A quick note:
Most of you know about my insanely handsome and wonderful husband, Stuart. He may not make an appearance on the blog as often as beard-loving-women would hope, but know he's always behind the scenes encouraging, advising, and working on the homestead. I've asked him to do a short series of posts with me answering the question: WHY.
Why do we do what we do. Why have we chosen to live this way. Why have we decided that this crazy lifestyle is the lifestyle for us.
He'll be popping his head (or rather, his typing fingers) into the ‘ol blog over the next few weeks to answer this question. Please join me in welcoming my better half to the party, baby.
Why We Homestead, Part One: Starting a Conversation
Sitting here writing this, I look around me and see slabs of dry cured meat hanging from our kitchen ceiling. There is a large glass drink container on the counter housing fermented tea, a thick slab of slimy bacteria has grown on top of the liquid. Dried garlic hangs in bunches next to an old, French copper pot. The dirty clothes in the laundry room share a space with drying chiles, braided together, next to shallots and onions.
Looking out the window across from the table, I see chickens picking through the remains of a garden that yielded tomatoes, kale, chard, peppers, onions, cucumbers, beans, herbs, sun-chokes, beats, hops, melons, eggplant, potatoes and more, all of which were eaten fresh or put up for storage. Down the way from the garden is the coop the chickens will find their way back to to provide us with fresh eggs and to roost at night seeking shelter from cold winds and predatory eyes. Across from the coop a poultry net, in desperate need of mending, covering the now empty meat chicken pasture, flaps in the breeze. They have now taken up residence in a new, though much colder, abode.
Meandering down from the chicken ghost town, wooden poles protrude from the earth toward the sky at measured distances creating a diagonal pattern, depending on what vantage point you are looking at it. These will eventually serve as trellises for grapes, whose life blood is destined to be pressed from their bodies, left to sit and ferment, then be bottled and consumed; their sacrifice appreciated as the product of yeast eating sugar is enjoyed harkening to the terra cotta in which it was cultivated.
Below the imaginary vineyard, two eyes and a big wet nose look curiously up at me awaiting out daily date where, as she is treated to a bucket of sweet oats, she reciprocates with white gold that is consumed raw or slightly altered to become butter, yogurt, whipped cream, or kefir. Adjacent to my gal Sal’s coral is our modest herd of Katahdin sheep. Their solitary stance on the hillside momentarily transports me to a real farm, somewhere in Europe, naturally.
Walking to the end of these pastures brings me to the failed pig pasture where two pigs, not adequately trained on hot wire, escaped, were caught, confined to a smaller more impenetrable space where they escaped twice more. They are now being enjoyed as a welcomed addition to our eggs and potatoes in the morning.
Presently, my darling wife is preparing a root vegetable terrine consisting of beets, carrots, fingerling potatoes and cherry tomatoes from the garden. These are to be roasted along with a chicken raised a few feet from the same garden, wrapped in caul fat from a pig raised on the piece of land, all to be dressed with a shallot, vinaigrette.
The ingredients for this meal that didn’t come from our land, or from within a couple of miles of it, could be counted on one hand.
As I attempt to wax eloquent about a small sliver of what goes on at our little farmstead, I know there are those reading that may be responding in one of two ways. To one it is a similar picture of what they desire or are currently doing. To another it is the epitome of food snobbery and the essence of a holier than thou lifestyle that looks down its nose at anything processed, non-organic or whose genes have been modified in some way.
Whether you find yourself at one of the poles of this continuum or somewhere in between, there is a conversation that connects us all together, and it centers around the question “Why?” For one the question is asked to make sense of an experiences or desire for a way of life that seems to contrary to the current norm. For some it is a question that needs to be wrestled with before they begin to step, one foot at a time, into a way of life they are unfamiliar with and uncertain about. Still for others, it is a question asked out of bewilderment for what they see happening with others and can make no sense of.
I wouldn't dare to presume that I have all the accurate, meaningful or satisfying answers to this loaded question, but it does seem that I have come to the point where it is necessary to begin to formulate thoughtful, honest and consistent responses to the multitude of facets involved.
I don’t have previously worked out answers that can be reduced to little sound bites to serve as slogans or catch phrases for the promotion of a lifestyle. Nor will I write polemically (unless challenged), attempting to win people over to “our side.” Rather, this is more a like a walk in the woods where direction is based on natural cues that arise organically. Deviations from the familiar path may come as the result of a curiosity for whats over yonder, or for where that babbling brook is, or because of an impasse in the path.
I am not entirely sure what direction the path will lead or when it will reach its end; all I know is that I am walking, and I must keep putting one foot in front of the other. If you feel so inclined to join me, then please, lace up your walking shoes, or moccasins, or come barefooted, and we will walk together as far as we can.