Jill Clingan

Jill Clingan

Chicken Scratch

By Jill Clingan

Outside of Peculiar, Missouri, Jill Clingan and her family make their home on their little slice of heaven, along with a large array of animals.

Jill says, “I will focus on our transition from ‘city life’ to ‘country life,’ with an emphasis, I am sure, on our chickens.”

She’ll also write about health, gardening, and cooking and baking. On her to-do list is planning their garden and gearing up for more chicks.

She has quite a story to answer the question about why the family moved to the country.

We befriended an Old German Baptist family a few years ago, and they bravely asked us to farmsit for them while they traveled for nearly a week. That experience was a crash course in farm living for sure! We milked their cow, fed horses, cared for fledgling plants, gathered eggs, and lived without electricity for six days. Those days were a little rough, yes, but we fell in love with the animals, the earth, and the vast sky.

“We began to pursue our own dream of owning a little land, and after much searching, we finally moved to a little plot of acreage with our own animals, our own stake in the earth, and our own view of the vast sky. We had no idea what we were doing when we first began this adventure, and, quite frankly, we still often don’t, but we now have chickens and ducks wandering and waddling around our yard, and our poultry have surprisingly filled our lives brimful with laughter and quirkiness.”

The list of animals that share the homestead with the Clingan family is long and varied. Here we go: “Chickens: Red Star, Barred Rock, Americauna, Buff Orpingtons, Golden Comet, Rhode Island Red, Silver-Laced Wyandotte, Gold-Laced Wyandotte. Many of these chickens have names. One is named after the Olympic figure skater Gracie Gold. Another is named after the Paraolympic snowboarder Amy Purdy. Other names include Hoppy (our lame chicken), Audrey and Sybil,” Jill says. “Ducks: Rouen and Pekin.  Elizabeth, Amy, David I, David II; dogs: Hans, a Great Pyrenees/Anatolian Shepherd mix; Luke, a Lab mix; Chewie, a Vizsla, who was the runt of the litter and is a very ‘special’ dog; and cats (outside cats who always sneak inside): Little Bear and Morgan le Fay.” And that’s not all.

The family also shares their space with Anna, a ferret, and Snailman – a snail, as you well might imagine.

“I would define a ‘homesteader,'” Jill says, “as someone who understands the value and satisfaction of living as much as possible off of one’s own plot of earth.”

When asked what prompted the planting of their garden, Jill says, “We loved to garden even when our yard was small – there is something so satisfying about picking and enjoying our own produce. Last year was our first year on our property, and we spent the springtime building a chicken coop, so our garden wasn’t very big. We have much grander plans this year!”

Nothing is planted yet for the 2015 garden, but “we have plans and post-it notes stuck on many pages in our seed catalog. This summer we are going to grow tomatoes, tomatillos, basil, parsnips, sweet potatoes, beets, spinach, peppers, zucchini, sugar snap peas, pumpkins, herbs, and whatever else sounds good!”

Jill counts gardening, cooking, and “loving on and caring for our brood of chickens and ducks” as being among her country skills.

And when asked her philosophy of country life? She starts with a quote.

“When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.” —Wendell Berry

Then she writes, “My philosophy of country life is that it is a place where I find freedom. I have lived in the city of Los Angeles. I have lived in the suburbs of Kansas City. And now I live in the country. Here I am home. Here I am free. It’s a harder life than I thought it would be, but it’s fuller, richer, and teeming with life around and within me.”

You can contact Jill through her website, on her Facebook page, or via Instagram.