I've been mulling around what I wanted to write for the very first, inaugural blog post on our farm's webpage. It was a conundrum trying to figure out what sorts of things might be universally interesting to anyone who came to our farm page. But then the answer hit me like a goat to the back: the question I most get asked is "Why did you do it?" so it seemed like the answer to that was also the answer to my blogging situation.
So here we go, the answer to the mysteries of the universe. Or, at least, my universe. Why did we do it? Why did we decide investing financially and time-wise into a farm was the path for us? Why did we choose the animals that we did? Why do we try to monetize on the things we produce here? Why, why, why? I am always happy to answer questions when people ask; it shows interest in this crazy endeavor and that makes me happy because the answers are near and dear to our heart. Hopefully in the course of my time blogging here on the website, I will eventually get to answer all the questions.
No, we are not farmers. We did not come from farming families. My mother has fond memories of her grandmother's home during the summers and there were goats and chickens there. My husband's grandmother praises the day she left her family's farm and has eschewed anything like it since. This is the extent of our previous farming exposure, which is kind of scary now that I reflect on it.
And we certainly got plenty of strange looks from local people with experience, wondering why in the world we would take this on. You can imagine the look, the "you must be crazy, idealistic, unrealistic, plain stupid city kids" sort of look. I kind of think they were right, to a degree.
So why then did we go from an ordinary suburban lifestyle to the adventure of homesteading? It really does defy logic. My husband is a physician with precious few hours and weekends spent at home and absolutely in no need of a second career. I studied neuroscience in college and then completed a master’s degree in nutrition while pregnant with my first child, all the while planning on following my husband in the medical school pathway. Never did we imagine that our lives lacked chaos.
I pushed our children in strollers through public parks and city zoos, took them to every mommy-and-me class, looked forward to eating at a new sushi restaurant with my husband for date night, and enjoyed the occasional weekend night hosting friends. Life was predictable, if still tiring and harried, and all that education shored up our egos with certainty that we could tackle anything.
Does any of this sound familiar? I can honestly say that we didn’t show any proclivity to an agrarian life. I knew that I wanted to garden like my mother and I knew that the artisans featured in the Martha Stewart “Living” magazines enlightened my sensibilities. But the first time I had a friend get backyard chickens, I thought it was eccentric and illogical.
It was after hearing stories of my great-grandmother’s ranch and chickens that I felt a pull to my family's past and decided to give it a try myself. And that was really the first step into the abyss of chaos in which we currently find ourselves. So here are the reasons why we took the plunge.
- The food. Raising your own food is an amazing feeling that will reel you in once you've tasted it. You raise vegetables and wonder how anyone can compare the taste to what you buy at the grocery store. But then you raise your own egg-laying chickens and crack open that first egg and realize the eggs at the store do not look how they should. Then you raise your own meat and physically see the difference, the robustness and color. It literally looks healthier. And maybe, if you're crazy enough, you'll milk your own animals and that's when it all comes home: you have really never seen milk before that moment. What we buy in the store looks nothing like the real deal.
- Plus, you feel free from worrying about what might be in your food. I know I would become slightly obsessive before imagining what sorts of things had been applied to my food. The first time I ate our homegrown chicken, I felt peace at knowing there was nothing there that shouldn't be. And the more I learned, the more I understood how food is grown and what is and is not acceptable for me for me to consume. It has helped demystify a lot of food production principles.
- The most important reason was that we felt our children needed it. Our oldest child, our daughter, has ADHD and some sensory processing issues. She's 12 now and is outgrowing a lot of those issues, but at the time she craved animal interaction. She was comforted and soothed by these creatures and still is to a lesser degree. Both of my older children were little tornadoes, able to thwart the limits of any backyard. Giving them the space and animals in a rural community has been the third best thing we could have given them. (The first being a stable, loving, nucleated family and the second the goals and directives of a faith-filled life. For us, this is specifically a home based on Christian faith.)
- The other important thing we wanted to give our children through this experience was the concept of working without the choice of skipping a day. In my husband's profession, he doesn't get to check out on a day he chooses. Any vacation days are scheduled six months in advance and no matter his health, he shows up for his job otherwise. And anyone who is a mother or primary caregiver knows that their round-the-clock hours are non-negotiable. We wanted our children to start understanding the principle of hard work, not just going to soccer when the weather was nice, or ballet as long as homework didn't get in the way, etc. Animals and crops get fed rain or shine, cold or hot, night or day.
- Our children showed strong entrepreneurial tendencies and we wanted to nurture that in a way that we could be proud of the quality of work they put out and also in a way that did not place them in the way of too many strangers. We gave them a list of possible profit production methods and my daughter chose selling chicken eggs and my son chose selling honey. Now that they are growing, a few more possibilities are an option for them to earn money. We love that they get paid for doing their chores but not by mom and dad. They get paid only if they produce quality items. And they've already had to learn this lesson the hard way.
- After struggling with some mild depression and low-energy symptoms of hypothyroidism, I wanted something that would force us all out of the house every day, breathing the fresh air and seeing the sun. It has helped me push my way through routine low spots as well as recognize the more severe low spots more easily.
- The excitement of all the changes of Mother Nature around us is a prize in and of itself! To see the birth of kittens, puppies, baby goat kids, baby alpaca crias, and newly hatched chicks and start to live a life where the year is marked by what is growing or singing or being born is a miraculous way to live that reminds us we live on God's footstool.
So now that I've listed our reasons, do you think we are crazy for going on this adventure? Sometimes I'm not sure myself. But we are happy and we are growing. My children love their home and their farm and green space. They are learning how important it is to work hard so they can play hard. They get dirty and sweaty, they freeze their hands and toes, they come in with pink cheeks and noses. They are learning that life is a cycle that comes and goes and we do our best to support a healthy lifestyle. They are also learning that when the time has come for a creature to ebb out of our lives, we can and will move on in a way that honors the memory of what we lost without getting buried in the past. They breathe fresh air and learn what all the animals say and how they act when they are threatened or angry. They are learning, we all are learning, what working for the good of the family means and how we all pull together even though sometimes the work division is unequal. So for this very moment in our lives, we couldn't be happier with our decision.
I would like to clarify that I am not trying to convince anyone that a family homestead life is the only way to accomplish what we wanted for our children, nor are we trying to say this would be right for everyone.
And, as sure as the sun shines, I know there will come a day when we are ready to pack up our experiences and downsize to a more comfortable lifestyle. Because this is a lot of work. I think I have just found my next blog post topic.