Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Gone West

An update: One week before we began our journey to Marine on St. Croix, and our new farm, we slaughtered our 100 broiler chickens in the morning mist. All animals look sleek and epic, as if accompanied by their own motion picture soundtrack when photographed in the gloaming.

Stretching necks, beheading, scalding, plucking and eviscerating are not often poetic tasks...but in the morning, with little between you and pastured chicken dinner besides a little perseverance and the sublime quiet, it becomes meditative.

On Friday we began to take down all of our fence panels. For us, fencing is our farm. It's our life savings. It means managed grassland, pastured meat, milk, and cheese. It is everything. So there was no question in our minds that we would baffle the neighbors and proceed to take down every last t-post and panel that we had erected only months before, and load them into the U-haul. Shane and I were about 1/3 of the way through when I began to doubt my matter, so to speak. Pastor Mark from down the road suddenly appeared before me and I let out a cry of unbridled relief. "Are you okay?" He asked, startled by my unrestrained emotion, "Yes!" I replied, gesturing to the hundreds of feet of fencing, " it's just that I've discovered that I'm not God after all!"

With his help every last panel and post was resting sedately in the moving truck by nightfall.

Sunday night we stuffed all our sheep and goats and chickens and kittens into a trailer and prepared for an early morning start...
In the hours before our departure it had begun to rain steadily. The yard and gullies were awash in rainwater at 3:30 in the morning when we slowly rolled out of the driveway and yard. I watched and honked in dismay as the caravan drove off in the darkness and I was left stuck in the mud, my front tires half covered in slosh. I stood outside in the pouring rain and tried to figure out what a decent farm wife was to do in a situation such as this. In past experiences it always seemed that the kitchen always held the answer to any tragedy...so I reached back into the car and pulled out one of my solid bamboo cutting boards to wedge underneath the wheels...to no avail. Mud spattered and desperate, lacking only widowhood, starvation, and a sick baby in my arms, I proceeded to pound at neighbors' doors for help....finally the valiant and gallant Mr. Bailey and kind Mrs came to my rescue and managed to get me out of the mire....and we were off.....

Our next adventure came at breakfast time. For the first time in our lives we stopped at an Arby's. We ordered chicken sandwiches to give us new vigour for Chicago and the journey ahead....Perhaps there is something to all that gibberish you hear talk of about "balance in the Universe" because one of our laying hens escaped from the trailer, vented for airflow, and proceed to squawk madly and run about the parking lot...apparently when organic pasture farmers go in for fast food chicken...somewhere, somehow, a Free-Range laying hen wages all out protest....we nearly lost her because we could hardly run we were so doubled over in laughter. I was literally chasing a chicken around an Arby's parking lot with a half-eaten chicken sandwich in my hand....it seemed too absurd to be happening...and yet there we were. Eventually we cornered her as she made last desperate and futile attempts to pass through the glass door and into Arby's...presumably to state her outrage...

Touch and go traffic in Chicago hours later provided ample entertainment to our fellow commuters....as a few more of the hens escaped through the vented door and commenced with a balancing act on the rear fender...the sign language for chickens coming out your back end is universal. I watched driver after driver zoom up alongside Shane and frantically pantomime "Hey there! birds back there! Coming out of your trailer, yo!"

Eventually we made it to Marine on St. Croix, and our new farm, with the big red barns, and where the Little Flower Farm menagerie experience woods and fields and pastures to their hearts' content...

Last week was spent putting up hundreds and hundreds of feet of that fencing...a new paddock for the goats, with woods and pasture, and all the buckthorn they can eat...and a huge space for the icelandic sheep, and a hay field. Yesterday we made our first batch of fresh chevre since the move. Today two dump truck loads of composted manure were delivered to the site of next year's CSA veggie field, and we will be preparing the fields in a few weeks. Frost sowings of clover and grasses in the pastures are in the works, and a historic landmark is once again beginning to breathe with new life.
I marvel at a landscape so beautiful largely because of the efforts of the farmer who built this farm before us... years ago in the 30s and 40s. His son planted the pines that tower above us, sway and rush in the wind, and create such a visually stunning landscape...

We hope to also change the face of this land...with responsible and loving management and cultivation. I have already seen our farm in the contours of these 25 acres, and I am watching it take shape before me, smoothly becoming what we envisioned when we first laid eyes upon it...every October, and especially this one, brings such wells of gratitude within the heart. And Gratitude is what grows things.


  1. So glad to hear that you "landed" safely! And glad you can laugh at the perils of your journey...I know you certainly made me chuckle to think of the chicken at Arby's and the chickens riding shotgun on the trailer.

    Wishing you only the very best of everything this autumn, I look forward to following your progress ;)

  2. Welcome back!
    The Hendricksons

  3. SO good to hear from you again, Mrs. Farmer! I am glad to hear you are home safe and sound and again doing your magic with your farm and the life it makes possible for you--with your HARD work! I am still chuckling with the others because of your chicken stories!
    Cheers, hugs and love to all, Aunt Shannon

  4. so glad to read your post that you made it safe. We have thought about your family almost every day--wondering...... Blessings--Mark and Diane Shaw

  5. Hey guys, send us your new address! awicke_seraphim@yahoo.com

    The Wicke's