The last time I posted, I was talking about a trial that Andy and I had just been released from being witnesses in. The trial was for Vernon Hershberger and at the time of the post, it was unclear the result. Most thought he would be jailed and fined to the full extent of the law. A few of us hoped and prayed he would come out victorious.
Having the cushion of several months, I can tell you that Vernon did indeed come out victorious. Despite every attempt by the prosecution and the judge to strangle out the details, the jury of peers acquitted him of three out of four counts of criminal activity and violations. Then, once released from the trial, over half of the jury learned the "whole truth" of the story and came to Vernon's sentencing. Four or five of them wrote personal letters to the judge asking for leniency on the sentencing because in their words, had they known what the trial was actually about [not violating regulations but food freedom and raw milk], they would have acquitted Vernon of all four counts. The state, on the other hand, asked for punishment to the full extent of the law. The judge said that never in his career had jurors returned to him after a case was decided and asked him to change their decision.
This moved him so much that he only fined Vernon a nominal amount based on the fourth count, and one of the jurors along with two of his farm members paid the fine in full on the spot. The whole event ended with the crowds singing "Amazing Grace" on the court steps.
Three of the jurors became members of Vernon's farm buying club.
Wow. Just wow. A testament to the court system actually doing its job and the effect ordinary people can have on the lives of others if only they just stop and give a darn!
I had to conclude that story for you because our own tale takes on a very interesting turn. I mentioned casually that we were moving the week of Vernon's trial from our rental home in Oshkosh. It was casual because at the time I thought I might be sending an epic blog post to you all about how we stumbled into a house with seven acres right across the street from Foxwood Farm. That's right, our old neighbor was calling it quits due to age and failing health and wanted a quick sale. And because the place is in a minor state of disrepair, we were approved for a home loan with a mortgage payment far less than what we were paying in rent in Oshkosh! It seemed too good to be true. And so we didn't really believe it until we finally closed in mid-June.
And then, it really was true. After three years of wandering the desert we felt like maybe now we had hit the promised land. We first learned of the opportunity when Finn was only a couple weeks old in January. And even then we didn't think we would qualify with our barebones income.
So, dear Grit readers, we are back in the country and we are loving it. This summer was filled with a vacation in June to admire and bask in the Great American West (read about it here and it's full of amazing photos, too: Driving To Montana and Yellowstone National Park and the Long Road Home).
We came home to summer school, swimming lessons, and perpetual home improvements. Andy began renting an office in the small town of Omro that we are now a part of so that he might get some concerted work done for Gourmet Grassfed. Gourmet Grassfed was a few months away from a website redesign, three new jerky flavors and two whole new grassfed beef products. There was a lot to get completed! For my part, I had been working for months on a new label design for the jerky that would finally finish in August, just in time for the launch and sales push.
Both Andy's and my parents have taken a special interest in our home here, being that it is much more solid than a rental unit. They volunteer their weekends and afternoons on a regular basis to help us clear out dead trees, tame some fencelines and weedwack overgrown lawn. We have a very basic three-bedroom, two-bath ranch house here and, while it looks simple and small, it's just right for us. God had been preparing our hearts for a tiny living space for over a year. When we toured our home in the winter for the first time, it seemed just the right amount of space to work with. Two kids to each room, one for us, a whole other bathroom (we only had one in Oshkosh)! A kitchen that blended into an eating area that bleeds into the living room; a few easy tweaks and the whole place feels cozy and warm.
The most important factor in our new homestead besides the fact that we could even buy a seven-acre property in the first place is this: POTENTIAL.
No single word can portray what we have here better. There are seven acres total, with one being taken up by the house, garage and immediate lawn/trees. Another acre is taken up by a man-made pond.
The other five are tillable, black earth beauties that we just had planted into pasture. Do you know what you can grow in five acres?? Of course you do! You are part of the Grit community! You savvy individual, the first thing you thought of was a garden and you would be correct. A large, canning garden (which will come next year as we didn't have time to plant this year). Next comes fruiting trees and bushes. Lots of them. Apples and pears and peaches and plums; blackberries and blueberries and raspberries and grapes; hickory nuts and butternuts! Then, when the pastures are full of clover and alfalfa, we add a couple feeder pigs and a few wily goats for meat and milk.
Chickens? You think we forgot about chickens? You don't know us well enough. Chickens are our first love. In fact, we already have some. Six jaunty Buff Brahma Bantams that tour our yard on a daily basis. And that's not all: this Sunday we get 20 to 30 more full-size laying hens of heritage breeds from a farmer friend in another community. We have been busy preparing a winter home for them out of the tin frame shed that came with the property.
It began as a little metal 10x12 foot structure and is now blossoming into a coop worthy of the finest chickens. With the help of Andy's folks and my father, we have a nice little place just waiting for our new friends.
And with that, I leave you for the day. Ethan is home from school and Elly will be in a couple hours. We are at peace with them being in public school for the time being because they really enjoy the work and making friends. Our hope is at sometime in the future we'll be in a place more worthy of their educational needs and to once again do it ourselves. I leave you with photos of our "Back Four" turning from summer to Autumn. God Bless the countryside! Boy, have I missed it!
We were so pleased to see a number of hickory trees growing along our property lines. Free food for the foraging! And the kids love helping, which is always great.
Below, Elly helps Liam fill our basket with yummy nuts!
I couldn't resist adding this image of Finn, "helping" us harvest hickory nuts from the fenceline trees. I figured a little dirt does a child's body good. I think he thought that, too!
Rebekah Sell lives on a small plot of land with her husband, Andy, on which they are hoping to build a sustainable homestead. With a small business and four kids, life is always interesting as Becky and Andy live fully the idea that the journey is the reward. Find her on Google+.