My love for farming came first from my love of the natural world. Growing up spending summers in the mountains in Idaho where every Sabbath we ventured into the Mountains or valleys to picnic and enjoy creation imprinted a great love for the world outside. I studied this world both formally and informally. Informally, I ran the meadow side, turned over rocks in the creek, and studied how trees grew from the smallest of seeds. From early childhood I could be found toting around a jar of one of my latest collections. I loved to see how spiders when put in the same can reacted. That grew into a collection of terrariums with both reptiles and amphibians. Snakes were fascinating to me and provided great informal education. I studied more formally through my love for every ecology class I could take at the University and after graduating all of the classes I could take to become a Master Naturalist. Yet, I only mastered the desire to know more.
The practical side of me, took that love for the natural world and transformed it into cultivation. The cultivation of both produce and meat alike was birthed from a desire to understand the circle of life more thoroughly. In my years raising pastured poultry, the worlds of ecology and agriculture came together as I walked barefoot many a night to shut the door to the chicken tractors scattered throughout the farm. On one of those moonless nights I stepped on a snake. While I enjoyed reptiles when I was in control by having them in a cage or at least in sight, I did not like the feeling under my foot. It just took that one experience to change the way I lived. I found shoes about the same time that I lost the joy of those walks. Recently I was challenged by a colleague learning of my love for snakes but not if they were under my foot. To him, this did not make sense and he challenged me on it.
For the first time tonight, I once again took off my shoes to enjoy a moonlit walk through the woods to one of my favorite places on Sugar Creek. As I walked, I contemplated life through the feel of earth beneath my feet. The protection of shoes through the years had made my feet soft. I felt each and every pebble, each and every nut recently blown from the trees. Even the leaves on the forest floor had edges that were sharp. Yet I walked on with determination. And then I found the softness of mud and then sand. Oh the pleasure, when I stepped forward into sand. Yet after a 100 yards, even the sand felt somewhat abrasive. And thus it was the mud in which I stopped to enjoy a rest. Continuing on brought me to the edge of the creek and despite the brisk fall temperatures, I put my feet into the creek to wash away the mud, finding pleasure in the peace brought by the sound of running water.
Life is but full of pebbles and walnuts. Hard times cut through us. Fear stops us from enjoying the smallest pleasures in life. Without determination, we often stop before we find the sand. We often don’t recognize the mud we stand in as relief or protection. While these lessons may sound simple, they were profound on this night. Snake or no snake, I am determined to remember the small pleasures like walking barefoot through my fields and woodlands. In most real terms, I am determined to remember that I do enjoy snakes that are both in my control as well as those outside of my control.
Eventually I brought this lesson back inside. I returned to the comforts of a home with a spirit of thanksgiving for the shoes that often offer comfort but with the new knowledge that at times I need to let that comfort go so I can stretch and see new pleasures. Back inside, I went back to my mothery responsibilities. I first tucked in my 9 year old and said the Lord’s Prayer with her as I do every night. I followed with a silent prayer thanking God for the people given to us to challenge our thoughts in life. I then was challenged by my 16 year old son as he asked to talk to me. It is in this conversation that I was able to tell him what was described above. As we talked about the fears that hold us back he very much understood the connection as he knows of both my love and then fear of snakes. He understood that as he grows and learns to stretch his wings, he may be fearful of the things he loves the most, such as loving parents, and the car that gives him new found freedom, but that he needed to remember to walk barefoot in the night with determination to see life through.
It is with great thanksgiving, I write tonight as I see so many joys through the sorrows in life, all from the courage to walk barefoot through fields and woods. While each of us journeys on, we find moments where our lives intersect with another. In these moments we are there to love and support one another. And at times the love and support is replaced with anger and bitterness. I see this often in employees of This Old Farm. It is with honor that I was able to extend a loving hand to Susan Belt, a good friend, after the death of her husband and offer employment to her as she first learned to find her wings. She is now stretching those wings and returning to her career as a young adult with a goal to teach middle school science. I thank Susan for her months at This Old Farm where she brought new thought to the way we operate on a daily basis. Her newsletters will be missed. I also find solace that while there are some employees that leave disgruntled because I have asked them to do a job and do a job well, there are many more that go onto a new position while remaining someone we call friend. To end, I offer a word of thanks for all those that have worked to make This Old Farm what it is today. Each and everyone has brought a lesson before me. Some were pebbles, some like mud, but most were like sand offering relief with somewhat of an abrasive side. Who doesn’t love sand from time to time?
Owner and President
This Old Farm