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Archive for the ‘culture’ Category

The High Price of Farming

There’s an old dilapidated farmhouse on 100 acres for sale in my township. It’s your typical corn/soybean rotation industrial monocrop, but such beautiful land. And the farmhouse – it’s in shambles, but all I can see is potential. I haven’t even seen the inside; I don’t need to. I’m sure it’s horrible and wonderful all at the same time.

The asking price is $999,999. It’s in a prime development area for a residential subdivision, and clearly only a developer could afford to pay a cool million for that property. No farmer, big or small, would be able to swing that.

*Sigh*

Our township is largely rural/agricultural, and from talking to neighbors, most folks want it to stay that way. But there are a few developments cropping up here and there, and it’s definitely a place where developers see dollar signs. Looks like I need to get involved with local government and make sure our officials are truly representing the citizens, esp. when it comes to zoning.

I wish I could buy that farm and turn it into organic gardens and pasture land. I’d even rather see the corn/soybean rotation than a development.

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Moving to our ten acres in the country has fulfilled a years-long dream of mine: to small-scale farm with my family. We want a large garden, which is in the works; we want homesteady-type animals, hence the chickens; we want to produce as much of our own food as we can, hence all the seeds that have or have not been sown. I love that the kids have places to run, play, and hide. I love the wild and unruly woods that our home resides in, just as much as I love the garden plot that we’ve cleared, and the adjacent three acre rolling pasture.

There are challenges. I miss Pittsburgh, our old church, our old friends.  I miss having access to public transportation, good shopping (Whole Foods Market! Trader Joe’s! IKEA!), and good museums. The ticks are enough to drive me insane. But after being here about ten months, there is one challenge that stands out to me as the biggest:

It is hard to do this alone.

I feel like we were meant to live in community. In some cultures, that means intergenerational living; your whole extended family lives with you or nearby. There’s always someone to hold a baby or feed the chickens when you can’t. In more modern times and western cultures, cohousing has become a risingly popular option for those seeking community; folks with shared values live close to one another (usually in their own homes) with the intent of sharing life in some way.

I love the garden and chickens, and I really look forward to having goats and/or a cow someday. Maybe sheep, too. But the daily tasks involved with all of these ventures tend to tie us down more than we like. Eggs will need to be collected daily at some point; goats will need to be milked once or twice daily ten months of the year. There is little room for a weekend camping trip or a week up in the U.P. for my husband’s job. There’s a ton of state and national campgrounds I’d like to check out this summer, but many are too far for a day trip. When we have our baby in January, someone will still have to go out and feed the chickens the next morning. Right now, I’m even home, and the garden needs to be planted more, but I have little time to do it due to the ages of my children and lack of help with them.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m willing to do the work. I find great satisfaction in tending the chickens and weeding the garden. I long for more of this kind of work and more time to complete it. And I don’t think we deserve (or even want) to be gone every weekend all summer. We have wonderful neighbors who have offered to tend the chickens so we can do that week in the U.P. in August. We considered the whole picture when we dug into gardening and chicken ranching. We knew it would require daily chores, and we did it anyway. And, given the opportunity, I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

The hard part is that we’re alone in this. I mean, we have each other, but that’s it. There are a lot of young families out there who, like us, want to expose their kids to this lifestyle, but unlike us, can’t imagine making the details work out.  Wouldn’t it be beautiful if some of those families could get together and share the burden, attack the details as a team, reap the harvest in community, and give each other breaks? People say to me all the time, “I’d love to have chickens, but then we couldn’t do ______.” Or, “I’d love to have a goat, but I still want to go up to the cabin during the summer weekends.” For these folks, sharing the farm with others is the best way to still have those things.

If you live in an urban neighborhood that allows chickens, why not share a flock of chickens among like-minded neighbors? You share the work, share the eggs, and still go on your vacations. Similarly, why not share backyard gardens? One of you has shade, the other has sun; let the kids play in the shade, and do a double-size garden in the sunny lot. Twice the adults for weeding and watering, and less overzealous zucchinis and tomatoes to get rid of.

For us, we just pray and wait. We have a big garage that would make a nice apartment space someday. We dream about finishing it and renting it to another family who wants to garden and farm alongside us, even just occasionally. Or just renting out part of the lower level to a student or two who are interested in organic gardening and animals and would enjoy watching our little farm when we travel once in a while. It’s a long shot, but I can’t help but hope that we could start up a tiny little cohousing operation of our very own, not just to share the load, but to share life and friendship.

Wanna move into my garage?

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I know some of you have found good videos for your kids to watch on YouTube. What are your favorites? How do you choose? My priorities are for the videos to be educational in some way, and for the content to be slower (not flashing through 2 screens a second, like movie previews).

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We haven’t gotten FOX for at least two years, so I gave up on watching American Idol long ago. But I finally figured out that I can watch performances on their website. So I spent a little time watching the past few weeks’ performances.

All I can say is, Adam Lambert is fantastic. Seriously, wow. I know I’m supposed to talk up Matt Giraud, our hometown hero, and frankly, he’s pretty good, too. If I was the voting type, I’d vote for him out of loyalty for The ‘Zoo. But I think Adam Lambert is my fave.

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Do You Think In Blog?

I sense that blogging has forever warped my ability to think un-blog. I can’t get an idea, good or bad, without also immediately thinking, “I should blog about that.” Or, “I have to think through that issue more so I have enough to blog about.” Or, “I probably shouldn’t blog about that, but I want to.”

It reminds me of the scrapbooking friend who told me that scrapbooking has forever changed how she takes pictures. Now she always makes sure to take at least three or four good shots so that she can make an album page out of that particular event.

Do you think in blog, too?

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Okay. I Get It.

It took three years away from this area for me to realize that yes, indeed, there *is* a Michigan accent. Not just that, but a specific regional dialect in West Michigan.

I may even be ready to admit that I have a little bit of one.

I mean, I knew it before, but I always thought of it as a very, very subtle Midwest thing. When we first got to Pittsburgh, all Jason and I could talk about was the unique dialect and language usage in that area. It’s very strong. I still think the Pittsburgh accent is stronger, but yeesh, all I can think about when I turn on the news (or go to the grocery store, or go to the bank) is how West Michigan everyone sounds.

I sure will miss pushing a buggy at the grocery store. And “arning” my wrinkly shirts. And going to Don (pronounced “Dawn”) Allen Mazda and going Downtown (“dahn-tahn”).

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