Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Sometimes, as I’m trudging down to the goat barn in the dark to carry out my twice-daily milking chore, wet from the rain and mud, I have to wonder why the hell I am doing this. Why the hell am I working full time during the week and spending all of my free time doing chores? Doing chores in the dark, in the rain, and perpetually muddy. I plant stuff on the weekends but have no idea until the following weekend if anything has germinated. Worse yet, I don’t know if I’ve successfully kept the slugs and snails at bay or whether everything has been destroyed.
This time of year, I always question this lifestyle. The weekends are the only time I get to see the goats, rabbits, chickens, turkeys, and garden during daylight hours. So all the big chores get crammed into the weekends. It seems that we work just so we can work some more.
A side effect of having animals? Urine, feces, and vomit no longer faze me. Hard work and lack of sleep are the rule rather than the exception. Stick my hand in chicken shit? No problem. Step barefoot in cat puke conveniently deposited right outside the bedroom door in the middle of the night? That’s life. Goat feed in our bed? Yep. Being the only person at the Halloween store with real blood on her boots? It’s happened. Medicating a goat every two hours for two days? Check.
But then, as I stand in a grocery store aisle searching for that one packet of cheesecloth I know they must have somewhere in a sea of random crap, I quickly realize why I do this, even in the dark of winter. And it’s not just because I hate dealing with the grocery store, which I do. Doing things our way makes life easier. Not physically easier, obviously, but I don’t have to think about where our food comes from. I don’t have to stand there and stare at labels, trying to figure out which product is the lesser of two evils. All the meat in our freezer is from animals we raised or hunted. The milk is raw and always fresh and clean. There’s no BHT, BHA, or high fructose corn syrup. There’s no transfat, no GMOs, and no soy. No factory farmed animal products or industrial farmed crops. No methyl iodide, 2,4-D, or glyphosate. No Red #4 or castoreum.
Watching things grow, evolve, and change creates a sense of accomplishment. Pride swells like a new parent when your goat kids, your chicken or turkey hatches a clutch of chicks, or your rabbit kindles. Pulling carrots and digging potatoes are like opening presents on Christmas morning or going on a treasure hunt. Nothing tastes better than food grown through a labor of love. Everything is fresh and healthy and happy. Yes, even the carrots are happy.
Our life is interesting. It is fulfilling and it has meaning. And sometimes on those dark, stormy mornings, I need to remember that.
PHOTO: LORI EANES
My friends in college used to call me a Renaissance woman. I was always doing something crafty, creative, or utilitarian. I still am. My focus these days, instead of arts and crafts, has been farming as much of my urban quarter-acre as humanly possible. Along with my husband, I run Dog Island Farm, in the SF Bay Area. We raise chickens, goats, rabbits, dogs, cats, and a kid. We’re always keeping busy. If I’m not out in the yard, I’m in the kitchen making something from scratch. Homemade always tastes better!