Sunday, February 6, 2011

Coming into Being

Winter is waning, and Spring is creeping in, and I can feel my energy beginning to build with the slow return of the light. The signs of Spring are everywhere - in my expectant does, my every-other-day egg from the hens and the snowdrops popping out of the ground overnight.

I'm so excited for this year's garden, and at the same time completely overwhelmed by the sheer scale of it and the amount of infrastructure that will be required to make it happen. The same is true for our massive chicken keeping upgrades - new coops, a giant brooder and lots of new equipment and feed to drain our energy and bank account - in the hope that someday we will see a return on our investments in the form of protein to feed our family and in being able to experience the simple joy of sharing our lives with animals.

The goats have snowballed well above and beyond any other project that we've undertaken at this farm so far. They've grown in number and are growing still faster than any other critter that we've ever raised. Their growth explosion is directly proportionate to the amount of money that they are costing us at the moment. Again, we are hoping to see this money again someday in the form of milk, cheese, stud fees, etc., but if we should not, will still be content with the experience and companionship that we've had with these guys and gals.

It's all a big gamble, but that has been true of farming since the beginning of time. Hold back a few seeds and, if you plant them at just the right time under just the right conditions, you will be rewarded with food. If you miscalculate or just have a run of rotten luck, you're done. You starve or you go broke. We are very fortunate that in this modern world and in our particular situation that the stakes aren't that high for us. But the pressure that I put on myself to fulfill my vision of feeding my family and animals with foods grown and made with my own hands does make this a venture at which I refuse to fail.

My Great-Grandmother, Erna, came to Olympia from Minnesota over 100 years ago and managed to coax the earth and animals to feed her and her family of 15. If she could do it back then, without antibiotics, electric fences and forced-air heat, why can't I do it now, in the same place as she, but with so many technological advantages at my disposal? Mostly because the knowledge of the old ways has been lost over the past two generations. They were seduced away from the way of life that had been for millennia by the convenience of tv dinners, disposable diapers, housing developments and corporations promising them better lives through technology, effectively infantilizing us all in terms of being able to care for ourselves in a very basic, off-the-prepackaged-teat sort of way. It's pretty depressing when you think about how the past century's technological advances have simultaneously saved our lives in the short term, while sending us down a doomed path strewn with chemical residues and yesterday's plastic. The very most basic skills for human survival, accumulated and passed down since the beginning of mankind were lost in a blink. I mean to get them back.

I want to make this life work for my children and theirs, and for my city and my own peace of mind, but I also want to make it work for her, Erna. Her first hand knowledge may be lost to me, but I feel her spirit when I gather the eggs and pick my tomatoes. :)


  1. I love this. You are a great writer. I look forward to reading your posts.
    Love, Mom J.

  2. My Great Grandmother was a farmer. They raised chickens, grew lots of crops & sold their wears in the local farmers market. She passed when I was about 4 years old and yet I remember her well. I like to think that her farming spirit lives on thru me, too, and my desire to grow our own produce and someday (hopefully!) raise animals as well. Kudos to you Chelle and your family, for keeping this dream and way of life alive. Your kids WILL benefit from it, as they already have. Erna is proud of you!

  3. I love reading anything you write. "... while sending us down a doomed path strewn with chemical residues and yesterday's plastic". I like that line. = )