This post is from contributing writer Mary Voogt of Just Take A Bite.
I grew up in the suburbs. Neighbors twenty feet away on all sides. Eating the typical standard American diet. It was all I knew.
Then I got married. My husband grew up on a farm and couldn’t even fathom the idea of a vegetable out of a can. So once we bought a house we started our own little garden. I began learning how to can and freeze to preserve our homegrown food for the winter. I’ve always loved to cook and bake, so making things from scratch was just fine with me.
We did our best to eat well (or what we thought was eating well – still low fat, mostly SAD) and grow some of our own food. Then in 2009, when my first child was one, I stumbled across the book Nourishing Traditions. And my views on food did a 180. I did a pretty big overhaul of our diet. And it’s been a learning process ever since. Almost ten years of baby steps!
Need More Baby Steps?
Here at Kitchen Stewardship, we’ve always been all about the baby steps. But if you’re just starting your real food and natural living journey, sifting through all that we’ve shared here over the years can be totally overwhelming.
That’s why we took the best 10 rookie “Monday Missions” that used to post once a week and got them all spruced up to send to your inbox – once a week on Mondays, so you can learn to be a kitchen steward one baby step at a time, in a doable sequence.
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The Farm is Calling
As I gained more knowledge (and even started my own blog about real food) I realized that I wanted to be more self-sustaining. I wanted to go back to the way my husband grew up. Back to the way my grandparents lived.
In 2015 we started to search for the perfect little farm. It was a year long process. And in spite of our best efforts to buy other houses, God led us right where He wanted us to be. I couldn’t have asked for anything better! In December of 2016 (in a blizzard!) we moved to a ten acre hobby farm with a barn and a small orchard of about eighty apple trees. We have a good size garden where we grow as much of our own produce as possible. In the spring we’ll be planting peach and pear trees as well.
We currently have ten chickens that we raise for eggs (and fun!) and of course a few barn cats. Our hope is to eventually get other animals (pigs? cows? goats?) inspired by fellow contributor Lori who has raised animals humanely. But all in good time. We are welcoming a new baby to the family this spring. So a new animal will have to wait another year.
We’ve been on our farm one year now. And I must admit it’s pretty awesome. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
From a non-country girl, here are some things I’ve learned about farm life over the last year.
Living on a farm is a lot of work!
I don’t know about you, but when I visit a farm it’s like stepping into a dream world. I think how awesome it would be to grow and raise everything myself. To not have to rely on the grocery store every week. It just makes me feel happy. Now that I live on a farm, I realize there is so much work that goes into making a farm run! And we don’t even have a full-fledged farm yet.
There are chores to be done every day. Lots of food preservation. Simply keeping the inside of the house clean as all the dirt is brought in is quite a task. There is never a chance to get bored. Farm work is very fulfilling, but if you’re not up for the challenge, a farm may not be for you.
A farm costs a lot of money.
The most surprising part of farm life for me has been the cost. At least the upfront cost. We’ve only been here a year, so there is still a lot of updating to be done. Both inside and outside the house. Since we’ve been here we’ve put in a new driveway, culverts, insulation, propane, new windows, gutters, washer, dryer, refrigerator and more!
Before we can get any more animals we have a huge pasture that needs new fencing. Our barn could use some updates (it’s probably about 100 years old). Our orchard is in serious need of pruning to make the trees more productive.
Simply keeping up with the cost of animal feed is a big undertaking. Especially if you want quality, organic feed. It’s expensive!
Once the farm is up and running the costs do go down some. But up front, there is a lot of money that goes into making a farm work.
There are so many opportunities to teach kids.
As a homeschooling mom, I love any opportunity we have to learn. Especially when it’s part of our daily lives. Over the past year, my kids have learned so much about creation, stewardship, God, quality food and keeping their bodies healthy.
Last year we studied land animals in science. This year we are studying human anatomy. Combine those with farm life and you have a lot of great discussions about how our food impacts our bodies and how we are to care for God’s creation.
Next year we are looking forward to studying botany so we can understand more about all the fruits and veggies we grow.
A farm is also a great place to learn about the life cycle. The kids have seen kittens that are only hours old. They have also seen some of those kittens not survive for more than a few weeks. We’ve had to deal with a hawk trying to kill our chickens (thankfully we were able to stop it!).
Whether you homeschool or not, I can’t think of a better place to learn about God’s creation!
Develop a new appreciation for farmers and well-raised food.
