About Jireh Hills Family Homestead
Both John Mark and Cheryl grew up as small-town ‘urbanites’ with big dreams of someday moving to the country. They always had an interest in raising their kids ‘free-range’ style, but they truly had no idea of what that actually meant, nor how they would ever get to that point!
As their family grew, so did the seriousness of their plans to move off their small postage stamp property in town. They would regularly visit local farmers within their area just to experience farm-life, and their appreciation for the hard work and dedication involved in farming grew immensely. Looking for farmland in their area was an expense beyond their means, so John Mark and Cheryl traveled further outside their local comfort zone and found the quaint village of Alvinston, nestled amongst rolling hills, winding rivers and acres of Carolinian Forest and farmland.
With the opportunity of their dreams suddenly upon them, John Mark and Cheryl found their 50 acres, sold everything and brought home their first 2 milking goats!!! Their first year was full of surprises, mistakes, and plenty of hard work; but they were indeed hooked. They were immersed in something they knew nothing about and their learning curve grew exponentially!!! They were ‘pretend’ farmers trying to listen and learn from anyone local that would give them the time of day. Thankfully, they had plenty of faith and prayer, coupled with patient neighbours and new goat-friends to keep them on track.
Fast forward 10 years, 8 children, a small army of goats, chickens running everywhere, bunnies galore, ponies racing along bush trails, spitting alpacas later, and here they are – a homeschooling, homesteading family of 10 working together and learning together. Now, they want to share and inspire others to take that step of faith, wherever that may be for them, to follow their dreams of greater self-sufficiency and sustainability, perhaps avoiding some of the mistakes they made along the way. That might look different for everyone, yet it all takes the same spirit of adventure, learning and sharing. They hope that you can visit them for one of their many fun and educational events that are offered seasonally, or even stay the night in one of their Nature Lodges and experience up-close the entire farming experience from dawn to dusk.
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Meet The Farmers
Mama Bear – Ms. Cheryl
An early ‘retired’ high school teacher that has been homeschooling for over 16 years now with at least 12 more to go! It’s no wonder that Cheryl has a keen interest in getting back to basics. With a small army to feed and teach each day, you can usually find her in the kitchen, drinking a cold coffee or hanging laundry on the back deck. She loves to escape outside to enjoy the beauty of creation, the pleasures of gardening, growing herbs and flowers, hanging out with the goat girls and alpacas, or just taking inventory on supplies and livestock care. There’s always something new to learn, but that’s what we love doing around here!!! Eager to try anything new, Cheryl loves teaching and introducing folks to goats with her older girls at her side. Together Cheryl (aka Mama Bear) and her daughters are establishing a seasonal Farm and Forest School Program for children to attend and learn more about where their food comes from. Specializing in encouraging mamas to connect with their children and balance a vast array of motherhood duties, she is an attentive listener and lover of life! Blessed with a loving husband who supports her wild ideas and a loving family of both little and big helpers, all credit and glory goes to the Lord Jesus Christ for His mercy and grace through all life’s mistakes.
Cheryl was recently featured in a Career Spotlight for virtual high school. You can read this interesting interview HERE https://www.virtualhighschool.com/blog/
Homesteader Daddy – John Mark (AKA Farmer John)
The man behind the scenes who can build anything and dreams big! A perfectionist at heart, this guy is known for his hard work and diligence at any task. Working as a professional Fire Fighter for a local municipality over the past 28 years, in his ‘spare’ time, JM has also taught himself most of his hands-on skills and has a hardworking crew around him to show for!!! From designing and constructing our 2-story shop, Nature Lodges, double-decker goat hut, aerated composting station and future pole-barn to constantly putting up more fencing (as mama finds more goats!), planting more trees and fixing our constant water-shed issues, John Mark is constantly on the go! We joke that keeping busy keeps him out of trouble, and there is truth to that, for sure. However, our homestead is dependent on all his skills and we would not be going full-steam ahead without his dedication and vision for establishing a home-based business that keeps our family together.
As the eldest child, Hudson has lived both lives. Growing up half his life in the small town, and the second half, here at Jireh Hills. It won’t take much to convince him which lifestyle he prefers. A natural with engines and anything else that makes loud noises, Hudson can throw a hammer, hang from rafters and design the latest chicken guillotine, all in a day’s work! Always willing to give us a hand, and he’s definitely a handy-guy, but it’s getting harder and harder to keep track of his busy schedule. A full-time student now at college with almost full-time hours working at a transport company, Hudson is switching gears to someday find his own patch of dirt to raise a family on. A blessing to us, and we know to all he meets, we plan to keep him around the homestead as long as he lets us!
