If you missed the first part of this story and want to catch up, see finding bliss: part one.
So, let’s see…
I met Eric on this very farm, on the path to the creek in fact. Who would have known then how many more times we would walk on that path together… with our dogs chasing us, sometimes in the dark with only the flicker of lightning bugs to guide us, once with a raccoon in a cardboard box (!), and then carrying babies (both in my belly and in my arms), with our children toddling along beside, and now with our children running ahead of us. Hopefully one day we will get to walk on that path with our grandchildren. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
We didn’t live on this farm together at first. When I first moved back to the area from southern California, I was able to care-take a lovely little homestead in nearby Celina (while Eric continued to take care of the farm for our friend, Jo). There was a sweet little garden spot, a charming old chicken coop, an old log cabin, and a newer “shop” building/house… back in a classic deep Tennessee hollow. This is where Eric and I had our first garden, together. We raised all sorts of garden fare and sold any excess, particularly basil and garlic, at the farmer’s market in Cookeville. This is where I taught myself some (very) basic canning and preserving skills. This was the first time in my life that wasn’t planned and scheduled to the hilt. I didn’t really know what was next. I didn’t really care, either, because it all felt right. I didn’t even mind getting a job flipping burgers (when I was a vegetarian) in a greasy-spoon local restaurant to help make ends meet. I did know, however, that I wanted some chickens. Just a few to get started with, but I didn’t know the first thing about chickens. For me, most new projects begin with some sort of cleaning effort (I am a virgo, after all) you know, to clean the slate. So I set to cleaning out that chicken coop, with my trusty friend, Eric, by my side. As we were working together, preparing for this new poultry family, it just kind of came up… we ought to get married…You know it’s a good thing when the mundane events of life fill you with such joy!!! So it was decided. We were getting married. In the autumn of that very year, family and friends converged in that deep hollow in Tennessee for our simple, hand-crafted, home-grown wedding. Just the beginning of bliss.
After we got married, a friend of mine from college wondered if we wanted to help him with some construction work in southern Indiana… “the money is pretty good.” Being mostly broke, and newlyweds, we figured why not? So we packed up a few things, and our dogs, chickens, and duck, and set sail on a new adventure and entered the world of construction for awhile. We eventually found a quaint little farmhouse on several acres to rent. We raised another big garden and on Saturday mornings could be found at the local farmer’s market. We were even trying to solicit customers for a CSA program for the following summer. We found our life at home and in the garden so rewarding. But for the better part of our weeks, we were working long days on overly excessive projects. While we were incredibly grateful for this work and the fine pay that went along with it, we were left with a longing. It was on New Year’s Eve that we made a deal with each other… We just had to try living on the farm in Bugtussle. We knew we wanted a simple life, and to raise a family that way, so we had to try our hand at homesteading and making a living from the land. If it didn’t work, we would do something else, but we at least had to try. So we contacted Jo about the possibility of care-taking the farm again. She was thrilled. She was following her own passions on the West coast and the farm was just sitting here. It was even advertised for sale. (I like to think that the farm had it’s own plans for us… waiting, patiently, for us to get our priorities in line!) Jo was unbelievably gracious with us, allowing us to live on and care for the land, without having to pay rent… she just wanted to see the place being cared for. So we had time to get our garden and business well established, before making the leap into land ownership! We did eventually make that leap, and were pretty scared about it, but have never looked back.
Over the years, we have slowly, slowly, nurtured and developed this farm into the vision we share for this place. What started out as a tiny little cabin in the woods, has grown (twice) to better meet the needs of our growing family. First we added a bedroom and indoor bathroom (with a hot water system that circulated through our wood cook stove), finished just about a week before Ira came into this world. When Opal was about to come into this family, we upgraded from no electricity to a very small solar system, which suited our needs just fine. As Olivia’s birth was approaching, we added two more rooms, a kitchen and another bedroom. Gradual, small changes which were never daunting or debt-incurring, and of a scale that we could handle accomplishing on our own, of course with wonderful help from friends and family. Growing slowly, patiently. Over the years, our livestock herd (flock) has also grown slowly. What started out as four sheep, is now in the range of ninety sheep, and with lambing just a few weeks away, will at least double that number again! Slow and steady. Same scenario for our cattle. Our CSA program started out that first year (twelve years ago now!) with seventeen shareholders. We’ve grown to over eighty families, and then scaled back down when we realized it was too much, when the bliss was strained. With Eric’s devotion to intensive livestock rotations in our pastures, we are slowly watching ragged and barren fields of sedge grass be transformed into lush and fertile pastures.
While this farm has many advantages, it also has it’s fair share of disadvantages… but we decided long ago that instead of continually looking for greener grass, we would just make the grass greener where we were. Finding bliss is a journey. It doesn’t happen overnight, it happens along the way…