Drawing out a new line


Our lives are built on the premise that our current self knows what our future self most desires.

We constantly set a course for tomorrow, based on the assumptions of our current interests, values, and dreams. There's no other way to live, really (except, perhaps, from a mindset of "worse-case-scenario" and that's no fun for anyone). So we think about what we most love and want today, then draw a line as far into the future as we can reach in the direction of that dream. That line become our path, and we follow it into the next chapter of our lives.

And it shapes who we become.  

And that was how we started this homestead. We found the house and land and creek we had dreamed of, then added a big garden, bees, and a fruit orchard. Meat chickens, laying hens, ducks, guineas, and quail followed, then sheep, goats, and cows.

One piece at a time we built the homestead we had been dreaming of for as long as we could remember.

And we dug in. 


The years unfolded more quickly than our years in town, but with deeper meaning and satisfaction. We didn't travel much as a family or often wander away from the farm. And it was a rare weekend when we found ourselves searching for something to do.

But it was what we wanted, and life is made of trade-offs. We were happy to make these in exchange for bringing this dream to reality.


But recently, as our kids have accelerated into pre-teen and teendom, that suddenly feels like a bigger sacrifice than we're willing to make. Trading family time for farm time might work if all four of us were onboard with our homesteading vision, but we're not.

And with each passing season we are watching our kids grow up before our eyes.

There's no turing this back. 

So the four of us have been talking a good deal about our intentions for this little farm and for what direction we want to move as a family. Goodness, we've been here since Lupine and Sage were 6 and 10 and looked like this…


Instead of this…


And no matter how I rub my eyes and shake my head, there's no changing how long it has been since we breathed this dream to life.

As the past five years have unfolded, we've slowly refined our vision of what our life and homestead could look like.

We took a break from bees after failing to overwinter them year after year, making for an expensive – and disappointing – hobby. We re-homed our guinea hens because – tick eaters or not – their loud calls pushed me over the edge (especially from under my bedroom window at 4 AM when we had forgotten to lock the coop the night before). We took a one year break from meat chickens – which we regretted – and eagerly jumped back in the game this spring with 100 birds for our family freezer. We planted more perennials and fewer annuals, then slowly let the garden rest for one year, then for two. And late last winter, we found new homes for our beloved goats.

We all have this freedom of course, to refocus, to change course, to let go of what isn't working. It's just that sometimes we forget, or are paralyzed by the fear of deciding where else to go.

We've tried hard to remember this freedom all along, so as to never turn a dream into a grim obligation. I suppose it takes courage to chance course, but for me it's just common sense.

We only get this one life. Let's make sure it fits. 


In the space that was created by pressing pause on a project here or a species there, we found more time for things that had been waiting for years.

We found more time for family. 

And it made us hunger for more.

Because desipte what we've let go of, our plates today feel as full as ever. And feeding and fencing and farm work is a huge piece of that overflow. And despite my disbelief, we have just three more years until Sage will turn 18.

"How do we want to spend these last three years of his childhood?", we ask ourselves.

These days are fleeting, indeed.


So as a family, we decided it was time to press pause in a most dramatic, we-never-saw-this-coming-but-it-feels-so-right kind of way. 

One by one we are rehoming our ruminants and also reducing our laying flock.

By the end of this month we will have just a small flock of laying hens, an annual batch of meat birds, and pets in our care. 


And so yesterday the Great Rehoming of 2017 kicked into gear, with three sheep and a dozen hens heading off to happy new homes. Yes, there was a pang, of course there was. These animals were born here. We nurtured and cared for them from the moment they drew their first breath.

But truly, it feels like the right answer for us right now. All four of us a breathing easier as we see this new, refined vision unfolding.


What will the next chapter hold for us? It's really hard to say. More time to just be as a family, that much is certain. And a trip to Ireland is on the agenda for the fall. When we get home, who knows… maybe we'll even manage to start that house remodel that we sketched out the year we moved in.

Will we love not having animals? We're really not sure. They have been our compass and our anchor for as long as we have been here. But all we can do it try it on, and see how well it fits tomorrow. We don't know who we'll be then, or what dreams we might bring into the light.

Today, though, we are just drawing out a new line – as we always have – from here out as far as we can see into the future, then deciding where we will go from there.


