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.