Our homestead lies on the border of the two cities: Bellingham and Ferndale. Hence, the name, Bellfern. Our short road is a less traveled and rolling one, dotted with old barns and hayfields with a wooded creek meandering across. Yet, blinking into our living room at night is a giant LED screen advertising the casino down the road.
We are a 20 minute bike ride to the co-op grocer and only a half mile away from the freeway entrance. A 10 minute drive north takes you to open farmland, where big berry farms dominate and folks lean red politically. A 10 minute drive south leads you to a hip college town, where local businesses are well supported and people vote to uphold social services with their tax dollars.
We appreciate both worlds, whether its a trip to the small feed store up north, only open on Thursdays and Saturdays, or an evening spent at the improv comedy club owned by a well-known celebrity (rhymes with Bryan Smiles). We like the down-to-earth practicality and easy conversation with our northern neighbors, while we appreciate the intellectual challenge and artistic expression that comes with living near a college town.
We’re living on the edge.
An edge is defined as the convergence of two adjacent and contrasting areas. It’s not about the line down the middle as much as it is about the space on either side.
We are “gentleperson farmers.” Before leaving for work each morning, we haul fermented feed to the chickens and give scythe-cut grass to the pigs. At any point we are likely to step in poop (dog, chicken, or pig), yet our day jobs require us to appear scrubbed up and shiny. When we come home in the evening, we change back into our favorite Duluth Trading Co. work pants and flannels. We love the physical challenge of farming, but we both also love our day jobs, which stimulate us intellectually and socially. We like it on the edge.
They say the edge is the most fertile ground of a landscape. If you leave a pile of compost, for example, just sitting around, the first place you will find something thriving is where the pile meets the ground, since that is where nutrients settle and there’s the necessary light, oxygen, and microbes present. If you pay attention, you’ll see that biodiversity is greatest at edges like ditches, walking paths, and roads. In the wild, the edges of waterways, meadows, outcroppings, and avalanche chutes are typically the lushest and most interesting.
As much as possible, we try to live in the fertile space on both sides. We don’t “walk the line” as much as we waltz across it, sometimes dozens of times in a day. The edge isn’t really a line at all, so much as a point of convergence and balance that we’re always moving toward.