14 thoughts on “Drawing out a new line

  1. Valerie says:

    Right on Rachel! Some people never understand that what was right and perfect 5 years ago may not fit now in the present, and they get stuck in a world that doesn’t work for them. Having all of the animals when your family was younger was a wonderful rich experience. Now it’s time to have different wonderful experiences. Thanks for the reminder that sometimes we need to stop and change directions.

  2. Rachel Tidd says:

    wonderful! we recently have been doing some of this after a serious chronic illness we decided lets do things now! you dont know the future! so we went to Hawaii for 3 weeks, made a few raised garden bed i can reach without bending down. and cutting a few trees to let more light into our forested home:) we have a no pet rule here so we can travel and focus on the family. we enjoy all the wild animals here that visit us and enjoy friends pets and farm animals instead!
    thank you for this reminder

  3. Cassandra says:

    I admire your decision to change course so much!! It’s been something I’ve thought about for years but I have the old, dreaded, fear of change. You are very inspiring!

  4. Jody says:

    We we’re gone for 5 weeks this spring as a family and we LOVED IT. We were excited to come home but I found everything just felt different. We had the same schedule of animals lined up, pigs, broilers, a freshened cow (lots of work!) but I found my heart wasn’t in it. It was scary!! It is such a defining way of life and to change that, like you said, takes courage. We’ve had the same conversations as I’m sure your family has had. Who knows where we will end up but more travel is in our future too. Blessings!

  5. Jeanine Ertl says:

    I have loved reading your posts for years for exactly this reason. The simple truth behind the gorgeous photos. I am glad your family is listening to the feelings it has as they change. That right there feels like one of the biggest lessons any child can learn from their providers…that we can and should change with the flow of life. And that what suits are desires one year might adjust or even drastically change another, and that’s just fine…even perhaps more interesting. Much luck to you all on your journey!

  6. Mathidle says:

    “We all have this freedom of course, to refocus, to change course, to let go of what isn’t working. It’s just that sometimes we forget, or are paralyzed by the fear of deciding where else to go.” Just the right words 🙂
    We’re in the UK (Manchester)/France (Brittany) if you’re looking for friends on your trip to Europe!

  7. Catherine Forest says:

    Oh Rachel! I have goosebumps reading you… I remember the great rehoming of 2011 for us. Tears, gratitude for perfect homes for our animals, a sense of freedom, a bit of fear… and a transition towards more time as a family and less to-do lists on the farm. It’ll feel empty for a while, and some days will be sad (there are still days when we miss it, especially when visiting farming friends), but it’ll mostly feel right. More time together always feels right in my book. And these kids are growing fast! There will probably be more animals in our future, but not now. These years are too precious to stretch ourselves thin.

  8. Launa says:

    Once again, your words bring me inspiration and encouragement. We only have laying hens we are discussing rehoming. But even that discussion is difficult for me. I’ve always dreamed of an urban homestead, much of which we have accomplished. But as our family’s desires change- much of which is focused on homeschooling at the moment- and a time of financial hardship press on, we are forced to reevaluate our priorities and dreams. Thank you for sharing your truth <3

  9. Amanda says:

    Your words strike to the heart of non-“homesteading” mamas too. As a suburban mom with country dreams, I too have been adjusting as my oldest hits teenage and my baby isn’t so small anymore. The journey we are all on requires flexibility and openness to change. And by being flexible and open to changes we teach our children that change isn’t scary or world ending. It’s just this journey of life we are all on. And can show them how to handle it. Love this post, and your post about joining in on your teens passions.

  10. Noelle says:

    We are in a different phase, we have owned horses, chicken’s turkey’s etc on 15 acres in Northern Wisconsin, but had to move it all for my husband’s work to a small lot in Milwaukee. WE are currently struggling with our small lot longing for more land and a farm. We have 5 kids we are homeschooling 10th grade, 8th grade, 3rd grade, 1st grade and preschool. One of our kids wants to be a farmer so we desire to get him started as well as we love country living. However we do also struggle with never being able to leave, endless chores etc, etc. My biggest reason for farming is knowing where my food comes from, especially in today’s world. Your perspective on doing it, leaving it, considering the kids is very refreshing and helpful. I will be sharing with my husband, since he does work full time in the military and is gone one weekend a month and for deployments at times, leaving us to tend to things while he is gone. So much to consider and thank you for sharing you heart on this, it is good to hear from someone who is in it, we hear a lot of opinions!

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