What Now?

Deluxe and calf.

Deluxe and calf.

I have been lost. For days now, I have felt lost when I stand in my barn, when I sit in my house, when I think about what the future holds. Completely. Lost. Sometimes it sounds a bit silly, but I know it isn’t…the pain is too real. Deluxe was a gift on my 30th birthday. She was a long way coming for a family that started farming with chickens and dairy goats as a way to provide humane animal proteins for ourselves. It took me almost 8 months to find her, the perfect family cow. And even then, with all that planning, the cost of her was prohibitive…so she was a gift, from my parents.

We loved her so much that we built a business around her. We knew that we could not stop with just her, with just ourselves. Other families deserved to have access to the types of things we suddenly had in abundance. The Crowded Acre existed long before this point, but she is why we decided to share it with others.

For the first couple of days after she was gone, I tried to imagine a driving force, a reason to continue our farm and our plans. Each time I walked out to the barn to feed, her calf would call to her and I would break. Each time I walked into our schoolroom and sat at my desk, I would see my yearly farm schedule filled with breeding dates, pasture rotations, and csa plans, and I would break. This week has been difficult, to say the least. So much so, that I considered dropping it all. Losing two cows in two months is many things for me: it is painful, it is scary, it is embarrassing, and it is eye-opening. Am I qualified to continue? Do I have the heart? Am I willing to risk it all?… There is a saying that asks, “If you have never been in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?”

The answers are not as simple as they once were. I began to ask myself why I found it hard to continue without Deluxe. What would I need to push forward and make it happen? Luckily, these answers were much easier to come by. Above all things, Deluxe was a mother. She would mother anything that came in her path, including me. She had an obsession with licking all living things, thus her nickname ‘the Kissing Cow.’ I once walked in on her nursing a full grown Alpine doe….a goat, ladies and gentlemen. She would withhold the best of her milk for her calf. Every single morning. She was kind, and gentle, and nurturing. She reminded me a lot of my own mother, and I think that is why I felt so calm and so loved in her presence.

I feel like I have struggled, as a mother. I’m not saying I am a bad mother, but I am saying that some of the aspects of motherhood have not come naturally to me. I am easily frustrated, I am busy, sometimes I am selfish. All of these things are struggles I have to overcome in my daily life of raising and homeschooling three small children. Parenting is a lot like farming to me in that some days are good and some days are bad. I always strive to be better. Better like my mom, even like my cow. So what can I make from all of this?

We have been talking for some time about wanting to open up the farm to other families and children, to give them a chance to experience life as we do. To know where food comes from. To know how funny pigs are. To know how much a single cow can mean to a family. To have a tangible, smelly, messy, painfully obvious form of love in a backyard setting. To have community around food, even before it becomes food. To open more eyes. To love and to be loved.

So that is it. That is Deluxe in a blog post, in a barn stall, in a business plan that desperately needs to survive. Because without all of this, I am not sure who I would be. Or what I would do. Or how I would find a way to love the painful pieces of this journey. This month we will host our first ‘Playdate with Piglets,’ a sort of farmshcool for families. Each month we will open up the farm to others, free of charge, to come and learn about our animals and what we find to be so endearing about a life full of hard work, commitment, rewards, and losses. And love. It’s so damn full of love that sometimes…sometimes I can hardly breathe. Everyone should know what that feels like. Absolutely. Everyone.

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