March 22, 2011

so, you want to be a farmer

I have a small, nagging problem and it's all the internet's fault. All of it. Between reading bits of Wendell Berry and "The Omnivore's Dilemma" (fine, only 63 pages in, even worse!) and growing weary of winter and feeling the dim confines of our basement apartment... okay, the internet isn't responsible for all of it. But I have gotten sucked into a couple of pockets of the world that are so fascinating to me: young blogging homesteaders and farmers (that phrase could not have been possible even 20 years ago, eh?).

This young couple, along with their children, are very intentionally pursuing a lifestyle outside of the grasp of the mighty supermarket. It sounds impossible, but between growing and making their own food, as well as buying meat, dairy, and other supplies from locally owned and operated businesses... they are on their way to pulling it off. I love the idea of knowing exactly where your food comes from, how it was produced, and just how far it traveled to get to you, not to mention getting to know the people producing it.

Side note: I don't know what it is about the Hamilton area, but I'm so intrigued that such a relatively urban population (500,000 in 88 square miles) is also within such close reach to farms, orchards, butchers, dairies, flour mills, wineries... must be a fortunate combination of location and climate and history.

Another deadly trap has been the discovery of this blog, and while I can't say I have an acute case of Barnheart just yet, I can feel small twitches that threaten to grow. She makes me want to find a chunk of land, buy some sheep and a truck, and start selling and spinning some wool. I'm not kidding. Throw in some chickens too, and some beehives so I can give honey and beeswax lip balm away as gifts.

I'm idealizing this in so many ways. I loved "All Creatures Great and Small" by James Herriot, a veterinarian in rural Yorkshire. I would have "Charlotte's Web" on the brain and make the huge mistake of naming every last one of my animals, and it would break my heart to watch them get sick or, as is the nature of farms, finally slaughtered for food. I love hard, tangible, rewarding work, but I don't know what it is to be tied to the land and unable to travel on a whim when there is work to be done. I can't even haul my ass out of bed at the first (or second, or ninth) moment the alarm goes off. I have no idea what it is to be a farmer.

But when I read blogs like these, I yearn for woodburning stoves and the hum of contented creatures nearby and growing fresh food outside my back door and the dead-tired satisfaction of a full day of labor and having friends over for feasts. Simple, honest, pleasurable things. They aren't so unrealistic, in some small measure, right?


  1. I'll come live with you. I've already got two little people to work for us as well. That can't hurt. (Cause, I mean, that's what they are FOR, right?!) I really want chickens, pigs scare the crap out of me, I could do with a cow, but I'll get my meat from some other person... I want to have the option of getting close said cow in other ways than my casserole dish or a hamburger bun. Alarm clocks don't work for me, but if we live somewhere where the sun rises early, I'll be up with it. If you can live with those things, we'll be fine. :) Let me know.

  2. Laura. YES. I don't need pigs or cows either, just chickens for sure and sheep if there's room. And what do you need alarm clocks for when you have small kids? Also, you will be the Director of Baking. Hope that works for you.

  3. I believe there are vacations you can take that are focused around working on a farm for a week, two weeks, a month. Seriously. Maybe you should look into it (if I come across more info, I can let you know). Side note: I'm right there with you about James Herriot. His books hold a special place in my heart:)

  4. this is what I've wanted all along- I don't know why we keep lying to ourselves. the loritschs need some land to found a home/center/good place.
    so many structures we rely on exist on the backs of slaves, human and nonhuman. all I want is to be able to participate in simple things like working and eating in non-violent ways.
    i support this.

  5. Johnny, here's what's going to happen: we will move to GR (or somewhere in the area) and buy a small chunk of land to get started. let's do it.

  6. Anna & Johnny ! Love your energy re: a project like this. Growing up on the border of Vermont, Spring meant ( hopefully ) a trip to the Maple forests to watch and marvel @ the extraction of the sugar from the trees. An amazing process and an amazing natural sweetner...I think this farming, "earthy" dream might be in your blood line. Don't forget to grow peanuts , Anna !