Like the pioneers

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We could have bought a homestead better suited to farming, better set up–some New England style farmhouse with an attached barn, or a garage with an outbuilding we could convert into a shed for the livestock.  Perhaps it would have had a sprawling pasture, an established garden however humble it may be, and a berry patch.

runamuk acres in the 1960s

This is a picture of our farm from the 1960s–you can see the old barn standing in the distance.

It would have been so much easier to take that route, move our small apiary there and grow this farm. But we chose to cling to this piece of land that the Burns family are connected to.  This overgrown, rambling and run-a-muck property that has forever been known within the family as “the Farm”.

If you’d seen it a year ago, you’d never have known that it was a small family farm–once upon a time, or fifty years ago.

Hell–if you saw it today you might not know that it’s a farm now!

Like the pioneers, we are taking back the land, erecting sheds for livestock,  growing food for our family (and even a little for the community), and eeking an existence out of the wilderness for our farm. A friend of mine stopped by the farm a few weeks ago, to see how we’re coming along–and that was what she told me; that we are “like the pioneers”.

using livestock to reclaim this old farm

Miranna and the other critters are helping us reclaim this old farm.

And she was absolutely right.  We’ve settled in this territory, which–for all intensive purposes may as well have never been settled or developed, and we’re building a farm here. This year has been all about getting the infrastructure in place that we need to progress Runamuk Acres as a viable farm-business.  That means that gardens, livestock shed, chicken coop, equipment shed, growing structure (hoop-house or high-tunnel), and food storage–all need to be in place before winter gets underway.  Like the pioneers, this first year is all about getting ready for winter–getting set up to endure the long cold months ahead, and coming out of the winter better set up and poised to work this land, continuing to build our farm on this run-a-muck property.

using sheep to reclaim this old farm

We’re using goats to clear the brambles, while the sheep are used to reclaim what remains of the pastures.

sheep at runamukThese tasks are made more difficult by the lack of open spaces to put new buildings or growing spaces–which is why the livestock are such an integral part of our plans. Livestock not only provide food for our family–they are clearing the land for us, and without the use of heavy machinery.

It’s been a struggle this year, to get underway–gaining momentum and stemming the torrential tide that is Mother Nature taking back what is rightfully Hers–but progress has been made.

The new garden at an eighth of an acre is a huge accomplishment, the acquisition of goats, chickens, and sheep, our first fenced paddock, and investments in irrigation equipment, electric fencing, and a number of other tools necessary for building a farm–are all significant achievements for us.

It’s slow progress, but it’s progress all the same.

There’s something so right–so comforting–about this work that seems to make the overwhelming chaos of our situation worth the struggle.

farming pioneers

This is our ram–Darth Vader, or Darth for short.

I don’t know if it’s this way for every homesteader and farmer, but for me it’s a joy to go out in the early morning–rain or shine–to feed the animals that we are now responsible for.  Carting hay and hauling water are a privilege, and feeding the four-legged critters is the reward for hefting fifty-pound bags of feed.

Sun-ripened tomatoes, plucked from the vine and popped into my mouth still warm are the compensation for sitting on my knees in the garden, pulling weeds under the hot sun and sticky humidity for hours.  A tub of cucumbers is the result of an hour spent spraying fish emulsion while the black flies swarm in my face.

It may not sound like much of an endowment, but these chores are the building blocks for the relationships the farmer is creating with the livestock, with the land, and that relationship is my prize.

farming like the pioneers

Is it odd that my chickens talk to me???

When I step outside, the chickens come running; when I walk down to the garden, passing the paddock where the goats spend their days–they greet me by bleating loudly, coming to the fence to see what I am up to.  The sheep have not been here long, but they have come to expect me with their twice-daily ration of hay, and they are becoming more comfortable in their new home.  The garden lies under the late-summer sun, teaming with life–beneficial insects and birds are welcomed by flowers planted amid the vegetables as a strategy against the unwelcome dinner guests munching my crops; it is a haven.

Sure we could have bought an established homestead, it would certainly have been an easier path to the creation of our farm and my vision for Runamuk–but it’s this land–this “farm” that calls to me.  It draws me like a moth to the flame, and I am as unable to resist the it as I am unable to hold back the ocean tides.

It’s overwhelming to say the least–the amount of work we have laid out before us, and I imagine the pioneers must have felt the same way; but we keep one foot in front of the other–tackling one chore at a time.  When one task is completed, we reevaluate the to-do list for the next pressing–most urgent project that needs to be done.  And in this manner, we are making progress, slowly and surely.

Stay tuned, folks!