Our hobby farm is constantly evolving. There is constant change. That is just part of living on a farm. Animals are born, grow, thrive, and sometimes die. Flowers are planted, grow and sometimes need to be transplanted to a better area of the garden. Gardens need to be weeded and watered. Trees need to be trimmed or cut down. Buildings need to be maintained, repaired, or simply improved. Everything needs constant attention on a farm. A day doesn't pass where there isn't work. The animals are dependent on our care. The day to day care is pretty basic: feed, water, check on everyone for anything out of the ordinary. But there is so much more that happens outside of the the day to day care.There are four dogs that need attention; food, walks, playtime. One is a giant Newfoundland puppy. Norman the Newfie just started his obedience lessons with a trainer and he is doing great. He is a wonderful dog and addition to the farm. He loves all of the animals here. He loves to go out and follow us around during our chores. He will visit each pen and play in the hose water and happily stay by our sides as we tend to all of the animals. At 5 months old and 80 pounds, he is growing by the day and is one big ball of goofy, clumsy, sweet love. The other animals need lots of love and attention too. We have three new baby goats who will be part of our breeding program in the Fall. Two bucklings and a doeling. They were all bottle babies so they are very people friendly and need lots of human interaction. Our youngest buckling, Deacon, is very needy and loves to call to us whenever he sees a person outside. He loves to be held and will follow us everywhere we go. The other two kids are also extremely people friendly and love human attention. The last of our "sold" babies left for his new home yesterday. We had eight beautiful kids born this year, (one who didn't survive) and they all sold within the first 3 weeks. It's always sad when our sold babies go, but I know that they are going to good homes and they will be well taken care of. Some of my buyers have bought babies from me in the past so they are friends of mine. There is a nice community of Mini Silky goat breeders in Michigan and I have gotten to know some of them over the past couple of years. What I have learned from being a hobby farmer is that when you meet people who share your passions; (chickens, goats, llamas, dogs, wild animals, whatever it may be), are such wonderful, interesting people. Fellow hobby farmer's share a love of the earth, a love of life, hard work, being outdoors, animals, nature, learning and sharing. We have been lucky to meet some of the best people doing what we do. There are people who we greatly depend on from our veterinarians to our llama shearer, Sy, to our critter sitter, Cindy, to our hay supplier, and to our other farm friends who share their experiences and knowledge. We are here for one another, connected by our love of what we do. What I have learned is that people who do this are some of the best people you will ever meet. They are passionate, strong, dedicated, determined and down to earth. There is a certain common thread that we all share. We all strive for something different. Something more. Something pure. Something tangible. Something less ordinary. Not just hobby farmers, but anyone who tends to life outside of their self. A gardener, a teacher, a mother, a father, a breeder, a pet owner....To be outside of ourselves, to tend to others, to cultivate life, to be less self absorbed, that's what makes us better humans. That's what makes us kinder, softer, better people.
I haven't written in a while. The farm has been busy going through a much needed downsizing. We realized this summer that we just had too much to tackle on a daily basis. In June we began a huge project of having our giant 1870's dairy barn dismantled piece by piece. It was time for it to come down and we didn't want to just have it destroyed and hauled away. It deserved a proper funeral. We wanted the beautiful barn wood planks and beams to be reused in other buildings, to have a second life beyond the farm. The salvaging was our way of paying respect the barn and it's history. We ended up getting a few emails and even visitors from people who grew up in this house and had many special memories in the barn. They understood why we had to take it down, it was beyond repair and actually dangerously close to collapse, but they each had a story, a moment, a significant piece of their past that took place in that building. We gave one woman an interior barn door that her childhood boyfriend had painted their names on, "Ann + John." It was very sentimental. The team that dismantled her did a wonderful job and it was done in about two weeks. We eventually had the huge hole in the ground filled, graded and seeded, and now it's hard to tell that the barn was ever there.
The project created more work for us. Everything it contained had to find a new place to be stored, the ground was completely torn up, the coops and equipment had to be moved, grading and seeding had to be done, and it took all summer. We also had grown quite a bit in our animals. We had over 50 chickens, plus geese, turkeys, peacocks, 14 goats, 4 dogs and 5 cats. The work load was overwhelming. We had to cut back. It was consuming us. So we made our first difficult decision to re-home our Great Pyrenees, Reina. She needed more space to roam and we just couldn't give it to her. She was in our front pasture with the boy goats, which faces the road, so every person, car, dog, squirrel or leaf that passed by made her crazy. She would bark through her bark collar, getting shocked in the process in order to do her job as protector. We felt terrible that she had to wear a bark collar and that she couldn't do her job as she needed to. I was very picky about who could adopt her. It had to be the right fit. The woman who fell in love with her had a much larger area for her to work alongside goats and some horses. She said that Reina had wonderful house manners and she was scared of the horses at first but adjusted very quickly. It was the right decision. With that weight lifted, the stress level in the house dropped by about 50 percent. Next, I decided to sell the geese. I loved my Sebastopols, they were so pretty and fun to watch. But they are extremely messy. We allowed ours to free-range the yard and they loved to come onto the porches every day to pick at the flowers in the window boxes, rip them apart leaving soil all over the floor, poke at the shoes laying out, and poop on everything and anything! Our entire driveway was always covered in goose poop. You couldn't walk one foot without stepping in it. Seven geese can make quite a mess, not to mention how loud they can be. So, as much as I adored them and admired their beauty, it was time to part with them. I was the only one who loved them in our family. The kids hated them because the male was so aggressive while protecting his flock. I of course, thought it was romantic. He was mostly all talk, he wouldn't actually attack. Two of them went to one home and the rest went together to a fellow poultry lady friends home. I was sad to see them go, but after they left, the stress level was reduced by another 15 percent. However, my kids would say it was more like 50 percent. Now we had a clean driveway, poop-free shoes and it was quiet. Really quiet. Wonderfully quiet. I had also sold quite a few chickens and some had just been killed off by predators, bringing the poultry number from 50 to about 15.
