After 8 years wanting to have a small farm I began making steps toward achieving it by rearranging my life. I had stayed home since 2003 with my two daughters while my husband had worked.
I slowly began to creep back into the idea of working. My degree in communications wasn’t getting me anywhere because I couldn’t work full-time or didn’t have recent experience despite my years working for two newspapers and freelance.
Instead I went to school to get certified as a nursing assistant so I would always be able to get a job. My first two jobs back to work were CNA positions which at times were difficult physically and emotionally. I did in-home care first and then worked at a facility with memory loss clients. I was paying hundreds for my portion of childcare and bringing home very little money in the end. It was really depressing and I ended up quitting. Things worked out when I got a job somewhat in my field doing data entry and then more writing and communications work. I got laid off and made little from unemployment.
After getting divorced I was living alone with my two daughters. They have known and been excited about moving for the past several months not just because of getting peacocks but to have baby chicks and space to run around and grow things.
When I thought I had to move into an apartment at first I gave away my rooster and his mate who were meat birds. When my 8-year-old saw me loading the two chickens in the back of someone’s truck she lost it and started crying in the driveway. I started crying too thinking I was doing something wrong even though I was giving them a new home and I knew in the future we would be able to have another rooster.
My daughter cried not for the actual rooster being given away but for what he represented. He represented new life and baby chicks. A couple of days later she was able to look forward to the time when we would have another rooster and baby chicks again.
Although the girls and I love our neighborhood and neighbors I began the process of getting them ready for moving so they wouldn’t be in shock. Now that it is past Spring (my original goal for moving) it seems like we are overdue. Technically Summer isn’t until June 21 but to a 4-year-old it is Summer now.
Living on an acre or more and being more self-sufficient has been my dream for about 8 years. Previous to that I think that my life kept leading me in this direction. My first two jobs were at plant nurseries and then after getting my communications degree I also took gardening classes as well as a few horticulture classes at the community college. I thought I could combine my writing with my passion for plants.
The first newspaper I worked at I did get to do some of that but my day was varied. I would interview a pastor in the morning and track a cougar with someone from Fish and Wildlife by looking for it’s poop later in the day.
My second job was writing a bit of everything but I was in wine country in Oregon and had to cover that sector which was fascinating despite my lack of knowledge at first. Also frustrating was being offered expensive pinot noirs and not being able to accept them (against company policy/might sway the article). There were several winemakers who were so kind and explained how they tell when the grapes are done and how they manage for pests and their philosophy on winemaking in general.
Meanwhile grass seed was being grown and farmers were frustrated at the geese coming to eat it off their land. There would be a certain pest that could destroy a whole crop of fruit in one year and leave the farmer financially and emotionally decimated. I learned about the fish in the rivers, how the Native Americans survived in the area and what they ate. My head was and is filled with lots of pieces of information that are mostly useless but sometimes interesting and can come in handy.
I asked question after question to learn more about different crops and animals for an article but also for my own interest. The knowledge stuck with me.
Going to the farmer’s market one weekend that I had done some publicity for to get people there, I saw a man unload boxes of peaches off his truck. There may have been some ooohs and ahhhs as he sold them to several people in line at his table with a smile. The fruit trees produce the peaches sure but he was part of it and part of giving others someone healthy and miraculous to eat.
It was that moment that I realized I wanted to be able to do that. I wanted to be able to help people by getting them healthy food that they know was grown or raised in the right way.
Before I raised my own chickens to eat I had to make sure I could process them correctly and humanely while not being bothered. I volunteered at a nearby farm in exchange for two complementary chickens each harvest time or one turkey. I got comfortable and familiar with the process and brought home good food to eat. My daughters loved the pasture raised chicken and the turkey we had for Thanksgiving was the juiciest and best anyone had tasted. The animals were all raised with compassion.
From my apartment deck in Portland to my little backyard at our first house the second house was larger with a big backyard. After planting in raised beds and raising 25 meat birds to sell to friends and family I had maxed out. I had 20 laying hens and sold eggs and we ate very well. I needed more room. I needed a farm.
Sustainability is the word tossed about in terms of building, farming, clothing and more lately.
Sustainability is in general terms the capacity to endure.
Being sustainable means keeping diversity while being productive over time. In my mind it also means that you are within your own circle of well-being.
Besides affecting the environment as part of a sustainable farm there are also other keys like being in balance/managing resources, remaining healthy and satisfying needs.
When living on the earth you engage in an interdependent relationship so enhancing each other is key. If one element gets off balance then it doesn’t work. Using what you have where you are and keeping the wheel turning so that everyone benefits including the soil, consumers, farmers, and animals.
There is a Sustainable Meat article featuring Joel Salatin of interest here.