Sunday, April 27, 2014

Diary of a Microfarmer: Confessions


I don't want a microfarm. Or a micro-farm, or a micro farm for that matter. However you choose to spell it, (or misspell it, as I normally do), It's not a source of pride for me, and often not a source of joy. It's simply all I can have.

Don't get me wrong- I passionately believe, that in this overpopulated world, the more people learning to homestead and farm on a small scale, the better. It's so important. We can do so much more with what we have than we realize. I've personally done more than I thought I could with what I have, and I'm continuously blown away when I realize these little things that I, at one point, thought were impossible. Did I really think that I could keep goats in my side yard beneath the Weeping Willow? Heck no! But I can, and I am, as could any ol' homesteader, backyard farmer, or farmer wannabe like myself.

There is a very important trend spreading in this country- America, home of the fat, sick, and genetically modified- towards urban farms, and backyard farms... microfarms, if you will. By trends, I don't mean like bell-bottoms and skinny jeans... things that come and go in waves of cool and uncoolness.. but a growing population of regular people holding regular jobs, and farming on the side to supplement their families table, or satisfy a hobby, and help save the Earth of course. Then there are the health conscious stay at home moms like me, who dreamed of becoming  horticulturalists before diverging off the path of education and onto the path of all consuming motherhood. Perhaps the latter is just me... but I see that I am one among many farming on a small speck of land.

But it's not what I want. I'm not happy with it. I'm stuck with it. I'm trying to make the best of it. We bought this house at a bad time, and it was the best option there was, and now we're stuck here. I live in this gorgeous spot out in the country, and I'm surrounded by a vast expanse of land that is not mine. It's not even being farmed. Just empty. It would be a gorgeous view all around, if it didn't piss me off so much.

View across the road, taken last Fall

It's a view that reminds me every day that my dreams are just out of reach. That if I'd chosen a different path in my past, maybe I wouldn't be poor, or stuck. Maybe I would have obtained my degree in horticulture, and be operating my dream greenhouse. Maybe I would have bought a house at the right time, with a few acres of land, and be starting a fiber farm right now, instead of cramming a couple of goats, a couple of chickens, a few ducks, and a bunny into my side yard beneath the Willow.

Aw, who am I kidding. I do love my jolly barnyard beneath the Weeping Willow tree, and my tiny vegetation-packed gardens. And I can't think of a path I could have chosen in life, that would have resulted in the three incredible children that I have now, that I would never choose to live without. I embrace what my microfarm represents.

This tiny speck of land is rebelling against all those rage-inducing, perfectly mowed green lawns in my area (what? doesn't everyone experience rage when seeing a big, boring, mowed lawn?). This little flake of the Earth is screaming, "See!?! Look what you could do with that perfectly uniform and weed-free lawn, if you tried! Haven't you ever heard of permaculture??? We could drive out the factory farms, and the mono-cultures! And if you don't use it, why don't you just, give it to me!?!"

And I am making it scream out in rebellion, and sing with butterflies and bees.

In all seriousness, I'm not quite that judgey about the lawns, although I do covet them. I want my own expansive green lawn to cultivate.

There are plenty of sad looking old farms around here, and I'd love to bring one back to life. There are also lots of inspiring, small farms, that provide local food via veggie stands, and "Fresh Eggs" signs... there is much hope and promise for a small farmer in this town, if I could just wrap my arms around my own slice of heaven.

No, I don't want to be a microfarmer. I want to be a shepardess, a fiber spinner, a grower in my own greenhouse, a beekeeper, a tree-tapper, a goat farmer, a road-side egg and veggie provider, a master gardener, an herbalist. If only my years of education and accumulated debt that resulted in nothing, could help me achieve that. But alas, it can't. And I have not traveled a straight path in my life, or any sort of normal one at that.

I have to indulge in this darkness, from time to time. It really does help me come back up and see the light.

You light up our lives, Miss Red Hen...

I'll never forget that day, last summer, when an elderly neighbor from up the road, whom I'd never met, knocked at my door, and asked, "who's responsible for the garden?"  I said, "That's me!" And he handed me a copy of "Grit" magazine, and told me that he'd been watching it grow all season, and chuckled with his wife because, "I think they're putting a vegetable patch on the front lawn." 

Sometimes there is validation that my ways are not that odd, after all.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Diary of a Microfarmer: Reflections


As I sit here this morning, first cup of coffee consumed, toddler on my lap, and headache already forming, I can't help but feel a multitude of emotions. All at once, I feel inspired, and overwhelmed. Full of hope, yet discouraged and fearful. Brimming with potential possibilities, yet never enough. Inundated with the compassion and light of humankind, and at the same time, insidiously poisoned by it's darkness.

It is the force that drives me, and the force that confines me. 