Knowing how hard it is to raise good quality food, we have all developed a deeper appreciation for what we eat. Cauliflower is not just cauliflower. It’s planting, weeding, watering, picking and preparing. An egg is not just an egg. It’s daily care for a chicken.
We are not just thankful for the food we grow ourselves but for the amazing local farmers that we support. I don’t take it for granted that we can purchase grass-fed beef from a farmer one street away or that we can be part of an organic CSA just down the road. I love knowing that our money is supporting other farmers with a common mission.
You have to drive everywhere.
One of the downsides to farm life is living far away from everything. I love the peace and quiet. But I also don’t love a half hour drive everywhere. I try to keep doctor appointments and grocery trips to a minimum. But our kids are involved in a lot of activities. So we do have to spend quite a bit of time on the road.
There is really no need to leave home!
Since the drive is so long and we have so much space, I love staying home!
There is no need to go to a playground. We have a playset and sandbox. And the kids can explore all day long.
There is no need to go camping. We can build a bonfire and camp in our own yard (though my husband still does love to go camping).
We’ve got plenty of activities right here at home. I love that other people like to visit us! I’m such a homebody. And can go for days on end without leaving the farm. I do enjoy having visitors and watching friends come and explore.
Kids learn how to work.
Growing up I didn’t have any assigned chores or family duties. My mom pretty much did everything. I know she was working hard to keep us happy and healthy. But it was a disservice to not give us responsibilities.
I am fortunate that two of my kids love to work. I mean, love it. They are always wanting to help. And I want to foster that desire. We are a family. Not simply parents and children. We all work together and contribute.
Every day my son feeds the chickens and cats and collects eggs. In the fall we all chip in with apple picking. Everyone participates in the gardening. The kids help in the house as well with cleaning, unloading the dishwasher. putting away laundry, etc. And of course, they help with cooking! With so much work to do on the farm, everyone has to do their part.
My desire is to teach my kids to find joy in working. They may not always want to do the work. But they can do it with a good attitude.
One of the best parts of farm life for me is the freedom it gives. I know that even if I don’t get to the store for a few weeks we still have food from our garden and from local farms that we preserved to keep us going. My hope is to become more and more self-sustaining over time.
There is also a feeling of freedom from the chaos and busy pace of life. My kids aren’t constantly stimulated by noises and activities. They get to play and explore without distractions. Especially with homeschooling we can slow down and go at our own pace.
Keep learning as an adult.
I tend to focus on my children. What can I say, I’m a mom! But I must admit that I’ve been learning just as much as my children by living on a farm. In one year I’ve learned so much about raising animals and growing food. My husband has helped push me out of my comfort zone and start helping with duties I never thought I could.
I love that I get to keep learning right along with my children. We are in this together. My goal this year is to research how to maintain a chemical free orchard. We were so blessed this past fall to invite lots of friends over to pick from our orchard, knowing that the apples had not been sprayed at all. It brought me such joy to share this good gift of God’s creation with others.
I never want to stop learning. And I don’t think I ever will here.
Dependence on family.
Living out in the country fosters a deep dependence on family. Although we do have neighbors not too far away, we still do pretty much everything ourselves. I love how our family works as a team and everyone takes part in just about everything we do.
I know I can count on my husband and my children if I need help with anything. And we love spending time together. My kids are best friends and will happily explore together for hours outside.
We are a team. Everyone chips in.
Farms are dirty!
I had to throw this one in here. It’s something a lot of people overlook. Farms are DIRTY. Farm work is dirty. Even a farmhouse is dirty. Our entryway goes from the garage directly into the kitchen. I have pretty much given up on trying to clean the kitchen floor. The doorway is usually covered in dirt, hay and whatever else the kids (and hubby) bring in.
One of the next big projects on our to-do list (see item number 1 above) is to redo our mud room…so that the door from the garage actually leads there instead of the kitchen. Maybe it will help cut down on how much dirt is brought in.
If you don’t like to clean, farm life may not be for you. My kids always come in covered in dirt. There is a lot of hand washing going on from working with animals. I rarely go outside in anything but muck boots! When it comes to living on a farm, you really have to embrace the dirt.
Living My Farm Dream
Our whole family has learned a lot over the past year. We’ve had to work together on projects big and small. We’ve seen God’s creation blossom and flourish in front of our eyes. It has become very apparent that we have a long way to go as a society to become good stewards. So we are doing our part to care for it.
Farm life is not a glamorous life. But it is my dream life. And I am so thankful this girl from the suburbs is now a farmer. One year down. Hopefully many, many more to go!
The next time you visit your local farmer’s market or a farmer, be sure to thank them for the hard work they do!