I want chickens. I want to watch them roaming my yard eating all the little, pesky insects. I want to collect their eggs and transform them into delectable dishes for my family. I. simply. want. chickens. This desire started as a fleeting thought many months ago that turned into a curiosity. That curiosity turned into research. That research turned into a longing.
I love the idea of producing some or most of our own food on a modest piece of land. Over the past several years, my own health and the health of my family has forced me to take a closer look at our eating and living habits. The shelves of our pantry have morphed from boxes of macaroni & cheese and cereals to containers of dried beans and oatmeal. No longer do we eat primarily vegetables from the freezer but instead we eat as much fresh produce as possible. My cooking style has also dramatically changed over the past ten years. I try to use the freshest ingredients possible and preferably organic. When you are faced with a severe hormone imbalance and family members struggling with obvious food sensitivities – it’s hard to ignore the subtle effects our food choices are having on our bodies anymore. A change is imminent. A change is a necessity.
I’ve dabbled with gardening and found great joy and peace with each new harvest. I have plans for expanding my next garden and look forward to attempting to sustain our family’s fruit and vegetable needs with it. In my ideal version of our working hobby farm, I’ll have chickens, a milking cow, and some sheep as well. My desire for a small farm exponentially increased after devouring “Forgotten Skills of Cooking” by Darina Allen. She left me with such a strong desire to learn all of these lost skills – gardening, canning our harvest for the winter, curing your own meat (ok…maybe not so much this one but I still find the process fascinating), making our own yogurt, cheese, & butter, etc. I’ve even recently visited a friend’s farm and toured her hen house. She explained to me how to take care of them and we got to see the hen house first hand. The kids have declared Zach “The Chicken Whisperer” because he seems to have a natural touch for getting them to come to him. (This was not our first time holding chickens.) I’ve promised Les that if we do, in fact, decide to start buying farm animals then I will only get one type of animal at a time. This long time city girl has never worked on a farm before and while I have researched it quite a bit – that doesn’t mean I have the actual physical knowledge of how this will realistically play out. For example, when winter arrives and none of my kids want to go out to the hen house to gather eggs anymore – let alone clean it – with the blistering cold wind howling through their coats then the mundane takes over and reality sets itself firmly in place. The romantic period will be over. Will I still want to do this? This is something I’m asking myself right now. My biggest hurdle to consider is how much we travel. Our traveling would either have to come to a complete stop or we’d have to make friends with someone who would be willing to feed and water the chickens in exchange for free eggs.
There are three aspects of a hobby farm which are grabbing and pulling me in though:
1) Growing and producing our own food with as little chemicals as possible. My previously declining health has left a lasting impact on me and I’ve worked hard…very hard…to improve it. I’m overjoyed with how much better I feel these days. I’ve lost 74 pounds and feel like a different person! I’ve accomplished this through eating whole foods and a low daily caloric intake (under doctor supervision). On the weeks where I’m traveling and eating out a lot – I lose little to no weight despite eating the same amount of calories as I do at home with healthy foods. One trip to Whole Foods tends to equal about two trips to the regular grocery store in the amount I spend. I firmly believe that I’m going to either pay the money to the doctor/insurance company or on our food choices. I prefer spending the money on our food choices and this is one of the reasons why I’d love to grow and produce it ourselves especially when considering the cost.
2) I LOVE the artisan techniques associated with making food from your garden, making your own cheese/yogurt/butter, and making your own yarn then dyeing it to knit a sweater during the cold winter months. I want to have a pantry with jars of homemade jams and other foods from our garden. I long to smell the fragrance of herbs drying in my kitchen and plucking garlic from a braid hanging in my pantry.
3) I’ve been told that my great-grandmother was an outstanding baker. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I wish my grandmothers and great-grandmothers were alive today so I could soak up all their cooking wisdom. These are skills and traditions that are passing away along with our loved ones. I want to teach my children these skills and therefore I’m trying to learn them myself now in order to pass them along to them. I want my children to know how to actually cook when they move out or get married – more than popping a pre-made frozen dinner in the oven or microwave. These are basic life skills.
Time will tell whether this dream will come to fruition or if it will stay just that…a dream.