Post by contributor, Marissa Froese
We all have dreams, big ones and small ones. One of my big dreams has been to have a little farm with a milk cow, chickens, horses, and pigs. Oh, and a beautiful flower and vegetable garden.
I long ago discovered that the realization of dreams usually entail a lot of work. My dream is no exception, and sometimes I look back with fondness at the time when my dreams were free and only required my imagination, Pinterest, or a google search. Especially as I slog through thick muck on a dark, rainy night to bring the milk cow from the forest to the pasture.
I recently read a post from Gnowfglins where the writer, Jenny Cazzola, shares four things that she wishes she had known when she started rural homesteading.
Our desire to homestead stemmed largely from our love of real food and simple living. I can recall the day the idea first took hold in my mind. I was in bed with a cold, propped up on pillows reading about Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in Bon Appetit magazine. I remember thinking “What an amazing concept. I want to do this.” (read the rest of the article here)
I think that many of us who have ventured into this new territory of old living have quite similar stories to tell. Dan and I have the benefit of having grown up in farming/ranching communities and our families were actively part of that lifestyle. Even with that, there is so much we don’t know in this venture, so many mistakes to make. There are a lot of things that I wish I had known.
As a contributing writer at Red&Honey, I very much share in the Real Food philosophy. Currently our freezer is almost entirely filled with our own beef, chicken from a trade with friends, and produce from our garden or from local growers (some of which we picked ourselves). We are proud of the quality of food and we are so very, very thankful.
I want our family to be nourished by real, healthy food from healthy, humane sources. Farming/ranching/gardening isn’t for everyone, either by choice or option, but for me, I want to eat right from our own yard and I want our children to know where their food comes from, as the work of their own hands. However, we are also personally aware of the cost.
Choosing to raise our own food comes with many benefits that are worth it but it also requires giving up some things, making hard choices, and frankly, a lot of hard work. It’s easy to share pictures that are tinted with the haze of the morning sun or the lifting mist. Children with happy smiles, dirty feet, and faces from digging carrots out of the garden are good salespeople without saying a word. It’s not quite so easy to romanticize a sick cow, rows of seeds rotting in the ground for the second or third time due to spring rains, or an entire flock of chickens wiped out by a hungry fox.
When my free-roaming pastured chickens destroy all of my squash and pumpkins along with my carefully tended herbs, I might make a joke and see the bright side but it’s also wearying. It’s really hard to say that you messed up, that you don’t know what you are doing, or that you have a lot to learn. Sometimes you have to realize that something just isn’t a good fit for you and take the humbling step to let it go.
Also, my money tree never produces so we keep needing to find the pennies elsewhere to build barns, fences, and a new chicken tractor that will keep those marauding chickens out of the gardens while still allowing them to be pastured. And my, do those pennies add up. Sometimes they just can’t be found and so the barn doesn’t get built and the fence has to wait. It’s hard to take the dream and cut it into bite-sized pieces that get chewed slowly, one bite by ever-slowly-moving bite.
Still, even amidst the dollar stretching, the replanting, and frustrating waiting, it’s all been worth it. Yes, even my destructive chickens are worth it.
I have my times of bone aching weariness and heart tired longings for something a little easier. I honestly have no idea if we’ll be doing this twenty years from now, though I think we will. I do know that when I trudge through the muck to move the cows, somehow I feel alive. Like this is the life that I’ve been given to live and it’s good.
It’s become about so much more than raising food; it’s become about nourishing my soul.