This post, and many more to come over the next year will be about the crazy process of moving, and in some ways, rebuilding our farm. If you'd like to catch up on what you've missed thus far, start with "Our kind of Rollercoaster".
For my own cathartic reasons I will say it out loud: the process of dismantling, rebuilding, moving, choring, kid-rearing, living, maintaining, and remaking our farm all at the same time is perhaps the most insane thing we have ever undertaken. And we know, we have known from the very first thought of it how crazy and intense this project is. If I am going to dissect this process for you and my much less-sane future self, the very first thing to discuss is why. So for real, why?
After our own innate over-ambition and the restless fantasies of workaholics are set aside, there are three, very real, logical reasons.
1. Room to Grow
Our current farm is 30 acres. That used to sound like an entire world to me, but now that we aim to feed dozens of families off the land we tend, there is simply not enough space to raise our animals to the standards we hold for ourselves or at the scale to financially support our family on farming alone. The new property is four times (four times!) the size. We may never need that much space for our business, but with so much room to grow we have the unprecedented opportunity to design and implement farm systems that fully support our animals to a degree that we have only fantasized about thus far. And to feed all the people that want to eat what we produce. Here is a crudely photoshopped image to illustrate:
My first love, before prosciutto, before Travis, was sheep. As ruminants, sheep are forage eaters, specifically grass-eaters. So to love sheep and to let them be the most sheepy that they can be means that I had to learn to love grass. I learned to love grass so well, that eventually I didn't care which ruminant ate it, just that our pastures represented the utmost of a grassland ecosystem, full of flora and fauna diversity. And oh! The way the sunrise shines through those green blades like a glorious stain glass window. I could spend all day watching the light change on the various shades of green and tan and the persistent, ambling creatures that eat it up. Though he refuses so much rhetoric, I'm pretty sure Travis loves grass too, at least his childlike smile says something similar when he's clomping through the pastures.
And this place, boy does it have grass. Our old place; not so much. So much not grass at our current location that there isn't much room for ruminants. This of course means not much beef in our farm share. All that beautiful pasture needs some serious grazing power for it's health, and we are happy to comply. One of the very first things that happens as we make the move is the expansion of our cattle herd and of our beef offerings. Plus hours of walking through, gazing over, and smelling grass again. Yippee!
3. The best pork ever in the history of the world and other farmy fantasies
For eons farmers and eaters alike have appreciated the multifaceted relationship between pigs and nuts. In Mediterranean Europe the best hams are grown on chestnut loving hogs, in the Black Oak forrests of Continental Europe and the old growth American South the pork is built of acorns. More heavy-handed rhetoric on this can be found in a past post (The Thing About the Trees) suffice it to say that we could not aspire to the ultimate in true-to-their-nature pigs and the penultimate pork without a substantial nut producing forrest of our own. Luckily, the new land has exactly the right kind of soil, slope, and climate to support Chestnut trees. Establishing this forrest will be a whole other project to tackle after the move, but having gone to sleep nearly every night for years fantasy-planning such a haven of pig sustenance and happiness, the very fact of this idea being on a very real project list has me giddy. Giddy enough to sustain the hundreds of very long days between now and project realization? I don't know, but this is a lot of giddy y'all.
One of the wonderful things about country life is also one of the major drawbacks. With the tremendous personal space and heart-lifting communion with nature, comes a tremendous amount of space between persons and impediments to heart-lifting community. Some farm families are generations into their rural lives and thus have various folk setting down roots just an apple's fall from the family tree. Not so for us. As immigrants to Arkansas, our people are far flung and our beloved community hodge-podged together from our years of drifting and growing. In days now long past, we used to lay around bodies of water and campfires with those people, imagining a beautiful future of neighborhood, community, and farmy dreams realized. Our kids would run across the pastures, crawl under fences, collect their friends and explore the creek or build the treehouse or harass the ponies together. But, realities of adulthood have many of us inching further away from each other. This new land already has so many of the things we fantasized about sharing in those sun soaked, golden days of yore plus the room to let some of those dreams come to life, and so many of us now have tangible children to do the pasture crossing and creek exploring, that these old dreams spring to new life. We have yet to convince many of those people to transplant themselves just yet, so this fantasy has to stay on the purely fantasy list for a while yet, but its way more real than ever before, so it counts for this list.
How about events? Y'all want to have a picnic in my chestnut orchard? Want to stay in our little cabin and fish in our new river? How about a hog roast and donkey rides? I'm super excited to have the space to host farm events for all of you lovely people in our greater community. I want to break bread with you and show you around the barely contained magic mix of wild things and careful cultivation that grows your food.