Farming. What do I say? How did I get here? What the… ?
One year ago, we were furiously working the nightshift after our day jobs to finish the "rip out and start over" phase of this little shack, I lovingly refer to as "the cottage." This cottage being the place we call home. The FARM.
Two years ago, I was dreaming of buying land. We were wrapping up our business plan from the Farm Beginnings course, drunk on the what-could-be. We could be farming! (Ok, I could be farming, Steve would still be doing what Steve does.) Driving around this land of southern Illinois, creeping the back roads to find the perfect place to stake our claim to farming. We needn't look far. Two miles from our then "urban bungalow," just south of where we both graduated college, less than a mile from my then current day job.
A person who I knew to have chicken eggs was selling her place. She contacted me seemingly out of the blue, telling me to check out her place she wanted to sell. At that time, I had kinda lost hope… so many places for sale, all very nicely out of our price range. I remember driving out to her place, pulling into the drive, sitting there. Well, not exactly what I had in mind, but my mind tends to be in the Champagne mode, when in reality, we're all PBR 'round here. Still, it had potential. I could tell it had been loved at some point. I casually mention this place to my dad, which leads us to "just taking a look." We take a look. We walk the land. We look at the stuff just sitting around, begging for someone to notice. Dad says it has possibilities. I say, "Yeah, sure."
Next thing I'm doing is updating our business plan to include hops (hey, they are already here, ready to go!). I contact our local credit union to set-up a loan appointment. I nervously show up to this appointment, hand the loan officer my plan, then I wait. Oh my. The next few weeks are nauseous bouts of hope, doubt, depression, gleeful not knowing what's about to happen. In the meantime, four other hopeful people are trying to buy this place, too. I wait. I call the bank. I wait. I call the bank…
BINGO! YOU HAVE RECEIVED THE GOLDEN TICKET. YOU MAY PROCEED TO YOUR LIFE! YOUR LIFE WILL NOW BE FARMING. THAT IS ALL.
At this point, we had just finished out a market season at another local farm. A farm that I wish sometimes, I never knew about. But alas, I made a decision and I try to learn from those "decisions." The situation at this farm had gone everything but good, leaving me with a frightening realization that maybe I didn't want this. This farming shit can take a hike! I had vowed to never, ever, plant another row of cucumbers 160' long… that's too many cucumbers in a row. Can you even sell that many cucumbers? The answer is no. Not when it's August and everyone else has a zillion cucumbers at market. I had never been so ready to run from something. Run fast, run hard.
So things have a way of working themselves out. I was ready to run far, far away from farming, then we just up and buy a farm. See? We be crazy. It was the Champagne.
Back to reality, in April 2013, we settle in at the cottage. Sure, the sink is still held up with 2x4's, we have no interior doors, no kitchen cabinets and sketchy water from a cistern. I didn't care. I was going to be a farmer. This is it. This is where I'm going o die. (Not soon, I hope, but eventually.) For the first year (this past year), I watch things grow. We barely mow anything on this 6 acres. I just sit and watch. Much to my parents dismay, I let weeds grab hold, shake and do their thang. My brother and I share a push mower that was given to Steve about ten years ago, so I'm not stretching it too much about the whole mowing thing. I let the deer and groundhogs eat what they want. I drag trash from the woods (My mother helps, so this is where I get it from) and sit it about the yard and deck. I hang laundry off the back deck from a rope. I sit on the front porch, sip PBR, and stare hard at things.
I had a plan. I would slowly ease into this farming life. I'd throw some cover crops here, plant a few things there… easy!
Come July, the weeds (weeds are really just useful plants that haven't been put to good use) are as tall as I am. My day job of nearly 10 years is in flux. Are we expanding? Where are we moving to? Turns out, we "closed" in September. Huh, just six months ago, I was looking for another building to move production to. We'll be moving on up! Except, we didn't. We were sold, cast off, not needed. Ok. Life change was what I wished for and boy howdy, did I get it! Well, no biggie, I've got farming.
No, I had weeds. Big ones. I didn't have a high tunnel, green house, tractor, or income… but I've got two hands and lots of hand tools. I've got lots of seeds. Um, I've got some compost around here somewhere. Freak out.
So, this is where it starts.