Monday, April 11, 2011

Nine years ago

On April 10, 2002, my professor husband and our three children, then 9, 12, and 14, pulled into the driveway of the place we have now called home for nine years. When speaking at conferences, one thing that keeps coming up is that people today don't know how to do all the things we do out here. Well, here's a little secret -- nine years ago, we didn't know any of this stuff either!

Our entire goat herd in 2002. Star (left), my first milk goat,
is still with us at age 12.
Nine years ago, I bought goats because I liked goat cheese. I had no idea that you could make a multitude of cheeses with goat milk beyond the simple chevre that many generically call "goat cheese." I didn't know how simple or difficult it was to make any kind of cheese, but I knew that people had been doing it for thousands of years, so I figured I could learn to do it, too.

Nine years ago, our gardening success amounted to a few tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, and lettuce in our suburban Chicago backyard. But I saw no reason why we couldn't grow most of our vegetables.

Nine years ago, the only homegrown fruit I'd ever eaten were cherries from our Nanking cherry bushes, although we had certainly planted a variety of fruit trees and brambles in our suburban backyard. They all died, but I wanted to try again.

Nine years ago, our livestock consisted of two cats and a poodle. But I figured that goats, cattle, and chickens couldn't be that much harder. Right?

One of our first buff Orpington hens at 3 months.
Nine years ago, I wanted my poultry to be completely free to go wherever they wanted, which meant no fences. I didn't know that chickens love fresh tomatoes and geese love baby lettuce. I ultimately decided that maybe a fence around the garden was not a bad thing.

Nine years ago, we thought the old fence around the east pasture was "good enough" to keep Katherine's horse at home. Then we learned -- again and again -- that if the words "good enough" ever pass our lips, it's not really good enough to do the job. Fences and gates have to be excellent -- period -- or you'll find yourself retrieving animals from all over the countryside.

Nine years ago, I'd never seen a goat give birth or a chicken hatch from an egg. I'd never made cheese or soap. I'd never sheared a sheep or spun yarn from wool. I'd never plucked a chicken.

Katherine, age 10, assisting at our first goat birth in 2003.
Nine years ago, my children didn't know real responsibility. None of us had a real reason to get out of bed in the morning. No one really depended upon us for their lives and well-being. We didn't even depend upon ourselves for much of anything. (Corporate America took care of our needs.)

But nine years ago, we also didn't realize that pain and joy are two inseparable sides of the same coin. Life is not perfect. It never has been, even though advertisers would have us believe that we can have everything we want, just the way we want it. After all, "you deserve a break today!" (and tomorrow and the next day and . . . )

In the last nine years, we've learned that the most joyful goat births are those that were the most difficult, but somehow we managed to get through them with live babies. We've learned that we sleep best after a long, hard day of work outside. We've learned to appreciate eating seasonally. We've learned that joy isn't one big destination like Disney World. Joy is all around us, every day. It's in the bouncing of a baby goat, the taste of a stalk of asparagus eaten in the garden, the chirping of a chick trying to hatch itself, the heavenly feel of wool from a sheep that you know personally, the smell of a stew hen cooking on the stove all day.

Nine years ago, I knew I had a lot to learn. I expected to eat healthier, get more exercise, and have fun. But I had no idea how much richer our lives would be after we moved to Antiquity Oaks.


Chris McLaughlin (@Suburban_Farmer) said...

Fabulous post.

I've lived on a small (really small) farm and we learned some of the same things that you did. 13 years ago we moved back to the suburbs...and in June we'll be back on a small (really small) farm. You post reminded me of just how my heart is going to feel pulling up to Hawk Hill in June. :D

Nancy K. said...

what an incredibly beautiful post, deborah! thank you for sharing the joys and the sorrows, as well as the lessons learned, with all of us during the last nine years.


Jordana said...

Beautiful and perfectly said.

SkippyMom said...

Your sense of accomplishment, happiness and pride truly comes through on this post. As well it should.

Congratulations - and hope you have many, many, more.

Spiderjohn said...

Your contentment is evident.

Michelle said...

Happy Anniversary to all of you!

Brownie said...

exellent post - you've accomplished a lot in 9 years.

I'm still trying to get a garden in!

Vegetable Garden Cook said...

Happy anniversary!

Michelle said...

Ooooh...I want! Great post...I wish more people could do what you do!

WorkingGoats4 said...

Wonderful post Deborah!! And I loved the old pictures you posted -- nice to take a look back into "history" to see how you guys got your start! :)

- WorkingGoats4

Oxray Farm said...

Wonderful post!


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