Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Every day, when I wake up, look out my window and have my look
returned by fuzzy faces, smiling eyes and the sound of morning crows, I
laugh. Some people ask why I’ve chosen to, at a time in my life when I
could be traveling the world, pin myself to this place. Up before dawn,
each day a challenge or adventure, depending on your perspective. Days
shortened by the demands of an unrelenting milking schedule, social life
diminished to the point of no return, nights interrupted by another
dawn come way too early.
But to me, choosing this way of life is a way of coming home. My family (on my Father’s side), were and still are all farmers. I wasn’t raised that way, Daddy married a strict Bostonian girl and we saw a lot more of Mom’s side of the family than we did the farmers. But, growing up outside Washington, DC, in our suburban home, there was always a garden in the backyard full of ﬂowers and juicy tomatoes and even a compost pile. I would climb up in the sour cherry tree and eat cherries ‘til my tongue ached from the tartness.
My mom only baked once a year, at Christmas, a batch of cutout sugar cookies. Not one cherry ever went into a pie. Oh what I would give for those golden red orbs now! In my teenage years our family moved “to the country” to follow my father’s job. When oﬀered the chance to choose a bedroom in our new home, I picked the one overlooking Mr. Beall’s cornﬁelds and grazing cows. The weekend we moved in, the moving van arrived, followed by a dump truck full of manure. Daddy had already planned for a bigger garden. I’m sure our neighbors thought the Beverly Hillbilly’s had arrived. I saw it as Daddy coming home to his roots.
That ﬁrst summer he planted a full “Victory” garden, with every imaginable vegetable, some I had never heard of like Bok Choy. If Mom was overcome by the idea of cherry pies, I was sure Bok Choy was never going to make it to our dinner table. But, Dad’s enthusiasm was infectious and we all learned to eat stir fry. The garden plot was surrounded with ever bearing raspberries and strawberries apple, plum and peach trees and marigolds, “natural bug deterrent” Daddy said.
Our roots really do speak to us in different ways but for me, I feel rooted in my family’s heritage of farming, even though I came to it much later in life and quite by accident. When my sheep come running over to me and Sweet Pea paws my leg because I’m not dolling out the apples quickly enough, or when I’m leaning up against the barn stall and quietly Barnie makes his way over and rests his head on my knee, I can’t imagine a life now that doesn’t include being surrounded by these warm fuzzies. I didn’t acquire my Father’s love of growing things, my garden is very small. I love that this property came with a history of wild raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and apples, planted by birds and former residents.
At this point in my life, I’ve learned life happens while I’m busy making plans. The seasons guide my days now. As we wend our way into winter, I’m already counting down to the ﬁrst week of March when I’m anticipating the arrival of lambs and kids. The garden beds are hardly put to sleep but my head is buzzing with ideas for putting in rock walls next year. And while I’m distracted with these ideas that clutter up my mind and pull me into a time months away, I’m gently reminded by clattering in the barn that the girls await to be put out to pasture.
I’m thankful for that and many more reminders to focus more on the precious present. I think I’ll let the future take care of itself for surely it will come, probably not in the form I imagine or scheme for but surely it will come.I describe myself as an accidental farmer with a purpose. My farm, located on the St. George peninsula of Maine is a certiﬁed Maine State Dairy. I offer cheeses made with milk from my registered Saanen goat herd, a seasonal farmstand full of wool from my Romney cross ﬂock, as well as goat milk soaps, lavender, woolens, and whatever else strikes my fancy. Bittersweet Heritage Farm is an extension of my belief that we should all gain a better understanding of our food source, our connection to where we live, and to the animals with whom we share the earth.