It seems that we have bought a farm on 7 acres of pasture, with a slightly ramshackle craftsman house, two barns in questionable repair, a creek, a flock of chickens, two temporary cows, and a sheep.
But I don’t even want to go there yet, first of all because it’s only 97% certain that this farm will become ours, and second because I’m still here, on my beautiful urban homestead, and first I need to say goodbye.
In 2008 Josh and I bought a 1908 Craftsman house on a 5000 sq. ft. lot in Bellingham, WA. When we bought it the home had been nicely remodeled (though painted a crazy palette of primary colors), but the yard was a jungle of waist-high weeds, unpruned maple trees, rotten decking, and yards and yards of drain rock.
Over the course of 8 years, we transformed the small overgrown city lot into an urban homestead paradise. The first three years were exhausting and back breaking–we spent so many weeknights and weekends shoveling yards of soil, compost, rock, and mulch from truck to wheelbarrow to garden–but they were fulfilling and purposeful, and we remember feeling energized and happy (most of the time).
After the yard was finally given a purpose and growing something useful, we decided that the attic space above our one-story 860 sq. ft house might as well be used, so we set off on an 18 month project of converting the unfinished attic into a sewing studio and quiet space with half bath.
The end result was a quiet retreat for meditation, crafting, and guests.
Once that project was solidly underway, we built a chicken coop and added a flock of layer hens, followed by a flock of 14 meat chickens that we butchered on our back deck (to the horror of our vegetarian neighbor).
Mason orchard bees pollinate the apple, blueberry, raspberry, and plum trees out back.
In short, we have created the home we dreamed for ourselves. It’s beautiful, peaceful, productive, fertile, safe, and sustainable. But it’s also finished, for the most part. There’s little more that we can do here but plant new veggie starts each spring. We’re both young and have 2-3 decades left in our working lives and we’re not quite ready to be so…well-rested.
About a year ago we began to contemplate “the next.” It started with tinkering–organizing the workshop, building a few more raised garden beds. And then it evolved into new building plans–where could we squeeze in a sauna? Until we finally acknowledged that maybe what we really wanted was to do this all again on a bigger scale.
Are we crazy?!?
My wise friend Aimee says no, we’re not. She says that humans are industrious creatures who crave occupation and purpose, even when it’s risky. She pointed to the Vikings who struck out on dangerous journeys across the sea to explore no one knew what for no other reason than that it was their nature.
Aimee also reminds me that it’s Ok to feel so conflicted about leaving our beautiful home to start again. As much as we are excited for the potential of 7 pastured acres and a small homestead, our grief about leaving this place is “also true.” One emotion does not exclude the other. We’re sitting with many “also trues” as we rapidly approach the closing date on the sale of our urban home and the purchase of the farm.
Although it’s hard to imagine leaving behind all of the work and improvements over the last 8 years, it’s been a crucial time for learning new skills and gaining confidence. Our urban homestead has been an excellent proving ground. I know a hundred percent more about building, gardening, and small livestock than I did when we started, so in many ways I’m so much more prepared for what lies ahead.
Things I learned how to do in the last 8 years: install flooring, wire outlets and switches, refinish cabinets, plumb sinks and toilets, cope crown molding, replace toilets, hang a door, hang a gutter, roof a structure, draw blueprints, use saws–table, jig, miter, and reciprocating–house mason bees, build a chicken coop, raise egg chickens, raise meat chickens, slaughter meat chickens, sheet mulch, cover crop, build arbors, build gates, reframe windows, harvest vegetable seeds, and prune fruit trees.
I can’t say that we’re ready to become real farmers, because there’s still so much we don’t know. But we’re ready to learn. Because we bought the farm.