Grit Blogs > Iron Oak Farm

Walking Backwards

Nubian Goat
Our Nubian dairy goat Gretta  

Jennifer SartellI love to read the stories of how people started farming. Some were raised by farmers, and just as you inherit your Aunt Mildred’s green eyes, you get the farm gene. It’s in your blood, in your family, and many would never think to do anything else with their life.

Our heritage Black Spanish turkey  

Some of my favorite stories are the romantic ones, the fish out of water tales, where the city slicker throws caution to the winds, gives up the office with a window and moves to the country to raise cows, or chickens, or corn. I admire them; their bravery and gumption.  

A Connecticut Field Pumpkin from our heirloom pumpkin patch  

Our path to farming has been a different process. A series of baby steps directed towards our idea as to what life should look like, what food should look like, what success should look like; with a promise to trust ourselves, to see progress in perhaps a different light and chase it one system at a time.  

Angora Goat Kid
Our Angora Buckling Ichabod, his head is on his sister Beatrix’ back  

We’ve always been do-it-yourselfers. Some may say, to an extreme, but really it’s just walking backwards. It’s tracing back the steps of a skill to the source. If I could learn to knit, could I learn to make yarn, could I raise the animals that produce the fiber, could I grow the food that the fiber animals ate? And the path continues, walking backwards towards the source of sustenance. And surprisingly enough, it’s always simpler than we thought.  

Rhode Island Red
Our Rhode Island Red chicken  

I’ve raised chickens since I was 14, a small victory with my father one Saturday afternoon at the feed store during Chick Days. A weekend errand to buy a bag of thistle for the cedar bird feeder on our deck, that turned into a box of chicks and a lifestyle that would carry through to my adulthood and eventually involve my husband Zach, who is just as addicted as I am.

Our pair of Pekin Ducks  

That box of chicks was the beginning of our journey, an inspiration that has brought us to our 14 acre farm where we now raise a herd of Angora goats for fiber; a herd of dairy goats that provide us with delicious milk, a flock of chickens, heritage turkeys and two bossy ducks. We also raise bees, hay our field, and grow a large organic garden and heirloom pumpkin patch.

The cross peen hammer with a hand forged tool to help make hand forged nails on the anvil 

My husband Zach chased his joy of working with metal back to the craft of blacksmithing, which he now enjoys in the traditional artisan manner: hammer, anvil and coal forge.

Our beehive showing the inner frames and some wayward comb building  

Here at Iron Oak Farm, we are still on a journey and I’m excited to have the opportunity to share that journey with the GRIT community. Our attempt at this process has led us to so many different adventures. Some successful, some, well…not so much. At times it feels as though we’re on a treadmill, stuck in one spot and other times, it feels as though  we’re running in a hundred different directions. But it doesn’t take long for the farm to remind us to slow down, to stroll, to cherish the small steps that add up to a beautiful set of goals and a satisfying lifestyle.

nebraska dave
1/24/2013 11:48:41 PM

Jennifer, welcome to the GRIT blogging community. I can already see that your input to the community will be a great asset. My life started on a small Nebraska farm which seeded the country living DNA into my life. At age 10, Dad moved to the city to find work so my farming fix came from summers with my Uncle. At 17 Dad returned to semi farm live with 114 acres just outside of town. We had pigs, cows, chickens, and a horse for my sister. Unfortunately, technology stole me away for a 41 year career and the country DNA lay dormant for all those years. Upon retirement the dormant DNA came back to life and gardening became my passion. I have two gardens. One is a backyard garden of five raised beds that are watered automatically by gravity feed from caught rain water. The other is a 160X60 piece of ground that I bought last year. It's been a great awaking of the country DNA even though I'm an Urban dweller. Have a great dream fulfilling day.

shannon cole
1/22/2013 9:14:19 PM

I love your pictures. And, your walking backward concept. Getting back to the root of things is how I like to live too!

cheryl aker
1/22/2013 8:54:53 PM

Great post... Fills my head with dreams of not being chained to this desk at my job in the city with not even a glimpse of the outside world all day.

stacey berendt
1/22/2013 2:42:52 AM

Beautifully written and inspiring! I love your photos too.

rachael mcintosh taylor
1/21/2013 11:38:53 PM

Walking backwards! I love it! Here's to you and Zach!

chuck mallory
1/21/2013 10:42:14 PM

Wow, you guys have a lot of great things going! Maybe the "Green Acres" re-runs scared me! Though I didn't grow up on a farm, I grew up around farms and all my grandparents farmed. You are absolutely right; it never leaves you. I used to be enamored with city life but now the idea of growing one's own organic food and raising animals (at least chickens; not sure I can handle more than that) sounds very alluring.