My road to farming and homesteading has been circuitous. I was raised in suburban Minnesota where family and neighbors would have considered themselves to be of the working or middle class. If there had been family members who farmed, it was many generations past.
During my college years, I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend a summer on a farm in Northern Norway. Initially, I found the rhythm of the lifestyle to be disorienting; having already been indoctrinated in the idea that work happened behind a desk from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. I perceived farm work to be unending as there was no formally scheduled end time and it seemingly continued throughout the day. As the summer passed, however, I realized that there was lots of time for laughter, fun, adventure, even relaxation… and it was often intermixed with what would otherwise be termed ‘work’. In addition, and much to my surprise, I found it oddly exhilarating to work hard physically, fall into bed exhausted and wake up refreshed. At home, I frequently went to bed mentally exhausted, yet seldom awoke feeling truly refreshed. The country life definitely suited my empathic temperament and free-spirited disposition; and yet, I did not consider it as a career or lifestyle opportunity at the time. It was decidedly outside the realm of my experience.
Eventually I would marry and we brought two beautiful beings into this world. I realized at that time how much I wanted life to slow so I could be fully present and enjoy the moment. I didn’t want to miss out on a moment with our daughters. I wanted to sit in the grass, make dandelion hair wreaths, investigate gopher holes, feed lambs and search for bird nests with them. Our financial needs were greater, but my interest in an outside career dwindled. I longed for that lifestyle I had sampled in Norway… busy and productive days focusing on hearth and home.
With a vague dream and rapidly diminishing savings, I dragged my city born and bred husband out to the country. We found a small home on a 1.67 acre parcel located in an east central Minnesota township housing development that was still zoned agricultural. It was a start, but this was definitely new territory. My mother had remained at home while her children were young and pursued various income opportunities from time to time so there was precedent for such a decision; still, most people of our acquaintance viewed my ideas and choices with skepticism and derision. My husband had humored my insistence that we move to the country, but the idea of farming, or even sustainable living, was completely alien to him. I had no mentors, few supporters, and my use of the internet was minimal at the time. As I was no longer employed outside our home, there were no funds beyond those required to meet our immediate needs. Although my enthusiasm has never waned, it was a slow and rocky start with many failures and few successes.
TO BE CONTINUED IN PART II…