Growing, fertilizing and raising the dreams

It’s amazing how a few acres of your own can inspire all kinds of dreams and fertilize all kinds of plans and ideas.

I grew up country, always lived in the country except for one ill-advised move to the city which did not last long. Once you’re used to the quiet, clean, wide-open spaces of the countryside, it’s very, very difficult to move into a loud, congested, dirty, bright city. Even if that “city” is really a small midwestern town and you’re living on the edge of it. I tried it once and will never, ever do it again.

The dreams get bigger when the dirt you stand on and dig around in is your own. And the funny thing about those dreams, they aren’t static, they constantly change and expand as you slowly make progress on the existing dreams.

It’s taken four years just to get the land into a cleared, more healthy state. It is really starting to thrive now that I’ve removed the “junk” trees and weeds and given the native grasses and wildflowers a chance to flourish. And I’ve done it all by hand. That’s hard, satisfying work right there! But when you sweat and bleed (and sometimes bawl your eyes out) on the land you’re working, it really, truly does become part of who you are.

I have horses, chickens, goats, meat rabbits, dogs and cats right now. The horses were my number one reason for buying my own piece of the dream. I’ve always had horses and always dreamed of being able to have them in my backyard as I did growing up.

So far I’ve raised and butchered two hogs, a couple of turkeys, a few Pekin ducks and a slew of broiler chickens. We have one doe that is hopefully bred so we’ll be adding rabbit to the freezer in a few months. This coming spring I’m going to get more turkeys, more broilers and I’d really like to try a few pheasants to put up in the freezer. Never, never again will I raise ducks. They are nasty little beasts. Did you know ducks poop every 5 to 7 minutes? Nastiness!

One of these years I’ll have bee hives too, to go with the goat milk I don’t have quite yet. I’m planning to breed the girls (Margarita and Willow, both Nubian/Boer crosses) early this winter. And maybe some sheep. Definitely a cow or two and another hog.

I have a very small orchard – cherry, peach and pear – and a garden plot I’d like to nearly double in the spring.

My ultimate goal is to get 90% of the food I feed my family from my own land. There is something incredibly satisfying from making a meal from the things you’ve raised or grown. I love sharing my bounty with friends and co-workers and hearing them exclaim over the bright orangish-yellow yolks from the eggs of my free-range chickens or the vibrant, flavorful taste from warm, garden-fresh tomatoes or canteloupe.

I’ve done some canning in the past so that will be a whole new experience for me when I am faced with bushels of green beans to preserve. I’ve never made goat cheese or yogurt or soap, but I’m eager to try it. I’ve never, ever been around a beehive, much less collected honey, but I’m excited and ready to give it my best shot.

I’ve never butchered an animal entirely by myself (excluding fish, I can clean those all day long). I’ve always had help or shipped the freezer-bound critter to the butcher so they can do the deed. This is a task I need to learn how to do but I’m not terribly excited about doing it.

This is a long-term journey and I’m sure I’ll screw up many, many times along the way. I might even cry.

And there will always be beer..which reminds me, homebrew is on my list of “to-dos” too!

Life is good!

Jenn

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