Mother plants seed for daughter’s future

  • Zoe Weizenbaum smiles when she sees the first signs of garlic in the garden at Ancient Ponies Farm in Shutesbury, which she works with her mother, Sharon Weizenbaum. STAFF PHOTO/MELINA BOURDEAU

  • Zoe Ruth Weizenbaum holds one of the farm’s two-day-old goats. STAFF PHOTO/MELINA BOURDEAU

  • Zoe Weizenbaum discovers some of the farm’s garlic has sprouted. STAFF PHOTO/MELINA BOURDEAU

  • Sharon Weizenbaum cuddles with one of the farm’s two-day-old goats. STAFF PHOTO/MELINA BOURDEAU

  • Sharon and Zoe Weizenbaum leave the barn after checking on some of the animals. STAFF PHOTO/MELINA BOURDEAU

  • The Weizenbaums enjoy the morning sun with their two baby goats and Lumi, their Marrema guardian sheepdog. Intern Celeste Tacheron joins the mother and daughter with Jasmine, the baby goats’ mother. STAFF PHOTO/MELINA BOURDEAU

  • Ancient Ponies Farm’s barn sits on the edge of the pasture. STAFF PHOTO/MELINA BOURDEAU

  • The Weizenbaums have not yet started planting their gardens this year. STAFF PHOTO/MELINA BOURDEAU

  • Horses and sheep graze in the pasture at Ancient Ponies Farm on Pratt Corner Road in Shutesbury. STAFF PHOTO/MELINA BOURDEAU

  • The Weizenbaums enjoy the morning sun with their two baby goats and Lumi, their Marrema guardian sheepdog. STAFF PHOTO/MELINA BOURDEAU

  • Ducks waddle around the pasture. STAFF PHOTO/MELINA BOURDEAU

  • Goats graze in the pasture. STAFF PHOTO/MELINA BOURDEAU

Staff Writer
Published: 4/14/2019 7:45:13 PM

SHUTESBURY — When Zoe Ruth Weizenbaum returned from her two-year stay in Taiwan in 2017, she never dreamed what she’d find — and that it would change her life forever.

“I came home to regroup and figure out what was next for me,” said the 27-year-old. “I had majored in Chinese and wasn’t sure what to do. When I got home, my mother announced she had bought a farm.”

Sharon Weizenbaum said she couldn’t wait to bring her daughter to what they eventually named Ancient Ponies Farm on Pratt Corner Road. 

“She just looked at the land and the house and looked at me and said, ‘This is so beautiful,’” Sharon said. “That was it.

“I used to board horses here years ago,” she said. “It had special memories for me. I was walking by one day and noticed a for-sale sign. I knew the land, the trails, everything. It just made sense to me. I felt reluctant at first but was pulled by an internal struggle.”

Their home sits across the street from their large green pasture — or, at least, it will be by late spring — surrounded by trees. A barn that houses sheep, goats, chickens and ducks sits at the edge of the dirt road as you enter the pasture. Their livestock dog Lumi, a Marrema guardian sheepdog, doesn’t herd the other animals but guards against predators. Chickens sit in the rafters of the barn while goats come and go and ducks waddle through puddles.

“Zoe came back in August 2017, and I had already bought the farm,” said Sharon, who works full time practicing Chinese medicine, acupuncture and teaches writing. “There was no turning back. She really got into it. Now, I support the farm financially and she takes care of it, along with some interns.”

Zoe said the farm will soon welcome interns from Columbia and Slovakia. Currently, they are housing one intern from eastern Massachusetts. 

The two women have spent the last two years building the farm to what it is today, and they have many more plans for the future.

Zoe cares for the animals, including their two Dales ponies, which are as big as most horses and are good for riding, driving and draft. The rare, ancient breed that almost became extinct after World War II is a small draft horse.

“We ride the horses,” Sharon said. “And, we’re hoping to eventually train them to drive.”

Sharon said she and her daughter envision buying a cart that the horses would pull to neighbors’ homes to deliver eggs, meat, milk, cheese and produce.

Zoe also cares for a large mandala-pattern garden where they grow “just about everything,” including leafy greens and eggplant, beans and squash, okra, kohlrabi, herbs and more. The mandala pattern symbolizes the universe and is a meditation tool for creating sacred space, relaxation and focusing the mind. It is also used as a gateway to a spiritual journey. Mandala gardens like the Weizenbaums’ are usually a circle that contains starburst, floral, wheel or spiral patterns within it.

The two also have fruit trees, including peach, pear, apple and cherry, but they haven’t been that productive yet, because they’re young, Zoe said. And they raise bees at one corner of the pasture.

Zoe said Sharon is always coming up with ideas, but now that they have things started and they’re going well, they’ll slow down a bit and concentrate on what they’ve built so far, eventually adding things a little more slowly. 

She had never gardened by the time she returned home at age 25, but her mother designed the gardens and she took classes and workshops to learn how to create and maintain them.

“We wanted a permaculture homestead, because it’s so much better for the land,” Zoe said. “You lay cardboard, then compost, then mulch. The grass below dies and becomes a breeding ground for worms that eat the dead grass.”

She said it becomes a very nice place, a “five-star hotel” for worms who eat and excrete and fertilize the land. Once that happens, it’s time to plant.

Zoe said last year was an incredibly successful year for the garden, because they sold or used everything they planted. She said this year, the farm will run several workshops taught by skilled teachers, including carbon gardening, building a backyard oven, soap making, solar gardening and more.

She said she and her mother have learned a lot and been inspired by other local farms and farmers like Deb Habib and Ricky Baruc of Seeds of Solidarity Education Center in Orange and Danny Botkin of Laughing Dog Farm in Gill. 

“Danny is a guerrilla gardener, which is very similar to my philosophy,” Zoe said. “You put the seeds in the ground and see what happens. You do it on the fly — the more, the better.”

Zoe’s and Sharon’s permaculture homestead consists of 13 acres, throughout which they provide for their survival, as well as making the land healthier.

“We want to share the beauty of our home, this farm, with its animals and gardens, with everyone” Zoe said. “That’s why we want to teach others about permaculture and what it means to live off the land.”

Zoe said they use or sell everything they grow. For instance, their male goats and ducks are slaughtered for meat — the one male duck they currently have will provide Passover dinner this year. Their two goats — Blackberry and Alfalfa —  were born this past week. They are males, so they will be slaughtered for meat in the late fall. Two more goats will deliver within the next few weeks, and the two women said they are hoping most, if not all of them, are female so they can add them to their milking stock. They also make cheese.

Sharon also uses the wool from the sheep, though she doesn’t sheer, wash or carve, but spins and knits. 

Zoe said she wants to keep learning and keep investing in the property.

“It will be mine someday, so I just want to keep making it better,” she said.

She said the mission of the farm is far beyond being self-sustaining. She said she hopes the farm becomes a tourist destination someday.

“We want to bring people here — to learn and to enjoy,” Zoe said. “We can see us doing things like providing hayrides and holding different types of events someday. We’d like to see lots of visitors, community involvement, workshops, barter exchanges and lots of education.”

For more information, visit: Their blog is:

Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061


Copyright © 2019 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy