Buying Land to Homestead (city or country?)

So you want to be a homesteader?  You will need land!  Now, do you want to live in the city or the country?  You can certainly homestead either place.

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I found a city, within forty-five minutes of my husband’s work, an hour and a half from my children, that has a very reasonable housing market compared to the other places in Colorado.  Pueblo has every amenity; arts, theater, restaurantuuuuus, hiking, bike trails, museums, and farms nearby.  My beautiful little house is powered 100% with solar.  I heat the house with the wood stove or the gas furnace.  I have city water, but it tastes pretty good and it is a sure thing.  I have farmed the entire front yard, producing much of our own vegetables and fruit and some for canning plus all the perennial fruit trees and berry bushes are coming along fine.  The wild mulberries here are delicious.  I have a large chicken coop and lots of chickens.  I have a greenhouse and additional garden. I have a farm dog.  I have a root cellar.  I have everything I need to homestead well here.  We even have a lake one block away that is stocked by the city for free fishing.

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Living in the city has a ton of benefits like the ones above plus most cities allow goats and sheep nowadays.  The utilities are generally cheaper.  Without a well, one does pay quite a bit for water.  And there is the space issue.  You can only do so much before running out of room in the city.  I must say I am impressed with how much I can grow here though.  Using vertical growing techniques and permaculture ideas increases yield exponentially.  Finding a home in the city can often be more affordable as well.

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It’s a shame we aren’t city people.  In the country, you might have a view.  A few acres of land to traverse.  More options for animals.  Outbuildings.  Stars.  And country people are my people.  I may have grown up in the city, but I’ve always been a country girl.

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These are things to look for when you are looking for a homestead, whether it be in the city or the country.

Check zoning.  Can you have chickens?  How about, by chance, goats?

FHA doesn’t do Ag loans (agriculture zoning).  FHA is the most common lending so plan to find something residential that can have animals.

Check and see if the community has an HOA.  If so, do not move there.  You will not likely be able to grow corn in the front yard or have a rooster crowing.

A wood stove or wood burning fireplace is a must.  On a wood stove, you can place a pot of beans and a kettle of water or percolator on days that electric goes out.

If you are looking in the country, is it on city water?  Is there a well?  How deep?

Septic tank?  How old?  Get those checked before buying.

How many acres?  What is the zoning?

Let’s be honest now here.  EVERY farmer/rancher I know has an outside job.  It’s just the way it goes these days.  Someone in the household probably has to work.  Check the distance to work.  No one wants to commute two hours to the office!

Check the fencing.  Are you going to be able to keep your pup in?  Goats?  See realistically much work has to be done to move in.  Fencing in the city is incredibly important as well.  Preferably a six foot fence!

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Well y’all, that will get you started.  Happy land dreaming!

 

 

So You Want to Be a Homesteader- Day 1- Gardening

Growing food is going to top our list of homesteading activities.  There is nothing quite like walking outside to the gardens with a basket in hand, clipping this and that for supper.  Seeing the plethora of tomatoes hanging heavy from the vine or crisp salad greens in various colors.  Here are a couple of things to keep in mind.

You don’t need a large plot of land to garden.  Don’t think FARM quite yet.  Growing for excess is the goal, but it should be the goal for preserving for your own use, not to sell.  Take care of your people first before getting into a farming operation.  I think of all of the vegetables I sold for near nothing and realize that I could have used those on our own dinner table.  Later down the line, if you are feeling pretty good about the whole a crop, then designate an area, but for homesteading purposes, we are only thinking of providing for ourselves and those close to us.

Grow as many varieties as possible.  If one crop fails, you still have plenty of other choices.  And for a homestead, variety is the spice of life.  Tomatoes, peppers, green beans, for sure, but also potatoes, onions, garlic, ice burg lettuce, and lots of herbs!

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Grow perennials.  A good homestead has a food forest in the works.  Crops like Jerusalem artichokes, sorrel, and fruit bushes and vines will feed you without too much prodding year after year.

Don’t forget wild foods.  Leave a big patch of dandelions in the garden for salads and smoothies.  Mulberries will be raining down soon here.  Leaves of dock and mallow are highly nutritious.

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A ginger plant in the kitchen.

You can grow food anywhere.  You can grow a tomato in a pot in the south window over the winter.  You can use window boxes, pots from a garage sale, or the front yard.  You can garden in a rental or on your own land.  It is always worth it to garden, even if you know you will move.  Community gardens, friend’s houses, wherever you can get your fingers in the soil.

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Grow food all together.  Maybe when we get a lot of land I will give in and plant in rows, but right now seeds go everywhere in the garden beds.  They grow together snug and fill our kitchen counters with ease.  Extra seeds get added to beds.  One more tomato plant.  As long as they have the space they need to grow, they are fine.  I keep foods you might eat together, together.  The three sisters- corn, squash, and beans- grow beautifully.  Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and basil grow together.  Lettuces among green beans.  Pumpkins everywhere!

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You don’t need to overhaul all the soil.  I have given you many techniques over the years to garden easily and on the cheap.  Start today by digging a little trench across an area.  Sprinkle a handful of bagged soil across the five inch deep trench.  Now put some seeds down then cover with organic gardening soil.  Water every day.  Done.

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A row of corn, sunflowers, pinto beans, and watermelon hide in this trench in the middle of weeds in rocky soil.

Growing your own produce is really, really important.  Up north of Pueblo the farmer’s markets are filled with vegetables that were not grown in Colorado.  No one has figured that out because we have totally lost sense of what grows when.  Think about where your produce trucks in from, how much gas went into it.  From South America to California, that out of season peach is costing us health and the environment.  You can grow lettuce in the kitchen window for goodness sake.  Yes, gardening is at the top of our list for homesteading!

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So You Want to Be a Homesteader (27 ways, a new series)

I read a blog post that talked about homesteading.  In it the author states that people in the city can say they are gardeners, can say they are homemakers, but cannot say that they are homesteaders.  I beg to differ.  I have homesteaded in the country, a small town, and in the city.  Our plan is to get back on land, but that does not change our lifestyle.  In fact, I believe we are actually more sustainable in the city.  We are just missing a well and a couple of goats.

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The word homesteading isn’t really a relevant word anymore because the government is not giving us parcels of land to try to live on for five years before we get to keep it.  So, we need to go by the new definition of homesteading and leave it open to everyone.  You can homestead anywhere.  Homesteading starts and ends with high self sufficiency, appreciation for the natural world, sustainability, community, health, and pride in hard work that we do ourselves.

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Homesteading can be done on any level, but as you grow your own food, chop your own wood, eat from your own root cellar, create your own medicines, it does get addictive.  This is a great lifestyle and one that anyone can incorporate into their lives.  The more aspects of it that you pick up, the more money you save, the healthier physiologically and psychologically you become, and things that are really important come to the forefront of life.  Family, food, security, counting blessings, and the good life.

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I have come up with a list of 27 ways to start homesteading.  27 aspects of homesteading that keep a heart humming, the fam fed, and the home fires burning.  Join me over the next month as I cover each one to inspire, teach, and swap ideas with you.  We will talk about searching for land, preserving, growing, animals, home arts, and more!

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27 Ways to Homestead

  1. Organic gardening
  2. Canning
  3. Fermenting
  4. Dehydrating food
  5. Smoking food
  6. Freezing food
  7. Raising chickens
  8. Fishing/Hunting
  9. Supporting local farmers
  10. Bread baking
  11. Cooking three meals a day
  12. Preparing simple, unprocessed food
  13. Sewing/Mending
  14. Crocheting
  15. Purchasing second hand
  16. Cheese making
  17. Generating your own electricity
  18. Generating your own heat
  19. Making your own medicine
  20. Making your own cleaning products
  21. Making your own body products
  22. Making homemade gifts and cards
  23. Free entertainment
  24. Learning to make everything from scratch
  25. Budgeting
  26. Using original homesteading items that last
  27. Learning from other homesteaders

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Go get yourself a cute apron and let’s get to work!  We are embarking on the good life.

An Epiphany for Change (is there any real food out there anymore?)

An epiphany.  How many times do we hear things, read things, learn things before we finally GET IT?

“I’m so glad I’m not an addict,” I say to my husband, laughing, “I have zero self control!”  We were out again.  Out to eat even though we had food at home, we didn’t have the money to be eating out, and I knew damn well that I would feel terrible after eating at a restaurant.  And yet, every couple of days I get to craving something and give in.  Oh, it’s never fresh salad or anything like that.

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“What if,” I ventured, “all of the preservatives and chemicals and refined oils in the food are actually addictive and that is why we keep having to eat out even though we don’t really want to?”  I didn’t need an answer.  We already knew.  I am an addict.  And it started long before I ever heard of a GMO or MSG or chemical food.

I casually looked at the ingredients of the bag of organic, gluten free, healthy chips that I packed into Doug’s lunch.  And there, quietly hidden among the organic ingredients with asterisks by them, were two ingredients.  Natural flavors and citric acid.  Natural flavors is a chemical creation with derivatives of MSG and GMO ingredients.  Citric acid is GMO black mold grown on GMO corn.

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The epiphany and mild panic ensued and I realized that the reason that I cannot feel satiated with simple foods is because I have been fed chemical stuff my whole life!  Ever since the marketing folks convinced grandma and mama that convenience was their birthright, we have been subtly poisoned.

Now, I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist, or anything, and I certainly don’t want to scare you, but folks, we are being poisoned.  Snacks, treats, oils, restaurant foods, it’s in my chicken’s food…everywhere we are being given doses of chemicals created to keep us coming back.  You can’t go to your friend’s house for dinner or a coffee shop for a latte without consuming these things.  Consider the extreme rates of cancers and of all the other diseases out there, and well, it’s just no wonder.

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I worry most for my grandchildren and children who would have no idea how to give up these things.  How can most people afford to grow all of their own food or cook all of their own food?  How do you give up the societal pressures of food as pleasure and company?

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Obama wrote into law that Monsanto cannot be sued.  Then Dow quietly bought Monsanto, disassembled it and GMO’s masquerade everywhere without accountability.  History tells us that unsustainable entities cannot survive but who will die first, them or us?  No better time to be getting yourself some heirloom seeds, a pressure canner, a couple of chickens, and a how-to make your own bread book.  Because what is worse than ignorance?  Complacency.

 

The Duck Healer (and other tales in Cherokee Home)

I was standing in the kitchen of the tiny farmhouse we lived in out on the prairie.  A small school bus turned into the winding dirt drive and proceeded towards the house.  Dust pulled up behind it as it bounced along.  I yelled to Doug in the next room, “Did we have a school group coming that I forgot about?”  He couldn’t remember one either.  I wiped my hands on my apron and stepped out the front door and waved.  The bus came to a stop next to the garden and through the windows I could see that this was one big family.  The children came bounding down the center of the bus and out into the fresh air.  A little girl held onto a large white duck.

“Something is wrong with his leg,” she said, looking up at me hopefully, “Can you fix it?”

“What’s wrong with that duck?” I asked, pointing to another one that they had brought with them.

“Oh nothing,” the mother replied, “the ducks can’t be separated or that one yells its head off!”

And so I went about healing the duck’s broken leg.

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My book, Cherokee Home, is my first fiction book, but as all good fiction is, it is nearly entirely based on true stories.

In my book, the main character is an herbalist and her stories are my stories.  The stories of the medicine man came from a medicine man. A dear friend of mine that I spent a summer writing down his stories with as he recovered from a stroke.

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My great grandfather was shot in a cornfield in Oklahoma gathering corn for supper one warm day.  My grandfather was only three years old but the family tale states that his father took his own life.  And perhaps that is so, but in that same time, in that same place, Cherokees were being shot or moved to California so that the oil companies could have their land.

I loved developing the characters who were as familiar to me as myself and my siblings.  I remember my mother reading to us at night as we colored in pictures of a coloring book, munching on homemade caramel corn.

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Cherokee Home came out last fall but I never really had time to promote it or to do book signings.  The other day I came across a picture of that duck from four years ago and smiled.

If you want to read a fun book that touches on history, culture, language, and real tales embedded in fun characters that is great for kids and adults alike, you can find it HERE.

All of my books are available at AuthorKatieSanders.com

(It is nearly impossible to get all typos out of manuscripts, but I sure try.  The one typo in the entire book is on the second page.  Lord, I am less judgmental about errors in books these days!)

Thank you all for supporting my writing!

Homestead Scents and Jasmine Plants

The smells of a homestead.  The damp soil after watering, the plants pushing through the soil.  Upon opening the front door, the first smell is probably that of cat litter, I am afraid, but cats make a homestead a home.  Baking bread lingers with fresh coffee.  A big pot of broth bubbles away.  The dog walks by with hints of eau d’skunk.  His new fragrance since the incident.  In the back yard the calming scents of pine shavings, compost, and chicken poop fill the air.  It’s not for everyone, but I like it.

There are too many cats here to be lighting a ton of candles and too many migraines to let the smelly ones burn.  I have many, many house plants.  Pathos, and geraniums, mass cane, and bamboo.  Aloes, poinsettia, succulents, and even ginger.  Those are all lovely in their own right.  But when I walk into my bedroom, a certain smell permeates just so.

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Jasmine.  The jasmine plant yawns and stretches across the curtain rod and swings carelessly in front of the window.  All the while releasing tiny bursts of romance and sweet scent.  The jasmine can be used as a delicious tea by snipping off every third new leaf if desired.  Dry in a paper bag.  The jasmine flowers are most prized for tea but it seems a shame to clip them because they are so beautifully fragrant and lovely.  It is a nice change from the usual scents of a farm.

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Jasmine house plants are available widely online.  They love light and a deep drink every seven days or so.  They love to climb, so a hanging pot or a small trellis is great.

I sit up in bed and pull the quilts around me.  I put my reading glasses on and open a great book and reach for my cup of steaming tea.  Surrounded by jasmine, I take a deep breath.  That is how my nights begin.

The Little City Greenhouse

May 21st, 2019- SNOW.

I wouldn’t say that it is out of the question for Colorado to get snow this late but I personally have never witnessed snow past the 14th or so.  Really, everywhere along the front range, folks have probably already put in their summer crops.  Here in Pueblo, I would have put out my tomato and pepper plants by now if I hadn’t had a hunch and a hint from Accuweather.  An hour north of here my daughters both got a good foot of snow.  Here, we got a ton of rain (we are still high desert and very thankful for rain, even if it slightly floods the chicken coop) which turned to snow overnight and is now back to rain.

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There wasn’t a dry space to be found outdoors so Gandalf worked from the couch last night.

Thick blankets of slush are currently sliding down the outer greenhouse walls. Tonight will drop to 30 degrees.  I may lose my pumpkins, beans, and corn that are all growing proudly in the beds.  I may lose some of the flowering plants.  And we will deal with losses as they come.  But, in the greenhouse, cold steam fills the air.  Peeking through the plastic I can see the tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers standing green and solid.  I dare not open the door and blast them with cold air.  I will probably bring everyone in tonight though.  Just in case.

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I am still experimenting with my new greenhouse.  I have never had one before, so temperatures and humidity and all that are still a bit of a mystery.  This is a kit from Home Depot.  My friend generously bought it for me for my birthday.  They run about $650 plus shipping.  Not inexpensive.  This particular greenhouse would have never stood up to a foot of snow at our old house, nor would it withstand the wind of the prairie.  Tucked behind six foot fencing in the city in a mild climate, it does pretty good.  I have to replace rogue pieces that fall off from time to time, but it is fulfilling its purpose of keeping plants safe.

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The temperature varies from 32 degrees to 114.  It baffles me.  Maybe because it lets in all that beautiful sun without any harsh breezes that the plants sit in a happy state.  I keep the seedlings on the second shelf of the greenhouse.  The color was being bleached from their leaves on the top shelf.  Watering every day to every other day keeps them happy.  I cannot get my seeds to germinate in there.  I speculate that they need individual cells that drain and are specific to starting seeds.  My peppers are still in their plastic salad bin and I think they would love drainage as well in the greenhouse.  But today, in their cold steam room, they are alive.

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It does get super hot here and my soon-to-be son-in-law recommended shade cloth.  If I planted a few tomatoes straight into the ground, would it boost production?  If I started seed pods of fall crops right now, would they be ready to plant in August?  (In Colorado, if a seed packet says it takes 90 days to mature, you can bet your apron strings that it means 120 days.  Maybe the altitude?)

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If not for the freezing night temperatures the rain would be most welcome!

It is fun having a new tool for gardening.  I can only say a prayer for my plants in the garden, but in the greenhouse, all is well.

Our 30 Day Real Food Challenge’s Epic Failure

I told you about a month ago that we were going to embark on a journey of real food.  It sounded absolutely ridiculous that we were perhaps eating more lab created food then natural food.  But we somehow did invite the world of marketing into our pantry and seems we have a lot of boxes, bags, and frozen this and that.  Organic, but still super processed and lots of questionable ingredients.

I have gained five pounds so far.  Oh no, not from the real food, but because not two days in I defiantly remarked, “You can’t tell me what to do!”  To myself.  I instantly became all bent out of shape about having to cook three meals a day and everything from scratch.  I would spend the day baking bread, scones, looking at cracker recipes, mess up my kitchen, and then make Doug take me out to dinner.  We have been out a record amount of times this month.  

Doug had the idea in his head that we were going to have something like smoothies for breakfast, salads for lunch, and Buddha bowls for dinner.  Doesn’t that sound amazing?  Delicious, fresh, easy?  I can feel my stomach growling.  Sooo boring.

Let’s say I want tacos.  Well, I have to make the tortillas.  No problem.  Now, real meat or lab created veggie meat?  Okay, cheese or no cheese?  Lord, by the time I am done worrying about all this real food I am down at the Mexican restaurant slurping down a margarita.  I am a rather difficult housewife, it seems.

I am rereading, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.  The author and her family embark on a journey of not just real food, but local food as well.  I stood in front of my impressive old pantry shelf filled with jars of staples and realized that not a single thing on it was produced locally.  I also have so many rogue ingredients from trying (or intending to try) one recipe.  I have so many things going rancid.  And nothing in my house is local save for what is now coming up in the garden and the eggs from the coop.

It is certainly difficult to rewire the brain.  Simplifying my recipes is the answer I am sure.  Local food.  Organic food.  In its original form.  Without all the overthinking.  But trying to figure out what to eat without the helpful addition of boxes, bags, and this and that, is actually rather difficult.  I had no idea we were so dependent.  Throw in moral dilemmas of meat or no meat and a tired housewife and you have yourself a predicament and an extra five pounds.

My friend laughs because I am actually a lot better at being healthy when I am not planning.  So, perhaps we are better if we just take one meal at a time.  One little change at a time.  One local food in, one box out.  One more walk around the lake.  We’re doing fine.

Where Did the Time Go?

That was probably the most common question asked in my grandparent’s home.  Where did the time go? They would be telling a story about a friend who used to live there, or the neighbor and her daughter, or look at how tall we had gotten and shake their heads and utter the question.  This continued on through my children growing up, and even still, with Grandma gone, Grandpa shakes his head and says it again.  Where did the time go?

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I found myself the other day, as my youngest daughter had her wedding dress tailored, muttering under my breath the same words.  It’s really all so beautiful, this life.

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I have an amazing relationship with my children that I do not take for granted.  Emily and I (and our men) have been talking about going in together on a family farm for some time now.  I have learned better than to force it or hurry it up before the doors naturally open, but we are actively planning what we need to do to achieve this goal.  All of my hair brained schemes (new businesses, new career ideas, etc.) are essentially routes to the farm.  In my heart all I really want to do is homestead.

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I cannot believe that my granddaughter, Maryjane, is six years old!

Emily and I talked yesterday on the phone about how much money we could save by staying home and working our family farm.  We would be growing our own food (right now I grow four months worth of our produce (hopefully eight months worth this year), we are talking about chickens, goats, and I want to learn to fish.  She went on to say how incredible it would be for her children to learn homesteading skills while being homeschooled and being so close to their grandparents.  Growing up on a farm.  This is what all of us have always wanted. For four years we lived that dream.  We are ready to get back to it.

 

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My granddaughter, Ayla Mae, is 6 months old and growing fast!

