How my "farm moments" changed me

May 27 | Guest post by Sharon Oakley

"I'm having a farm moment."

It's a sunny spring morning; the clothes are swaying on the clothesline. I'm freshly showered, wearing my bathrobe, sipping my coffee on the back steps, when the turkey tom decides it's time for some lovin'. Unfortunately he's decided to love on the injured hen — rather than a healthy one — whose biological drive seems to overpower her self-preservation instinct. I grab a badminton racket and run barefoot across the yard to swat the 45-pound Kentucky Bourbon Red tom off her, bathrobe flapping to reveal all. This is what I call a "farm moment." I've had a lot of them in the last three years, and know I have MANY more ahead of me.

These three acres we have are an accident. Due to high real estate prices in our area, buying a 1942 farmhouse outside of town was cheaper than renting a townhouse closer to work. When we bought the place I had no intention to farm, but I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle shortly after moving in, and it seemed criminal to have this property and not use it to produce food. Not to mention, we bought the house from the couple living next door and they actively farm 25 acres of fruits and vegetables. They adopted us immediately, and before I knew it I was discovering the joys (and sorrows) that come with living close to the land.

Since then I've had great farm moments. I've picked up chicks at the post office I can see from my driveway, nursed a wounded turkey back to health (using bovine antibiotics), seen turkey poults hatch under their mother, and so much more.

Culturally, rural life is a far cry from my middle-class suburban upbringing. I knew the kids in my neighborhood growing up, but there was always the expectation that we were to go off to college, travel, and make a life wherever our careers took us. In a farming community the opposite is true: "your people" matter. Living 3000 miles from where you were raised is suspicious, not admirable. This is where our "adoption" by our neighbors has mattered so much. Once the feed store knew that I worked with Bob and Susan on their farm, which has been in the family since the turn of the last century, they became more accepting.

At first I chaffed at this idea of community, but I am coming to accept it more and more. Having "family" to claim goes both ways — while mentioning that they're my "adopted" parents gives me credit, it's also a responsibility. If I do something untoward, it reflects on them.

This way of life still feels alien, but what constituted a farm moment three years ago no longer freaks me out. I struggle daily with the expectations of my upbringing and this accidentally-found passion for food production. Part of me desperately wants to travel; sure, I've been to China, but not Morocco. How can I be well-rounded if I stay in one place?

While we have made many changes to the house, the land and community that came with it have changed me so much more. My farm moments are little things really, but to me they are more. Each one binds me closer to this place and teaches me how to be closer to the earth and this community.

  1. I love this. I have been fervently reading about urban homesteading this week (veggies, bees and chickens/ducks are my current obsessions) and while we have no desire to aquire more land than we have and make a "farm", I foresee a lot of "farm moments" in my future too.

    I wonder how our very suburban neighbors will react?

    • You might be suprised. When my parents started keeping ducks in our suburban garden the nighbours loved it. A few thought they were going mad, imagining the quacking but when we assured them it was real they actually got to like it, said it made it seem like they were out in the countryside.

  2. I envy you. Where I live it's cheaper to buy in a city than to buy in the country. While I can buy a house with a quarter acre in the city for less than $150K, it would cost over a million to get just a couple of acres out in the country.

  3. I love the ambiance in this post. I remember a phone conversation with my sister, who runs a horse ranch, where she told me to hold on for a minute because she needed to yell over the tractor to tell her husband something. On the muffled line I hear her screaming over and over, "I'm going to town! I'm going to town!" That was when I realized how much she'd transitioned from our suburban childhood to her adult life as a person hours from a city and knee deep in chickens, tractors and farriers. It's a good life, and I have days where I want to sell everything and move to the middle of nowhere and have that life.

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  4. At my work we have turkeys, geese, ducks and even horses. They live in little enclaves between the concrete and brick buildings that form my work campus but the calmness, the richness of having space and other living creatures who wander through the same world opens your mind and heart in ways nothing else does. I envy you! :F

  5. "In a farming community the opposite is true: “your people” matter. Living 3000 miles from where you were raised is suspicious, not admirable."

    I never really thought about it before, but she's totally right–coming from a small town (and a massive farm), there's certainly that "belonging" to a community that you don't experience in the same way in urban areas. She's also very right, too, that it has its downsides–everyone knows who you are and what your business is, so if anything, good or bad, happens, everyone knows and it does reflect on your family's reputation.

    While I love it in the country, there's a part of me that does prefer urban living in that people aren't always poking in your business.

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  6. This is really a wonderful post! I've just moved into a rural community as well and it's a fun experience. We live "in town" on just a little over an acre but I really would love to get some chickens in addition to the garden i'm growing this summer. My dream is to raise bees.

    • Bees are amazing! If you can, find a beekeeping club in your area and check out their next meeting, they'll have tons of great resources and the members may be able to sell you your first nuc.

  7. My parents' friends are doing the chicken thing – just hens, no roosters. They bought a bunch of chicks and they run around the backyard during the day. They pick the bugs and weeds from the garden, and their er…um…chicken by-product fertilizes the garden as well. I told my parents this sounded like a chicken shit operation to me!

  8. Farm moments are my favourite! I inherited five acres just over the river and through the woods (literally) from town. We're raising goats, turkeys, geese, chickens, ducks, and about to start work on an orchard. If I could count the times I've had to get after a busybody goat…

  9. I spent a few years on a farm and I can say chickens are the best! I had three that were my pets, but I'll be damned if I remember their breeds. All three were really short, with feather-fluff on their feet. One, Banny, was blind and liked to sit on the couch with me and cuddle. He was a real sweetheart. Another, Yuki, was really clever and we played Hide and Seek. I'm not kidding, my chicken knew how to play. He would also fake an injury to win any game(I'd freak and go see if he was OK, and he'd get up like HAHA SUCKER and run). He was a complete cheater, so he won every time. :( My last chicken, Brutus, liked "chicken kung fu" I'd swing my leg and he'd hop over and kick at me. I'm pretty sure he meant to hurt me, but he only came up to my ankles so it wasn't a big deal. He was also good at stalking me across the field. When he would get caught, he'd instantly start pecking at the ground like he was SO busy doing anything other than stalking me, but the second I'd look away, little jerk would be creeping closer. Also, our feed store used to sell food-dye tinted baby chicks around Easter. I had about six little fluffballs to play with(and take care of) every year because that was the only time we bought chickens. They stayed rainbow for weeks!

    I didn't always like farm-living, but I miss those chickens SO much.

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