For farm animals, shelter and more: Graze in Peace in Durham is a rare type of rescue operation

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Deb and Carl Schwink pet their sheep "Coal" at their animal rescue farm, Graze in Peace, on Pinkham Brook Road in Durham. Though the sheep is white, it was named Coal by a little girl, they said.

Deb and Carl Schwink go the distance when it comes to their love of animals.

On a farm they call Graze in Peace Farm Animal Rescue and Learning Center, on Pinkham Brook Road in Durham, they operate a domestic and farm animal rescue. The Schwinks want to change the way society perceives domestic and farm animals as commodities to individuals deserving compassion and humane treatment.

“Just because they’re another species doesn’t mean we get to do what we want to them,” Deb Schwink said. “It’s more than cats and dogs that need help.”

Right now, though, it’s the Schwinks who are looking for some help. Veterinarian bills are piling up – one for llama care, one for the attempt to save a baby llama that in the end did not surive, one for respiratory care for Coal the sheep and one for cancer care for Cody the cat.

The Schwinks need to buy a tractor, and are looking for volunteers to help them build sheds, fences and a barn. They have set up a GoFundMe page, Graze in Peace Farm Tractor. Ebenezer’s Brew Pub and Morning Glory Natural Foods, both located in Brunswick, are donating feed.

The Schwinks are at capacity with the 20 sheep, two pigs, five llamas, seven chickens, two dogs and four cats they have saved from being euthanized or abandoned. The shelters they have built and their available grazing land have maxed out.

The couple moved to Durham from New Hampshire four years ago to “walk the walk” in their treatment of animals, which they also do in another telling way. They are vegans.

“It’s a lifestyle,” Carl Schwink said. “It’s a low-impact lifestyle, living in harmony with these animals. We’d like to be giving classes on this kind of lifestyle, and growing the food that we eat.”

The Schwinks took in a family of four llamas two months ago. One is pregnant, and ready at any day to give birth. The man who owned the animals was getting too old to care for them.

“They had never been shorn or wormed, or had any vaccinations. One had lost a baby,” Deb Schwink said.

The llamas serve a purpose.

“They guard the sheep from foxes, dogs and coyotes,” Deb Schwink said. “They use their feet to kick.”

The pigs at Graze in Peace were brought in to help around the place, she said.

“Our pigs would have been killed at 6 months old for bacon. We got them to help dig stumps, and the owner wanted to use them for bacon, and we said ‘no.’”

One day last week, the pigs, Henry, and his sister, Blueberry, were enjoying tomatoes – one of their favorite garden veggies – and foraging.

“They have feed and they root around in the fields,” Carl Schwink said. “Their personalities are like dogs. You can train them, they run around and play, and will come when you call them.”

The Schwinks met in California in 1996, and married in Iowa, where his parents lived, seven years later. Deb Schwink, a Wisconsin native, had a bachelor’s degree in sociology and was in California studying for a master’s in psychology. Carl Schwink, raised in Wyoming, landed in California for employment, having earned a bachelor’s in electrical engineering. Their first date was a mushroom-foraging hike, she said.

The couple, who have a 12-year old son, Benjamin, moved east to New Hampshire five years ago, then to Maine, which they liked even better. Wherever they went, some of the same sheep they rescued on a dairy farm they owned 10 years ago in Wisconsin came with them.

When they purchased the Durham farm, a few miles from the Lisbon town line, the land wasn’t exactly suited for raising animals. The grass was sparse, and they had to buy hay to feed the animals, he said. Now, the animals at Graze in Peace feed mostly on grass during the warm-weather months. In the winter, all the feed needs to be purchased. Some of their sheep are blind or arthritic, and require more feed for that reason, he said.

The sheep also receive daily medications.

“We work with a number of local veterinarians to keep them all healthy,” he said. “When their quality of life isn’t good, we have to call out the vet for a special visit.”

Dr. Rachel Flaherty, of Back Cove Equine Veterinarian Care in Falmouth, is one of those vets. Flaherty said she has been to Graze in Peace “10 or 15 times” to care for the llamas and sheep there.

“It’s mostly age-related arthritis and eye issues, infections and respiratory disease,” Flaherty said. “I’ve had to euthanize some of them. (The Schwinks) are very thoughtful as to when that time comes.”

Flaherty said she has seen few such animal rescue farms in her travels.

“It’s kind of an unusual thing,” she said. “They’re taking care of animals that are a commodity to some people. They’re looked at as what they can do for humans. (The Shwinks) see them as individuals.”

Carl Schwink had been “between jobs” recently, but just this past Monday took a position as a civil engineer that he can do at home, with a company in Texas. Deb Schwink has taken online writing classes at Southern Maine Community College, and also has studied graphic design. Graze in Peace is her main focus, and she has used her expertise in those two fields to create a website, www.grazeinpeace.com, a Facebook page and the GoFundMe page.

“We have always been animal lovers,” she said. “We always rescued cats and dogs, and it just got bigger. I was up here looking for a farm. We came up here to Durham on a whim. It was remote enough so that it was safe for the animals.”

Henry the pig feeds on late garden tomatoes at his home, Graze in Peace, on Pinkham Brook Road in Durham.

Deb and Carl Schwink pet one of the llamas at their animal rescue farm, Graze in Peace, on Pinkham Brook Road in Durham.

The llamas at Graze in Peace on Pinkham Brook Road in Durham protect the sheep from predators.

Carl Schwink holds his cat Cody in the kitchen of the farm in Durham where he and his wife, Deb, harbor unwanted animals.

A CLOSER LOOK:

For more information about Graze in Peace Farm Animal Rescue and Learning Center, Pinkham Brook Road in Durham, see www.grazeinpeace.com or the farm’s Facebook page. The GoFundMe page is Graze in Peace Farm Tractor.