happen. She would jump right in and that is exactly what happened. Julie took to spinning like a fish to water. She laughs as she tells the exact moment when she remembers falling in love with spinning, “I was peeling potatoes for dinner with Stephanie playing at my feet, and behind me in the kitchen was the spinning wheel whispering…… ‘Come spin…..come spin.” Of course, she finished cooking, but knew spinning was officially part of her life.
Then as opportunities arose, she would pick up a used wheel or two, teach friends to spin, and sell used wheels. Then, somehow, Julie spun on a Lendrum and she wondered why she was dealing with used wheels. She applied for a Lendrum dealership in 1996 and Gord Lendrum said yes. No other wheel has surpassed the qualities of a Lendrum since.
Being a teacher in her ‘8 to 4’ life, it made sense for Julie to start teaching spinning, first here and there and then at SAFF, (Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair) and more recently since retirement, at New York Sheep and Wool Festival, Friends and Fiberworks Yarn Shop, Haywood Community College and always, ‘on the farm’ tour included!
…The move from Candler to Fines Creek.
Dan and Julie were always looking for land. Dan, with the onset of the year 2000, was concerned with the economy and the impact it could have on his speaker business, so he was cautious about acquiring a long trem loan. They kept going back and forth between looking and buying to waiting for Y2K. Then one day in the summer days of 1999, Dan told Julie, “You’ll never believe what I did.” Somehow Julie did. Dan said, “I prayed that if Julie finds land, then that’s what we are supposed to do.” Well, you know what happened next. Maybe it was a few weeks, Stephanie, their youngest daughter, and Julie were driving around Haywood County following a realtor’s directions. They found Poplar Road, but were looking for Poplar Gap Road. Figuring it was up ahead, they rounded a curve and saw Hemlocks and fields, boulders and creeks and then a sign nailed to a tree… For Sale by Owner. Well, as they turned around and came back down the road, Steph gave her mom a napkin to copy down the phone number. Julie treasured that piece of napkin, anxious about calling the number because the price might be too high or too many acres. Julie brought the other girls there and Julianne dreamed of riding horses in the gigantic fields.
Then, she made the famous call and spoke to Rachel and Jerry Mooney, owners of the land. That was the beginning of the Wilsons’ journey in trusting God. What began in July, by driving down that country road, finished on Dec. 15th. The Wilson’s signed on a loan just weeks before the year 2000, leaping into God’s heaven on Earth.
They often referred to this new farm as the Promised Land because of all it offered. Boulders, Hemlock forest, antique little farm house, creeks and streams, pastures, rhododendrons, barns, and even a working outhouse. Julie remembers when her mom asked her if there was a barn and Julie ecstatically answered. Barns? There are three!
…Julie tells it her way…
I have to tell the story of the title ‘the Promised Land’. We were visiting the land one day and while standing in the field many vehicles were traveling the outer perimeter road. That was the first negative thing that came to me in all the months we had visited. But as I was telling my friend, Katharina O’Hara the story, she told me, “maybe that is God’s way of telling you that it is not your final home… the next place is Heaven”. That’s why here on earth, it’s our Promised Land. I asked God one time, why are we so lucky to be able to steward this land? His reply, “Because you honored My name”. As all of you know our farm name is Jehovah Raah Farm which means the Lord shepherds. Ten years ago it was a big decision to name our little farm of animals. Judith Thomas gave me a piece of stationery with all the names of Jehovah on it. When I read what Jehovah Raah meant, I knew I had found our farm name. It is a quiet witness to people if they ask. It’s really wonderful to know that every time someone reads or says our farm name that the Lord God is praised.
How Jerry Mooney’s family came to Fines Creek….
You have read how the Wilsons got back to Haywood County, (Dan was born and raised in Waynesville, NC of Haywood County) but how did Jerry Mooney’s family arrive? It started back with Jerry Mooney’s grandfather, Jesse L Mauney. His bride’s (Nellie McCracken) two sisters gave them 300 acres and the sharecroppers house that we currently live in, built in 1870. Jesse L Mauney and Nellie McCracken married around 1870.
They had a son, Joe Mooney, who married Fannie Green.
Joe and Fannie had two sons, Jerry and Ted. Ted past away and the farm was left to Jerry, who sold it to us, with God’s blessing on Dec. 15, 1999
The log barn to the left of the house, used to be the tenant farmer’s dwelling. The farmers in this area raised hogs because of the plentiful Chestnut trees. The hogs would be fattened by the chestnuts and then they would ‘drive’ to Waynesville, to be put on a train to market.
Across from this barn, you can see an old corn crib. The barn was built around the corn crib, but one weekend, Dan with a few of his friends, 150 dollars worth of groceries, a bottle of moonshine, and a tractor, moved that corn crib to the outside of the barn. Julie wished she could have been there and videotaped that one! She has taken Julianne and Stephanie on a ‘horse’ weekend.
As the Wilsons were house jumping, they moved into the farm house to remodel the Candler house for rental, moved down into the little white house ( Jerry had kept the little white house and ten acres) to finish remodeling the farm house, then moved back into the finished farm house. Oh! Can an old house ever be finished? No, there is still a lot of work to be done. But alas, is anything ever finished?
Sadly, Jerry Mooney was diagnosed with cancer and Dan and Julie worked it out to buy the little white house and land from Jerry and Rachel before Jerry past away. Julie will never forget the times spent with Jerry Mooney, on his family land before he was called home. Jerry often had a cigarette in one hand and a whiskey drink in the other. Julie found one of Jerry’s high school yearbooks, and the quote under Jerry’s senior picture was…”A leader of men, but a follower of women.”
More recently, in 2010, a neighbor, John Palmer, offered to sell his adjoining 12 acres to the Wilsons. Dan’s maneuvering this and that, enabled the Wilsons to add John’s acreage, bringing more of the original Mooney farm together and in 2013, Amy Palmer Evans, another neighbor and sister to John Palmer, came to tell Dan and Julie that in order to pay their daughter’s college tuition, they would sell the 2.5 acres that happened to be ‘in the middle’ of the twelve acres bought previously. So, with the purchase of John’s and Amy’s acres, the Wilson’s farm grew to 42 acres. In 2014, Dan and Julie incorporated the property under, D&J Enterprises of WesternNorth Carolina (WNC), LLC, dba Jehovah Raah Farm. Julie chuckles as she repeats the name, saying, “I wasn’t at that lawyer’s meeting when a name was decided.”
…….So now you know the rest of the story. If you get a chance to meander to Joe Mooney Road, Julie’s wish for you is to be renewed and inspired by His creation….current happenings are shared on the farm’s blog page.