I love my little urban farm here.  Solar powered, chickens, huge gardens, a farm dog, it’s good livin’ here.  I am very grateful.  I love donning an apron in the mornings.  I love feeding the chickens, and gathering eggs, and watering the extensive beds, and harvesting weeds for salad.  I love seeing everything grow, and the stack of wood on the porch, and the fruit trees leaf out.  I love the look of colorful jars cooling after being processed in boiling water and listening to the pop-pop of the lids sealing the contents of summer within.  I love going down to the cellar to bring up corn or tomatoes or jam or dandelion wine.

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Gandalf is ready for a farm.

So, we plan to eat out less, put more money towards debt, start saving, keep an eye out for properties coming up, continue to dream.  Whether it is here in this beautiful house in the city on a third of an acre, or on a larger family farm, this is the only life for me.  And if I am going to shake my head and wonder where the time has gone, it may as well be in my rocking chair in front of a fire with a grandbaby on my lap on a family farm.

The Glamorous Life of an Urban Farm Wife (and the realities of death)

I tucked my Christmas pajama bottoms into my bright purple galoshes and tightened the belt of my fuzzy bathrobe that covered my nightgown.  I sighed, mouth askew in a grimace, and pulled my work gloves on while balancing the shovel.  Poised over the dead creature I tried to hold my breath while finagling the blade underneath the hardening body of a skunk who did not see it coming.

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I love ignorance.  It’s the best.  Kind of wish I could get back to it.  Ah, the mystique of becoming a farmer.  The love of the land, the fresh air, the bright dawn, the sound of a baby goat, the feel of a newborn chick, the taste of fresh eggs with gorgeous orange yolks.  The urban farm with the front yard completely gardened.  Beds filled with corn and pumpkins, rows and rows of chilies and tomatoes, and dozens of other herbs and beans and cucumbers and other delights fill the space where a lawn ought to be.  A rooster crows from the backyard.

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I guess what I never prepared for, and what no one could really express to me, is that death and cycles of life were going to become quite apparent to me.  The emotions that one might feel day to day in the suburbs would morph into much more intense versions of joy and grief.  That becoming a farmer means becoming privy to the real natural world.

See, in a high rise apartment or other such place, one might see a fallen bird from a nest or a cat that has been hit by a car.  We sniff and pout our lip and then move on with the day.  Styrofoam cartons and air sealed packages line shelves neatly labeled.  Beef tip.  Short ribs.  Chicken breast.  (Where did the rest of the chicken go?)  Away from a farm is an easy place for Utopian ideas to thrive.

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Last night the skunk was apparently on his way to have appetizers and cocktails in the chicken coop with the ladies when he was swiftly taken out by a monstrous being, that at first sight might not be taken for a swift sort of creature at all.  But the massive bite to the spine without being sprayed proved that Gandalf was on duty and was not allowing frolicking with the chickens past curfew.  The chemical, nauseating smell permeates everything but the dog.

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Now, if the pup was not there, the skunk would have made quick work of the chickens without a smidgen of remorse.

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The Cornish chickens can barely stay alive as it is.  Since my post three days ago, another chicken’s legs are breaking and one of the hens that seemed fine died of a heart attack.  They are scheduled to meet their maker in two weeks (because it is the humane thing to do) but we will see if they even make it until then.  My own Utopian ideas of compassion and living in a world without death backfired with meat chickens that were never meant to live this long and are suffering.

Over the years I have held a screaming goat as she died.  My cat, two chickens, a robin, a sparrow, and my dear friend’s ashes are buried in my yard.  A dead skunk is in a plastic bag in the alley until I can think of something to do with it.  Death is real and it is not necessarily not compassionate.  Not necessarily unfortunate.  It just is.

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But where there is death, there is new life.  New baby chicks, and wobbling ducklings.  Baby goats taking a bottle, and finches learning to fly.  A farm- whether in the city or in the country- teaches us what working in a temperature controlled office after driving in a temperature controlled car, after picking up a quick breakfast could never teach.  That life in its whole is a natural process of birth, delight, strength, illness, sustenance, death, grief, reality.  And in every cycle, it is beautiful and sacred and real.