Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ten years!

It seems like it's only been a few years since I started my first chicks in the basement of our suburban Chicago home as we were waiting to close on the property that would become Antiquity Oaks, but as of yesterday, it's been ten years since we moved out here!

Back then, everyone thought we were crazy. When I told friends about our plans, they looked at me with scrunched up eyebrows and said, "Did you grow up on farm?" When I said, "No," they started to pepper me with questions like "Why are you doing this?" and "How are you going to know what to do?"

My father, who was still alive in 2002 said, "What do you want to do that for?" He clearly thought I'd lost my mind. He and my mother had left their farm and moved us to town when I was three years old. It's what smart, modern people did.

The above photo was taken in 2003. We had not made many changes at that point. We lived in the mobile home that was on the property when we bought it. We had put in a garden and a few fruit trees, but there was no chicken house and no picket fence across the front or buck pens in the pasture to the right of the barns.

We had four milk goats and a buck. We'd get our second buck in 2003, and he would turn out to be the best buck we've had to date, siring three of our best milkers. Unfortunately he'd only be with us for three years because we'd lose him to a copper deficiency that we didn't know was being caused by the sulfur in our well water.

We had two cows and our first two calves in 2003. There were no pigs or sheep yet, but we already had a nice poultry collection.

Although we never bought an egg again after we moved out here, it took a little longer to become self-reliant in the dairy department. Although we had four milk goats, I could only milk two of them, which gave us enough milk for our fluid milk needs and some chévre, yogurt, and goat milk soap. Today we make 17 different kinds of cheese.

We became vegetarians in 1989, and we had no intention of starting to eat meat when we came out here. Although today we eat the meat we grow, I am more committed than ever to not eating factory-farmed meat, so I still choose vegetarian options when eating in restaurants. Sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same.

In 2002, people thought we were crazy. Today, they think we're cool. Even people who are content living in the city and eating conventional food can understand why we do what we do. That represents a huge shift in the mindset of society.

Has it really been ten years . . .
. . . since I learned to milk a goat?
. . . since my children came running into the house with a shiny, wet egg that they joyfully proclaimed was "fresh from the butt!"
. . . since I learned to make chévre and yogurt and kefir?
. . . since I started the most amazing journey of my life!

It has been an incredible decade! We've done everything we set out to do and more. We learned to grow our own food and make things I never dreamed of, like gjetost. And it never crossed my mind that we would someday be making our own maple syrup. I didn't even know there were any maple trees on this property when we bought it. When someone asked ten years ago if I had any plans to raise pigs, I laughed and said no.

New picket fence on Antiquity Oaks in 2009;
we built the house in 2005.
Yes, it's a lot of work. Yes, it can be really dirty. And yes, there are days when you feel your heart breaking. But there are also those delicious times -- like eating the first fresh asparagus a moment after snapping its stem while still standing in the garden. And there are joyful times -- like watching a mama hen with her chicks or seeing a fuzzy lamb bounce across the pasture. And there are those times that are simply too miraculous and wonderful for our language to be able to express -- like watching a baby goat come into the world, take its first breaths, and lift itself up on wobbly legs to find its first meal with its mother.

We've learned so much! We've lived so much! And I'm looking forward to the next ten years on Antiquity Oaks!


The Weekend Homesteader said...

Congratulations! You should be so proud of your accomplishments.

Tombstone Livestock said...

Congratulations on staying on course and living your dream.

SkippyMom said...

Bravo for knowing what you wanted and going for it. Glad you had the successes to make it sustainable and the set backs and sorrows have been few and far between.

It really is a wonderful life.

And thank you for Skippy. :) She's my gal! And never fails to make me smile. I wanted to ask, does this make me a "grandma" now? Because at the rate my elder children are going it is going to be years before I have one of my own.

Take care Deborah and here's a tip of my juice that you have many a decade more!

Mary Ann said...

Congratulations to you and your family, Deborah... what a great accomplishment!

Michelle said...

Congratulations! May you have many, many, many more years! :)

erin @ blue yurt farms said...

LOVED this post -- we've just started our journey, and while we've had our own egg supply for about 6 months -- the dairy is taking a bit! Our first goat is due in early May, and maybe my husband will stop ranting about "those goats that don't DO anything!" :) Well, except get into lots and lots of trouble.

Really enjoyed your look back!

Patty said...

AWESOME post! It is so hard to convey all that living this way means, but you've done a great job of it. Here's to the next 10 years! :)


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