Racing behind his older brother, Coleby is finishing his secondary credits and simultaneously establishing and building his own business, Cold Steal Creations, designing industrial pipe shelving. You can find his shop on etsy (and see his sawdust everywhere!); we hope to incorporate numerous design items from his shop into the rustic decor of our Nature Lodges. A hands-on guy that excels in all he does, Coleby has his footprint on several construction buildings here at Jireh Hills too. A natural on the piano, Coleby also loves learning new songs, singing harmony with his siblings and blesses our family with his gift in music and creativity.
Ava is definitely a right-hand helper, however, mama usually has to win a thumb war with daddy to get her assistance. She’s certainly an indispensable part of each aspect of our homestead. She keeps everything and everybody working hard and accomplishing their duty lists each day. She leads by example, and as the oldest sister, Ava is quick to set the example by working the hardest and sometimes, getting the dirtiest! Ava runs the milking parlour, and although she doesn’t easily give up her milking rights, she has begun to let her younger sisters take over the milking chores (occasionally). A studious high schooler now, Ava enjoys math and science, reading adventure books and tackling her own business in logo and sign-making. She has future goals of working as a veterinarian assistant (no surprise!) and she’s well on her way to all the hands-on learning she can get!
Lexie always bring joy to a job and a smile to your face! She’s a horse lover at heart and loves grooming and riding the ponies with her sisters. She’s a quick learning and takes the lead when needed. She is dependable, hardworking and an expert goat-midwife during kidding season. Her love and care for her newly arriving goat kids, keeps her on night duty sleeping alongside bins filled with babies needing extra warmth and a bottle of milk. Lexie is working with mama to train our new alpacas for halter leading and she was the first to assist in the arrival of our cria, little Pearl, in the summer of 2020.
Ruthie is the leader of the younger girls, but she is often called upon as an extra hand on bigger projects outdoors. Ruth Anne takes care of our chickens daily, collecting eggs and helping mama plan and stock up the incubator each spring for new chicks. She’s an enthusiastic learner with a creative mind for writing and storytelling. Always looking for an adventure, it wouldn’t surprise us if she grows up to be the next Laura Ingalls Wilder or L.M. Montgomery. One thing is certain, growing up at Jireh Hills, she will have endless stories to tell and boundless ears to listen!
As her name suggests, Serene is the peace-maker in our family. Our first child that was actually born on the farm, Serene literally has no memories of big city living. She may come across as shy and quiet, but she has developed a confidence and spirit of adventure in her natural interactions with the animals she loves. She recently took on her own responsibilities with her very own Holland lop bunny, named Flopsy, who she adores and faithfully cares for, even during the cold winter months. Her chores consist mostly indoors, however, she is quickly learning the outdoor trades and easily hauls water, milks the goats and keeps the mows full of hay.
Even at a young age, we knew this girl was destined for outdoor adventures. Riding bare back on Champ Chickadee and carrying baby goats around the goat pen, Victoria has always loved animals that were bigger than her, plus the challenge of keeping up with her bigger sisters. Although still a big overwhelmed with emotions at times, Victoria is learning the positive end-results of hard work and cooperation. She’s like an energizer bunny that doesn’t quit until the sun goes down, but she still needs her mommy/daddy hugs and snuggles to keep her recharged. As parents, we foresee a future of goat wrangling and enthusiastic horse racing (gasp!).
The youngest of the Charlton family, and perhaps the most spoiled (sigh!), Myra is surrounded by experiences and excitement well beyond her years already. A lover of everything soft and snuggly, Myra was all hands helping during our first alpaca shearing event. She absolutely loved collecting and gathering the fresh wool into bags, of course, she had her own plans for her new found favourite fabric! Growing up from day one on the homestead, her whole world consists of one adventure after another. If you get her talking, she will likely explain how to butcher a chicken, gather alpaca ‘poop’ for the garden, and infuse calendula from the herb garden. It will be interesting to see where exactly Myra finds her place, and we love seeing her uniquely created person reflect itself while immersed in life, growth and the beauty of creation.