It’s just 13 acres in the middle of the Midwest: An unremarkable house, a chicken coop, a couple of run-in sheds, a creek and pond, pastures and woods . Nothing spectacular, nothing extraordinary, it’s not even particularly breathtaking, but it is mine.
Five years ago I found a piece of property which, at the time, had been sorely neglected and a bit abused by the previous owners. They were desperate to sell and had obviously never really cared for or tended to the land with any kind of pride. The fields were over my head with weeds: Curly dock, ragweed, goldenrod, wild sunflowers accented by a few patches of sad-looking grass. I found a long-abandoned dump in the woods and as I worked my way through the pastures I found random piles of crap and garbage. The rusty barbed-wire fence was over grown and often entirely hidden by wild roses and brambles. Ironwood trees twined themselves through the wire and seemed to devour the fence. The endless patches of blackberry brambles defied my every effort to trim and tame them into submission as they ripped at my arms and legs and left thorny barbs in my face. I wanted them gone, needed them gone, but at the same time felt all kinds of guilt for destroying plants that produced such delicious berries. I left a few clumps here and there, snuggled up against the woods where they bloom beautiful white flowers that become sweet, juicy berries in mid-summer. If you can beat the birds to them, of course.
It was a hot, sunny, sweltering August day, just a few weeks after I’d moved in and I was again outside battling the brambles. I think best when I’m outside doing hard labor, and sweating profusely. My mind wanders as my body works, a nice disconnect that I find relaxing. I was thinking about my farm, my dream, a home that I had already fallen deeply in love with, flaws, garbage and all.
Farms have names. They have personalities and quirks. My farm still didn’t have a name and that bothered me. Things you love have to have names, including the land you live on. As I cut and chopped and battled through that patch of brambles, my arms bleeding from the thorns through the long-sleeved shirt, I suddenly knew the name of my farm. I had considered, and rejected, many names as not quite right: Too fluffy, too trite, too common.
But this one fit. It was right and I knew as soon as the name formed in my head that it could have no other.
Yeah. That’s it. It’s perfect. Just perfect.
An hour later I quit battling the brambles for the day and hauled a load of thorny canes to the steadily growing burn pile. I peeled out of the torn, bloody, sweat-soaked shirt, pulled on a tank top and cut-offs, popped open a cold beer and sat on my deck.
I looked out over my land, land that still needed a lot of work, a lot of sweat and blood, but land that now had a name and an identity just as I had a vision for what I’d like to see those overgrown, neglected acres to one day become.
My home. My sanctuary. My paradise. Blackberry brambles and all.