The kids are on the school bus, the barn chores are done, and I'm getting ready to drive three-plus hours east of here to attend EcoFarm Day, a conference hosted by the Canadian Organic Growers.
I'll be attending workshops on the overwinter storage of fruits and vegetables, as well as food safety on the farm, but the one I'm most looking forward to is 'Decisions for the viable and sustainable farm', a presentation that might help me decide whether to take the next step on our farming venture/adventure.
When we first moved to our farm almost three years ago, it was to become more self-reliant, to live closer to and in harmony with the earth and to raise our children in such an environment. Those intentions remain, but over the past year or so, I've been thinking about ways to have the farm as my livelihood, and not just a way of life.
The thought terrifies and excites me. I'm already climbing a huge learning curve and sometimes my legs and arms feel so tired from all the scrambling. I have no illusions that this will be easy -- for instance, I know just how physically hard this life can be, especially when I'm not a very big person to begin with. (I'm thinking back to a time last summer when despite putting all my weight behind a broadfork, it stayed stuck fast in the dirt, only to have Lucas walk over to it, grab it by the handles and hoist it clear from the ground. And don't get me started on how heavy those big bags of chicken feed are!)
It means digging deep, finding courage and coming to terms with and accepting that regardless of how stubborn I am, I will need help. Lots of it. And it's not like I don't already have two other jobs -- one as a mama, the second as a writer and editor.
I don't expect to get rich this way, but there are financial benefits to having an income-generating farm; even a small-scale one. For one, Ontario farmers who generate a gross income of $7,000 are eligible for a Farm Property Class tax rebate, which means we'd only pay 25% of our property taxes.
More importantly, generating more income on the farm means spending less time generating income off the farm, and while we do our best to reduce as much spending as we can by buying less, growing more, doing with what we have, the list of things we need money for remains long -- mortgage, property tax, vehicle repairs & gas, insurance, dental bills, savings for the kids' education, and on and on.
But even $7,000 seems like a monumental amount of money, especially when our sole farm income right now is the eggs from our 40 hens, which we sell for $3/dozen.
So we'll see. I'm not expecting to make any decisions tomorrow, only to gather more information. Maybe I'll realize I'm crazy or idealistic, or this is something to put on our 'five-year plan.' But this idea of growing the farm and making it fiscally productive has got a firm hold on me. I'm not alone.
In Kristin Kimball's book "The Dirty Life, On Farming, Food and Love," a story of her leap from a thirtysomething Manhattan-based writer to a new life on a sustainable cooperative farm in upstate New York, she writes:
"I've learned many things in the years since my life took this wild turn towards the dirt... But one lesson came harder than any of those: As much as you transform the land by farming, farming transforms you. It seeps into your skin along with the dirt that abides permanently in the creases of your thickened hands, the beds of your nails. It asks so much of your body that if you're not careful it can wreck you as surely as any vice by the time you're fifty, when you wake up and find yourself with ruined knees and dysfunctional shoulders, deaf from the constant clank and rattle of your machinery, and broke to boot.
But farming takes root in you and crowds out other endeavours, makes them seem paltry. Your acres become a world. And maybe you realize that it is beyond those acres or in your distant past, back in the realm of TiVo and cubicles, of take-out food and central heat and air, in that country where comfort has nearly disappeared, that you were deprived. Deprived of the pleasure of desire, of effort and difficulty and meaningful accomplishment. A farm asks and if you don't give enough, the primordial forces of death and wildness will overrun you. So naturally you give, and then you give some more, and then you give to the point of breaking, and then and only then it gives back, so bountifully it overfills not only your root cellar but also that parched and weedy little patch we call the soul."
I often tell my kids, "do one thing every day that scares you" and "make the most of yourself, for that's all there is of you" -- at the same time, accepting that where you are right now is perfect.
You'd think leaving our lives behind and moving to the country would be the hard part. That was easy. It's what comes next that scares me. I'll keep you posted.
Have a lovely weekend, folks!