Today, I happened to drive some back-country roads in the area. It happens a lot, because we're pretty far out from any big cities, even though our own town is biggish (and kind of slummy). I love being out away from housing developments and businesses and near real farmland.
Of course, there aren't a lot of large farms around here. But there are tons of little ones. Northern Virginia is an excellent place for small farms, especially livestock. It's hard to plow up and down all the gulches and gullies, but it's a great place to raise cattle, sheep, goats, and horses -- so I see a lot of them when I'm driving around.
And ... laugh all you want ... I have trouble keeping my eyes on the road when this happens. Not so much with the horses, or the sheep and goats. But the cows ... happy sigh.
John jokes that when I see a cow, my eyes turn into big cheese wheels. Yes, I admit that's what it's all about. I love dairy products of all kinds. I would love them even more if I could get hold of them fresh from the cow and make my own cheese and butter. Mmm, and sour cream ...
I have a dream. I've basically had this dream since I was a kid and read the Little House books, only I thought it was only a daydream because no one actually farms anymore. (Yes, I thought this. And then I thought only the Amish did it, so I wanted to be Amish.) My dream is to have a little homestead, just a few acres, where I can produce a large portion of my own food.
There are a lot of reasons for this. There's the idea of greater self-sufficiency, protection of one's food supply in case of disaster, better health, preservation of important skills, contributing to the family while staying home with the kids, educational opportunity, and saving money. But the main reason is just that I want to, that I've always wanted to. I've always wanted to live in the country -- the further out, the better. I've always wanted to have lots of animals. I want to milk cows and feed chickens. I want to grow vegetables -- and then MORE vegetables.
Every little thing I do makes me want to do more things. Growing basil on my porch made me want to grow tomatoes. Growing tomatoes made me want to grow green beans. Growing green beans made me want to grow peas, lettuce, squash, peppers, and cucumbers. Oh, and herbs. But now I start to wonder if it's really all that impossible to start a small flock of chickens in our back yard. (Answer: kinda, yeah.)
Our current house, which we like lots, is very small. It probably won't hold us forever. I think of it as our five-year house, though it all depends on how soon we could afford to scale up. And my dream for when we do scale up looks like this:
A 100-year-old farmhouse in the country. It's white and done up in that fine old Virginia style. A little distance away is a red barn, where my beautiful cream-colored Jersey cow lives. There's some nice pasture where she can graze, and a chicken coop in the peach orchard. (Perhaps peach-and-apricot orchard.) There's a big old garden that contains every vegetable we could ever eat. Probably we'd have at least a couple of pigs to fatten.
Inside the house, I'd be preparing dozens of different things with that rich Jersey milk, putting up canned and frozen vegetables, and making peach jam. I grew up on mostly frozen vegetables shipped from a million miles away, and fruit that there was never really enough of, so the idea of a bounty of truly fresh food just makes my skirt fly up (as the Pioneer Woman says). We'd have beef roasts and stock made from bones and all the eggs we could eat. The kids could nosh on all the fruit and vegetables and cheese they wanted. No junk food required!
But the really fun part would be the outdoor part. I'd milk the cow morning and night, feed her calf, toss out grain for the chickens, feed the pigs, and the rest of the time I could grub in the garden. And the kids could help! So educational!
John says, and I admit he's right, that there would be a lot of times when he would end up being the one milking the cow. Having lived on a homestead before, he knows the drill. But he doesn't love it like I do. I'm the one who used to hang on his every word while he told all about slaughtering chickens ... over a chicken dinner. I'm the one who mooned over his family's cows when I would visit them in Wisconsin. I don't think he ever quite put two and two together and realized I was going to drag him, kicking and screaming, back into farm life, but ... if I get the slightest chance, I will. And despite his lack of enthusiasm for cows, he's been remarkably supportive about the whole thing.
So far, it's just a dream. But there's nothing actually stopping this from becoming a reality someday. Meanwhile, it's a very popular bedtime story for Marko and a nice daydream when I'm driving around the countryside. And I keep pinching my pennies in the hopes of being able to really do it someday.
What's your dream?