‘Did you grow up this way?’
I laughed, loudly, and then immediately apologized for appearing rude. But the truth is, anyone who knows me from childhood, college or, heck, four years ago would never picture me living on or anywhere near a farm. But as I walked around our property showing my friend’s family our sheep, chickens, ducks, turkeys and pics of our Nigerian dwarf goats being weaned by the breeder, it hit me. Guess it’s time to start actually calling our homestead a ‘farm.’
I was raised in Boca Raton, Florida. Where every neighborhood is gated and restaurants have a dress code. Yards are picturesque, featuring a pool, palm trees and typically some sort of service to keep them looking pretty. Today my husband and I are bringing our three kids up on a little over 30 acres in Ohio. There is a pond, barn, stables, creek and acres of woods with wildlife.
We are ‘farmers’ by choice. He works full time in finance and I’m a freelance copywriter when I’m not shuffling around our six, four and two year old. Some people think we are certifiably insane for taking on this venture with jobs and littles, but to us it’s quite an adventure. That being said, once visitors learn we are new to this life the next question that follows is: how’d you learn to do all this?
We read a ton of dirty books. If it’s got something to do with chickens, livestock or sustainable living we’ve probably read it. That is step one and an ongoing step as we add more birds, goats and troubleshot along the way. Just like we did in undergrad, we highlight and dog-ear important content for a quick reference.
We get our hands dirty. Nick and I have fixed up more than six homes both pre- and with kids. Our latest reno was a ‘chixer’ upper. Renovating an old coop that came with our property. We feed, water, sweep, clean, turn heat lamps on/off every morning/night. Can you mix six-week old chics with teenage chickens? Nope. We tried and had to reconfigure their whole set up later that night. Point being, no one is holding our hands. We learn as we go.
We call in the pros. After reading about and watching videos on shearing sheep, Nick ordered the gear and gave it a shot. It’s much harder than it looks but hey, he tried. I then joined an agriculture site that gave me access to local shearers. Ours not only drove two hours but he also walked us through the process as he took off eight pounds of wool per sheep. His wife politely added, ‘don’t feel bad, he’s been doing this since he was nine.’
We get social. While the life we are trying to lead is more grassroots, Facebook and Instagram have helped connect us to a community of families living just like ours. Backyard Chickens gave us ideas for our coop and outdoor run. A goat farmer I met via Insta helped me find a breeder in Ohio. There’s even a FB group just for chicken farmers in Northeast Ohio to ask questions and share stories. Farmers genuinely like to support their neighbors.
‘We’…that’s a biggie. In life but especially in farm life. Whether we are physically together or dividing and conquering the chore list, lacrosse practice, soccer games, swimming and homework, we can’t do any of this alone. It’s something we’ve struggled with but are getting better as we swap roles so that we can appreciate the different hats we both wear.
This year our Christmas card featured one of our sheep, Black Widow. I had a handful of friends ask if she was ‘fake’ or ‘superimposed’ into the photo. Someone recently said it’s ‘hard to picture’ when he found out we live on a farm and care for our animals and property. Truth be told it IS hard to believe how much our lives have changed in the last year.
We started with two sheep. This spring we bought 12 chickens, then added four more, plus two turkeys. We located a near-by breeder and, after several months on the wait list, got a call that our girls will be ready to come home in June. Then my husband ran an errand with our youngest and gave in to his tantrum for six ducklings.
But I think we all have a little hatchling inside us. An idea that we’ve been sitting on, waiting to try. Sometimes it just takes the right person or perspective to break us out of that shell.