I've always been oversensitive. Anxiety-ridden. Weird. Unable to truly function normally in this strange society we live in, yet painstakingly able to pass for normal. It takes a lot of effort, folks.

I've always been calmed by nature. It's simplicity, and it's complexity. It mirrors the organized chaos within me, somehow becoming a continuation of my being. At the risk of sounding cliche, I become one with nature. Now I make sense. I can breathe. I can function. 

This is why I farm. And no, I do not "own" a "real" farm. I practice it, like one would practice daily yoga, each day becoming more mindful and aware in subtle ways that will eventually make me more wise, and intuitive. One can become knowledgeable with facts, and research, but by putting things into practice, you glean the subtleties that become what make you good at what you do. 

I've come a long way in the past year. I have a long way to go yet. What is important, is that I keep going. No more bridge-burning, fueled by depression, fear, and doubt. 

A year ago, is when the pull started. The nagging pull of inspiration. The calling, if you will, that would not be ignored by my squelching practical thoughts and ideas of what I should be doing at this point in my life. 

It said, "Start an Alpaca farm! You'll be happy!"

To that, I replied, "Ummm... I have no land. I cannot do that. Obviously."

It said, "Turn your front lawn into a garden, then, and get some chickens! And Keep dreaming of an Alpaca farm!"

To that, I thought, "Hmmmm... I have enough land. I can do that. Clearly!"

I don't really hear voices, just for the record...

I said to Nick, "I can start a Microfarm, with Chickens and a garden, and Alpacas and it will be revolutionary!"

He replied, "Let's get everything ready to get chickens a year from now."

And I cried, "I NEED chicks NOW!"

And so it began. And evolved. And I do have a micro farm, with chickens for fresh eggs, a veggie patch in my front yard (which should be evolving further this year into several gardens), a fiber bunny, and a new ability to spin fiber into yarn, and a couple of dwarf dairy goats, along with my new ability to milk said goats. Oh, and a few ducklings.

I  gain an invaluable amount of health, but I do not make any money from this hobby. Yet. In fact, it is costly at times... which is why I must remain realistic about what I can do, and what I should do, and what needs to be done. Does that make sense? Does it really have to? I can tell you one thing. 

It makes me feel like me.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Dear Violet

Dear Violet,

I'm sorry for accusing you of of not really being pregnant. You see, when I brought you home last December, I was informed that you were due in March. My impatient mind interpreted that to mean the beginning of March.

I also looked for evidence of your pregnancy as the months passed. Feeling your sides, like a giddy mother-to-be, I just knew that I felt babies. This brand new goat owner did not realize, that you were probably just ruminating. Yes, that was digestion happening. Confirmed when I felt the same motions happening in Snowdrop, who was definitely not bred.

Your udder seemed to grow in late February. But it wasn't huge. So was I just hopefully imagining symptoms of kids to come? Meanwhile, your belly was not huge. Not getting any bigger... actually, it seemed smaller. Did you drop? Maybe there were no babies at all! Maybe there was just one little one in there?

You didn't look pregnant
Maybe just one baby in there???
 As the days passed, March continued to be very lion-like, and I grew somewhat despondent. What was I doing, anyway? Trying to raise three (human) kids, and acquiring bred goats who aren't even pregnant. I thought that, maybe I just didn't have the time to balance the responsibilities of farming with young children. Other homesteading moms can do it, but maybe not me.... it's so easy to get sucked into the downward spiral of fear and negative emotions...

But I WANTED to learn to milk a goat, and experience the birth of of kids. And I wanted it NOW!

I had to let go of that yearning for instant gratification. And when I did, BAM!!!

This is how your udder appeared on March 31. Let me reiterate that it was the very last day of the month that you were due to kid. Just so you can appreciate the irony. I wanted to laugh, and cry at the same time. Surely this was a good sign!

Thanks for not only waiting until the last day of March to have your baby, but going into labor on one of the coldest, windiest, sleetiest days ever. Funny. My muscles are still sore from being tensed up from the cold, and anticipation, as I helped you dry off your shivering kid. I also thought that I would have plenty of time to get my own kids settled before coming out to see yours being born. That was another joke. Because your little "Lightning Bolt" was fast!

In all seriousness Violet, you are the perfect first goat. You're been patient with me all along, and continue to be, as I learn with good intentions.

You are an experienced, and attentive mother. 

You let me learn to milk you, even though I still do not have a proper milking stand. That's a whole other post, though.

Thank you, for being such a good goat mentor. Yes, I know that goat mentors are usually people, but I seem to learn the best from you.

Okay, so I know you can't read all of this, so I'll probably just go out and give you some banana peels. You like those. You deserve them, because you make cute babies, and delicious milk!