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  • Kristin Ramey

We were ready for this...

I remember a day a long time ago... we got a bucket, and a towel. We kicked the former, and threw the latter.

'Cause we bought the farm. Get it? (Kicked the bucket? Threw in the towel? Bought the farm?) We thought it was funny.

We talked of a lot of things back then. Buffalo (ha ha ha), alpaca, vegetables, grains for bread, and more. I, naively, called us the "new pioneers." A brave new generation that was taking back the land, learning to support ourselves like our forebears did. Learning to can pickles like an awesome grandma, learning to butcher chickens (also like an awesome grandma), extending seasonal growing in our greenhouse, building coops. Man, I just wanted to grow up to be an awesome grandma!

Literally, my first thoughts as we walked our 6 acre pasture, was how many DOGS I could have now! No longer limited to a small, suburban yard, and the rules and regs that went with it, I could have SO many dogs. All the dogs. The best dogs. Every dog! And then some more dogs. I had several decades of being dogless to make up for, here! My dream, as a 32-year old engineer, was to have my own backyard dog park, and to fill it with dogs.

Larry had other plans. We all called him a little crazy. He wanted us to grow all of our food from this plot of land. In the process - I learned how to bake bread from scratch, how to preserve fruits and veggies, how to make my own stocks for soups. Larry is an avid cook, and the goal was to get him his ingredients. The baking was up to me. We became a new kind of "foodie". Not interested in taking cool photos in restaurants, we wanted to make it at home. I like to look at an ingredient and know where it came from - and I don't want it to come from a box or a factory. This is all common place for us now, but you have no idea what a big shift it was for me for food to NOT come out of a box, and not only to make my own chicken stock, but to know what the heck to do with it!

We are sneaking up to our 13th anniversary of owning the farm. Larry put a bug in my ear about growing food here. I imagined a big veggie garden and some cut flowers. I had a HUGE tulip garden in my little yard in Michigan. I tried veggies (it was not OK to do that in the front yard) but growing in the backyard meant my dogs often dug everything up. So I gave up on the green beans and strawberries and put my effort into my tulips.

So when moving here, with all this space, I put effort into all of the above. The tulips were a big dud here. The soil is garbage, and just too hot and dry. I was so spoiled with Michigan's black top soil and free water from the sky. We had a few years of successfully growing some very specific things - lettuces, turnips, tomatoes, cucumbers. We had many failures - pumpkins, corn, peas. We never really got off the ground with a veggie CSA, and rarely did we have enough to make it past our own kitchen.

The critters became our focus.

My dream with this land was to have SO MANY DOGS. But Larry - he could see crises on the horizon. He didn't know specifically what they were, but a lot of it hinged on peak oil and "resource wars". The world facing shortages - oil, water, timber, environmental damage that was irreversible.

He didn't predict the housing crisis or the recession in 2008/2009 - though he felt it personally by being laid off and out of work for 10 straight months. He isn't a fortune teller. But Hurricane Katrina pointed out that our society is hanging on an economic edge. We are all 3 meals away from a riot. And most people can't withstand an extended period of not getting paid.

He didn't predict a worldwide pandemic, either. Again, he can't see the future. But he built this farm for just this type of situation. We'd be hosed if this truly was an "every man for himself" situation and we did have to rely solely on this farm. I can grow veggies, but our greenhouse needs repair, our raised beds have been taken over by turkeys, and the yard around my home is torn up so a house can be built. But we have friends who grow and/or raise the things that we don't. Society hasn't collapsed completely. We can still go to the store. We just have found that between how well our pantry is stocked, and what we grow on the farm, we just don't need to.

And frankly, I have needed this. This break from obligations and going anywhere and being near people. This has been great. It's not without its challenges. Try having two adults working from home and trying to keep an 11 year old focused, and completing homework.

But I am enjoying the day to day of having dogs snoring at my feet. Sometimes hardly being able to get out of my work zone without stepping on a tail or a paw. I like taking a quick break and getting to go outside and visit my sheep. No matter who is reading this, know one thing: It's a very high likelihood that I like my dogs and my sheep better than I like you. Don't be offended. Those of you whom I like more than my sheep, you know who you are. Sorry for the rest of you. My sheep are really cool, if that gives you any solace. My dogs are even cooler.

I had a moment a very long time ago at work. We were having these day-long marathon review meetings. Each person giving a review on their specific commodities (I work in supply chain). The people I was with in these meetings were some of the smartest, coolest and nicest people I know (my mothership is in Minnesota, so I really mean nice!) Even among the nicest and brightest, and very prepared presentations - I had this feeling I couldn't shake.


As people, we need shelter, clothing, water and food. As a society, we have built such complicated things around us that we don't need. We work so hard for all this "stuff". I haven't been the same since then. My day job, which does pay my bills, and has kept a roof over our heads when things in Larry's world get less-than-stable, but it provides no joy. I don't feel like it makes a bit of difference in the world. I feel much more fulfilled growing food, for my family, for my community. I do have other "things" that might not seem necessary, but they help. Guitars, board games, a kite to fly with my kiddo, dogs to take on a walk. The simplicity of staying home has been awesome for me.

This "thing" going on right now, is going to have a huge economic and financial impact on the entire world. I don't know how things will be different when it is all over. But I plan to continue to grow food. I plan to continue to cook food from scratch. And sometimes, if simply cooking and eating are my evening's entertainment, I am OK with that.

I swore I wouldn't write about this. I am tired of reading and hearing about it. So I apologize. But I think I might go outside and sit with my sheep. No one in my family knows why I do this, but I just enjoy being near them. I just really love my sheep. I think I'll take a dog to sit in my lap, while we watch the sheep.

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