99¢ per month for 3 months
99¢ per month for 3 months

Animals comfort Michigan woman after husband’s death

Tessa Lighty
Traverse City Record-Eagle

Northport — Demarie Jones whispers to her goats while her friend shears them.

She comforts them with phrases like “such a handsome boy,” and “you’re being a good boy” as she holds and pets their heads during the twice-annual shearing process on her Omena farm. Harley the goat was up first to lose a few of his long, curly brown locks.

Jones comforts her animals because she knows it’s stressful to lose something, even when it’s going to grow back.

Her first lamb, given to Jones on Easter Sunday, was her saving grace, the start of a new chapter in Jones’ life.

Her husband, Peter Jones, had died six weeks earlier. He was 62 years old.

The two had been married for 25 years. Their bucket list was left long with items they wouldn’t get to check off together. So Jones decided to check things off herself, with the help of her “best fiber friend,” Diane Kiessel.

“It made me realize if there’s things you wanna do, you gotta do it,” Jones said.

Kiessel, a friend for more than 20 years, gave Jones the lamb even before she had a place to keep it.

“That was a wild, crazy morning that had me going up to look at a lamb and then coming home with one,” Jones laughed.

Her plan was to keep the lamb on Kiessel’s farm, but when the Omena property hit the market, it was too good to pass up. Hosanna still lives in Jones’ barn, now joined by more than 20 alpacas, sheep, goats, ducks and chickens. There is always an animal around for Jones to say “hello” to.

Jones and her husband always wanted to own a farm on the Leelanau Peninsula but never thought they could afford it.

“I’ve been around animals most my life,” Jones said. “I like coming out here. It’s peaceful.”

Some animals she bought from Kiessel, who had been ready to sell her sheep around the time her friend’s husband died. There’s something about being around animals that’s therapeutic, and giving Jones the lamb opened a number of doors for her friend, Kiessel said.

“She’s always been really positive (since her husband died), but it’s been really good for her,” said Kiessel.

Jones works full-time with the Disability Network Northwest Michigan and so she gets up at 5 a.m. to feed her animals. Her daughter lives on the property with her family and they help out with some farm work. Kiessel keeps her animals there as well and performs the shearing with the help of her son.

Jones and Kiessel now own Leelanau Fibers in Suttons Bay. This fall they will be able to sell yarn spun from their own animals in the shop. Jones hopes to use the mohair from her Angora goats, which she and Kiessel shear, wash and spin, to knit something. The whole process is long, and after two hours, Kiessel has just finished one goat.

“It’s dirty and stinky and fun,” Jones said.

Customers from the shop gathered in the barn behind Jones’ home and watched the pair at work.

Jones had always wanted a farm. It’s a dream she and her husband wouldn’t get to achieve together — but she has found fulfillment in the sheep, alpacas, rabbits and goats from which she gets her fiber.

“If it doesn’t make me money, that’s OK,” Jones said. “This is my peace at the end of the day.”