I don’t want to brag, but this winter my husband and I built a compost bin and installed a fence around our (chicken-less) chicken coop. We count these among the proudest accomplishments of our nearly 15-year marriage, neck-and-neck with those four daughters and those economics publications.
A little background: Last August, we moved to a house surrounded by twelve-and-a-half acres of open land. This move was the result of A Vision. There was absolutely nothing wrong with our previous house, which was surrounded by an acre of woods and rocks — nothing wrong with it at all, unless you had A Vision of small-scale gardening and animal husbandry.
So we moved to a house where we could turn our Vision into a reality. Where we could plant gardens and fruit trees; where we could establish a small poultry flock and add some pigs or a couple of goats in time. The idea was to buy a little land, really care for it, and use it to grow the things that our family was most likely to consume.
(There is nothing new about this Vision: Since Scott and Helen Nearing first left New York City for Southern Vermont in the 1930s – and perhaps even before then – its various iterations have been called things like “the good life,” “the back-to-the-land movement,” and “homesteading.” Also: “reckless idealism,” “backbreaking labor,” and “folly.”)
Here is one challenge we face: Our new little slice of heaven has never, so far as we know, been used as anything other than a hayfield – and even the hayfield had fallen into scrubby neglect by the time we bought it. There were no gardens, no outbuildings other than an open shed, and no effort had been made to care for the soil. We are starting from scratch.
Here is another challenge we face: Inexperience. Other than caring for polite perennial gardens and one short-lived flock of laying hens, we have no prior experience with growing or farming. We feel like suburban kids playing pioneers, which is exactly what we are.
But here’s what we have going for us: We know how stupid we are.