My next move in the quest for zen was to sell some of the goats. I posted them for sale and ended up selling 5. We lost one doe to illness in August. Now we were actually down to a manageable number of 5 does, 2 bucks and one wether. Stress level-down another 25 percent. We are currently at a 90 percent reduction! Aside from the occasional fox getting in and massacring 9 birds in one night, or something getting ill or dying a mysterious death, we are in a good place. Our 3 dogs our seniors, ages 10, 11 and 11. They are still in good health but will not be around for forever. They are easy, aside from the frequent counter-surfing by Bella, our large Goldendoodle, who can eat an entire loaf of bread in under a minute, or your entire breakfast if you turn your back for one distracted second. But they are family to us. We love them unconditionally. Our kids have grown up with them and they love them just as much as we do.
We are now in a more manageable place. There are still projects. Old farms with old buildings will always have projects. Things need to be repaired, secured, repainted, rebuilt. There is always something to do, to fix or to improve. The animals will always throw me a challenge or complete heartbreak. The stress of an injury that I can't fix, or an illness that I can't cure, that the vet can't cure, it is painful to the point of crushing anger and burning frustration. The sadness, the guilt, and sense of loss is numbing. I am fearful that I am becoming hardened to it. Sometimes there aren't even tears. Just numbness, void of emotion. Almost an inability to feel. The pain too familiar, too unwelcome. I don't want to feel it anymore. I block it out. I am just blank. There are many times where I just want to quit. It is a feeling of utter defeat.
But something always makes me get back up and continue. All I have to do is walk into the pasture, kneel down and wait. These gentle, magical creatures come to me as if they know that I need their sweetness, to feel their breath on my face, their soft noses against my cold cheek. I need to talk to them and let them know that they are a part of me, that we are connected. Me, them, the earth I am kneeling on, we are deeply connected. We are one. There on the soft grass, the sun sinking behind the red and golden trees, I can see our breath in the air, and in that peaceful moment I silently make them a promise. I cannot quit. I will not quit.
I was out to dinner last night with my friends to celebrate my Birthday and in true fashion they made my day, my week and probably my month! Not because of the thoughtful gifts they all brought me, or because they also paid my tab, but because they each took time out of their busy lives to come and be with me, for me. That is the gift. The gift of time, great conversations, and lots of laughter. Nothing really tops that.
I have been thinking a lot lately how fortunate I am to have such wonderful friendships. And the group that I was out with last night are people who I have know most of my life. I have relationships that have stood the test of time, the test of adolescence, the test of our single, carefree years, the test of marriages, divorces and beyond. We have grown up together, some since kindergarten, some since elementary school, middle school and summer camp. We have shared great losses, great successes and lots of fun memories in between. We have been there for one another through very difficult times and very joyful times, and these people, women and men, are my family.
So for each of our birthdays we go out to celebrate, and for pretty much any other excuse to go out and be together. It's not always easy to get all of us on the same page, but we all make an effort. After about 14 emails or 2 hour long group texts, we each manage take time out of our lives, away from our significant others, (or not), away from our jobs, our busy schedules, and we make it work. The reward is that we all share a common bond, a true, deep connection that can only be created over time. We know the good, the bad and the ugly about one another, we keep secrets and we boost each other up. The love that I feel for my friends is unconditional.
Last night we were looking at a picture of me and my first "bestie" when were 5 years old, and we couldn't help but reflect on how fast the time goes. It brought my other girlfriend to tears. Just at the thought of how we have all evolved, how we have grown and changed, yet really stayed the same at our core. It can feel overwhelming to think about all that we have shared, all that we have been through, yet stayed together, stayed connected and close. It is so special and so rare. These friendships are a gift. I don't take it for granted for one second, and I look forward to many more years of light and laughter with these people. Friends old or new, if they are true friends can make you feel so whole, so blessed, and inspire you to be the best possible version of yourself. I am forever grateful for the ones I have, both old and new, the good ones, the real ones, are keepers.
"The grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for." ~George Washington Burnap
I am Amy, wife of Roger, mother of 3 children. I am a self proclaimed animal fanatic, hobby farm enthusiast and lover of all things natural. I enjoy writing, junking, cooking, creating, decorating, home renovation, gardening, exercising, spending time outdoors, traveling, working our farm, raising our children and living life to the fullest.
Lulu, Misa, and Pearl, all part of one happy family!
Me and the guy who makes it all possible, Rog.
Lulu with Dexter the Mini pig.