We’re a family in a tiny map dot called Frankford, DE, on 8 acres. I read waaaay too many homesteading books and articles and my heart’s definitely in the right place, although it’s not always commensurate with the ages old battle between the ambitions of a mere human versus the time on one’s hands and the capabilities they possess. This blog is designed to chronicle our search for sustainability and sanity (which I’m not quite sure we ever possessed to begin with), working with what we have and whatever else we can put our broke-ass hands on. It’s also designed to be my personal accountability system. Now the disclaimers: If things that happen on a farm offend you, (i.e. POOP, the use of food animals for (gasp) food, birth, death, hunting, fishing, the occasional use of colorful (to put it politely) language, the participation of tiny humans in all of the above) well, then, suffice it to say, this may not be the place for you to spend any leisure time. Or research. Definitely not research. This blog is not intended to be an instructional tool on how to do things correctly. More often, I can assure you, it will be more of a shining example of the “stuff we tried that was an epic failure of disastrous and occasionally comedic proportions” variety. If you haven’t clicked the little “x” at the top right yet, read on, brave soul! Welcome to our crazy family!
Nearly six years ago, my husband and the father of my youngest child reached the end of our shared road. I was living in Virginia at the time, smack dab in the middle of seven large cities, none of which I had an affection for, or even a tolerance if we’re being honest. I was simply not designed for city living. Or even neighborhood living. I made the decision to move my toddler, my two older sons and myself back home to the Eastern Shore, to the Delmarva area. My parents were both long deceased, the beautiful 240 acre bay front farm I grew up on had long since been sold, and I had very little in the way of connected family, but I was going home. Wasn’t sure what I was going to do when I got there, but I was going home.
In doing so, I reconnected with a ton of fellow high school classmates and childhood friends. One of which was my now significant other. He was newly seperated, as was I, we started spending a good deal of time together, and well, the rest is history. He’s now Pap to my grandbabies and alternately my biggest cheerleader and reliable source of obscure knowledge, or the ass I am determined to prove wrong, depending on the day and our respective moods.
So here we are, nearly six years later. He owns an eight acre chunk of real estate in Sussex County, DE and we live here. At our outset as a couple, we lived in my rental home, inconveniently located in a super snotty subdivision with a Nazi-ish HOA. That was ill-fated and bound to end badly. When we came back here to live, my heart and head were full of proper notions and ideas on all the great and wonderful things we could do with all this glorious space and blessed agricultural zoning.
Unfortunately, our wallets didn’t match my train of thought. Being the flighty short-attention-spanned Sagittarius that I am, projects have been started and subsequently abandoned with alarming frequency. The last six years have been fraught with good intentions, occasional successes and frequent heartbreaks but very little of the desired results. Mostly human error, I assure you. Mostly mine. However, a good chunk of blame rests with my nemesis, the rustbucket Ferguson TO-20 that has run exactly twice for several brief shining moments in six years. And its owner, my Tony. (Who promises every season that this will be the one that it rises from the ashes like a giant mechanical phoenix and restores order and gardens and pastures) I hate that great hulking useless beast. The tractor, not Tony. The thing that’s stuck is the name. The Fun E Farm. Originally coined on the first initial of my honey’s last name, long pre-me, but more fittingly now due to the fact that most of the residents are often more than a little nuts.
So fast forwarding, the ever present need to pay bills, and survive, and to eat and have lights and heat and silly things like that got in the way and we found ourselves in the predicament of having to work, like, for other people. A lot. Life kind of took over, and we were doing nothing except surviving. This property had become a wasteland of decaying outbuildings and supplies and a half-finished project graveyard. Pulling into the driveway from a job I hated became an ever present in-my-face and virtually overwhelming reminder that I was Failing. With a capital F. And I was mis-er-a-ble. It was time for a change.
We’ve always kept a few revolving critters around for the kiddles. Having a weekly livestock auction within an hour’s drive has been both a blessing and a curse. But instead of being a source of income or sustaining us, they’ve been a drain on our household economy or a sort of “forced savings” more often than not. It’s also netted us a slightly psychotic Tennessee fainting goat who thinks she is a dog and will be here sucking up feed and weeds and my damn pansies until she kicks the bucket of natural causes. Even Ryan’s bus driver jokes about our “funny looking dog” because she will often wait on the doorstep with my kid in the morning for the school bus. Goats are the Houdinis of the livestock world and little cloven hoofed fountains of craftiness and dogged determination. No fence can hold her, I firmly believe she eats wire by the roll, and after a long battle of wills, we’ve conceded that Sophie wins. Now I put the plants in cages. The goat is free range.
Just this past year, we scaled way back so we didn’t have to feed a bunch of critters through the winter. The permanent residents are two horses, Barbie and Don, one goat Sophie, two flemish giant rabbits, two mentally unstable two pound excuses for Chihuahua dogs, Dottie and Rascal, two hamsters, 6 Rhode Island hens, 3 Rhode Island roos, 2 Aracauna hens, 2 Aracauna roosters, and a couple of migrant ferrets belonging to my daughter’s family. And there’s Minnie the barn cat, who is down to an estimate of 6 or 7 of her alloted nine lives after an unfortunate encounter with some feral carnivorous cat hating critter a few years back. When I say we scaled way back, it’s because we’ve been home to all of the following at one time or another… Calves of all sorts, feeder hogs, potbellied pigs (one affectionately known as the spawn of Satan), every variety of rabbit known to man, turkeys, ducks, chickens, pheasants, peafowl, lambs, goats, and geese. And snapping turtles. Don’t ask about the turtles. They are apparently delicious and have been known to serve as currency with the Amish at the local auction.
We’ve raised some to eat, some to market, some to trade, we’ve honestly just flipped some critters (bought them low at auction and sold them the next day or week) and gotten in way over our heads with some simply because it seemed like an uber-cool idea at the time. Like the pheasants. Suffice it to say if there is ever a burgeoning invasive pheasant species population coming up in our locale, we may or may not be responsible. Fast, flighty crafty little bastards bent on escape and chaos, those pheasant.
This is a brand new year. I’ve decided that I’m going to approach things a little differently. I’ve watched countless others doing exactly what I had envisioned in my head with less. Less time, less resources, less money, less everything. I watched them with a curious mixture of admiration, envy and little embers of misplaced hatred. And I started asking myself why and how and was bitch slapped with the disturbing reality that….drumrollllll please…..they. just. did. it. What? ! ? Could it really be that simple? I’m nearly sure that it is. We’re going to find out together.