As its name implies, QT Farm is full of cuties.
With lambs at their sides, rare-breed sheep graze in a pasture along the front driveway. Cashmere goats with impressive horns (and attitudes to match) butt heads playfully as llamas and alpacas placidly watch the action. A trio of energetic corgis keep everybody in their place.
Nearby, a flock of fancy chickens pecks at the ground outside its equally impressive coop. Long-haired rabbits relax in their shaded hutch, built to look like part of an Old West town.
Overlooking this bucolic scene is a magnificent custom home with formal landscaping, handsome pool and a dynamite view of the Sierras.
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“I call it country elegance,” said homeowner and shepherdess Christine Terbijhe, “but it’s also elegant sustainability.”
This weekend, QT Farm will open its gates to the public during the eighth annual Gardens of the Hills tour. Hosted by the Assistance League of the Sierra Foothills, this popular tour draws more than 1,300 patrons to see private gardens while helping El Dorado County schoolchildren and seniors. So far the league’s home and garden tours have raised more than $90,000, all of which stays in El Dorado County, said Barbara Brown, one of the tour’s organizers.
QT Farm is not a typical garden tour venue, Brown noted. It’s a working fiber farm that doubles as a model of sustainability.
Terbihje hopes she can inspire visitors this weekend with a quirky mix of country fun and lifestyle.
“If I’m lucky enough to live here, I’ve got to share it,” she said.
Tucked away in the rolling hillsides near Shingle Springs, QT Farm is less than an hour from Sacramento but in a world of its own. Plugged into alternative energies, the 5-acre farm makes its own electricity, thanks to a large array of solar panels. A geothermal system heats and cools the 4,500-square-foot house. Two wells provide abundant water and fill a large holding pond.
“What I want people to realize: They’d be insane not to do it this way,” Terbijhe said. “Why pay utilities when you don’t need to?”
For example, the geothermal system “uses dirt to heat the house and our water, too,” she said. “How cool is that? Our monthly utility bill used to be more than $750. Last month, we paid $14.”
Terbihje, a health resources consultant, works from her home office. Her husband, Bert, is a state contractor. Their 14-year-old twin daughters, Anica and Ariana, were babies when the family moved to this farm from the Bay Area.
“It took us a year to find this place,” Christine Terbijhe said. “The farm is back there (behind trees and fencing), but you wouldn’t know it.”
The farm’s name comes from its private road, Quail Trail, Terbijhe said. “But I’ve always called my husband ‘Cutie.’ So, we have the cutie QT Farm full of cuties.”
The animals started arriving soon after the family moved in, she added. “Counting the chickens, we now have 70 animals – and it’s growing every day.”
New lambs are part of that adorable census, she noted. Terbijhe specializes in endangered and rare species such as California variegated mutant sheep (which have multicolored wool) and guanaco, a llama cousin.
Her love of sheep, goats and her other farm animals grew from her hobbies: She spins wool, then weaves cloth or knits garments.
“I’m a full-on crafter,” she said. “If there’s something to be made, I’ll make it.”
Dressed in 1850s garb, Terbijhe often demonstrates spinning at Gold Rush Days and other events. Her upstairs loft is packed with wool, spinning wheels, looms and other equipment. She also sells her wool.
She started raising sheep, goats and other fiber-bearing animals to provide material for her spinning wheel.
“I wanted to produce my own fiber,” she said. “My thing is variety. I like combining all these different bits. Ultimately, it’s the blend I like.”
The wool from each animal adds its own distinct attribute to the final product, she explained. “When you’re spinning yarn, sheep (wool) gives you strength. Alpaca provides drape. Cashmere and angora add a halo of softness.”
Visitors to QT Farm will learn about wool and much more. During the tour, Terbihje plans to hold spinning demonstrations in her “QT Town,” an Old West main street that doubles as the farm’s utility sheds.
“Every farm needs sheds,” she said. “They might as well be cute.”
Gardens of the Hills tour and crafts fair
What: Hosted by the Assistance League of the Sierra Foothills, this tour features several private foothills gardens as well as the Sherwood Demonstration Garden and the Four Seasons Community Garden.
When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, May 6; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, May 7
Where: Start at Green Acres Nursery, 205 Serpa Way, Folsom
Cost: $27; $10 for children 12 and younger