She introduced me to this writer, Wendell Berry and some of his philosophies. I have just ordered two of his books, The Unsettling of America and The Art of the Commonplace and I cannot wait to read them! Kirsten and Mr. Berry have made me think about what we're doing here on our 30 acres at Freedom Farm. It has caused me to step back and evaluate and make a few goals for this bountiful blessing of land God has given us.
My instinct is to want to have a property that looks good on the surface- always mowed, clean cut, almost manicured. There's a part of me that drives around the countryside and sees people's yards, and thinks, why don't they get control of their weeds? what is up with letting their grass get that tall? A lot of times it seems on the surface like out in the country people just let things go and don't care like city people do. And sometimes of course that is the case. But the thing we all must decide is our purpose. Many times, if all you want is a pretty yard with few weeds, you will end up spraying chemicals that seep into the ground and damage the soil. You will pay exorbitant amounts for someone else to care for the lawn and make it look like everyone else's lawn in the neighborhood. You will think short term about your plot of land and only think about how you want it to look while you're there, with no thought to future generations and the soil you are leaving them to work with. This is the soil their food will be grown in. This is the water table they will be drinking from. Is it worth damaging it for future generations so that your lawn can be as attractive as your neighbor's?
These are some of the questions we are asking ourselves. We are also asking ourselves how we can make the soil on our property better for future gardens. This first year, the soil we are working with is pretty bad. It's the hard red clay that has very little drainage and very little organic matter. We moved in in November and started throwing compost and chicken poop on it, then Brian tilled in a bunch of composted leaves, but it only helped so much. We have to think about how to build the organic level and improve the soil so that future gardens will be more productive, both while we live here and when future generations are using this land.
Our main purpose this year with our garden and farm animals is to educate ourselves and our children. This year is our "learning year". We are learning what works and what doesn't in the garden. We are learning how to care for our goats and use their milk. We are learning how to care for our chickens and use their eggs. We are learning about wild herbs and what's on our land and how we can understand it and utilize everything on it. We are learning about springs and streams and the ecology of our pond and what grows in it. We are learning about the water table. About wild animals and the food chain and how to keep predators away from our animals. We are learning learning learning all the time. So we are okay if this year we don't sell produce from our farm at the local farmer's market, although one day we would like to. We are okay with not making money off our goats and their milk or our hens and their eggs, although one day we would like to. First we must understand our land and learn how to steward the soil. We must understand ourselves the nutritional value of goat's milk and organic free range eggs before we can educate others and bless them with the fruits of our labor. So for now, the main thing we are doing at Freedom Farm is learning and formulating our own farming philosophies.
Another purpose is the training and disciplining of our children. Every morning and evening, there are farm chores. Most of the time for the morning chores, Allie (12) and Maggie (about to be 6) go out to feed and milk the two momma goats, April and Aries. We have recently weaned them from their babies, so they are giving us about a gallon of milk per day between the two of them. This takes a lot of time. I wrap Bethany up and take the younger children (Penelope, 4; Rosemary, 3; Samuel, almost 2) with me to take out the compost, and feed and water the chickens and gather eggs. Then we all go to the garden for about an hour to hoe up the weeds, water, etc. They have a section of the garden that's just dirt that they can "work" in with shovels while Allie and I really do work. Sometimes I send the littles to the side flower bed to pull up weeds. :) This is really just to keep the weeds from taking over the house. This year our main concentration is the garden, not the flower beds around the house. We can't do it all!
In the evening, usually Brian and Allie go to feed the animals and milk the goats, but sometimes I'm fortunate enough to be the one going with her. I love it when I get to go, especially when it's at sunset. :) I have so enjoyed watching Allie learn this process. She is tough as nails!! She can use power tools like a BOSS.
She can also drive a tractor. The other night she got the four wheeler stuck in the mud, and she used the tractor to pull it out. All by herself. She has also learned all the wild plants and herbs available in the pasture and which ones the goats like best. I have learned from her that we have tons of wild blackberries and plantain and clover. See why we can't cut this stuff? The goats need it to graze on, and we need it to learn and use.
This will be blackberries soon!
Goat grazing food
We are growing herbs and learning all the ways we can use them culinarily and medicinally. We are growing roses!! YAY! I expect a rosebud any day from this one:
Anyone else out there have goals for their farm, land, home, or property? I would love to hear about them. :)