Today's Featured Farmer is Christine of A Fly on our Chicken Coop Wall.
Welcome, Christine, and thanks for joining us!
1. Tell us a little about yourself!
I grew up on a dead-end street in a new neighborhood in a small city. I didn’t know a single person who had a garden, let alone a farm, until I was an adult. The only farm my husband had any experience with was his grandparents’ Christmas tree farm, which required nothing of my husband except cutting down the trees to sell.
Ten years ago, we moved to a 150-year old house with a 7 acre hobby farm. Besides our 6 children, we have 25 laying hens and 2 terrible farm dogs. During the spring and summer, we raise feeder pigs, care for our gigantic garden, and can/freeze as much food as we can. Since the property has been a working farm of one sort or another for all 150 years, we “inherited” all sorts of things, from barns to black raspberry bushes, to an outhouse, to a small apple and pear orchard, to a large number of mulberry trees scattered around the property.
After our 4th child was born, we knew we were going to have to get a bigger house. We began to casually look for an area in which we’d want to live and came across the most beautiful property with an equally beautiful old house. The only downside was the flock of chickens that came with the property. Prior to this, the only discussion we had ever had about owning animals was the one in which we decided who of the two of us was going to be “allergic” to fur when the kids started asking for a pet. But we loved the house and the property, so despite the fact my lawyer husband couldn’t negotiate the chickens out of the deal, we bought it.
Once we felt we had the chicken-raising down (not gonna lie, it took a couple of years), we decided that we might as well use more of the resources the property has. Each year our garden gets better and more productive. We have figured out how to preserve all of the fruit that grows (without any human intervention) all around the property. We can actually call the butcher and have a discussion about the kinds of cuts we want from our hogs. Most exciting of all, the real farmer (we consider ourselves “fake” farmers) doesn’t roll his eyes and sigh at us anymore on Take the Pigs to the Butcher Day.
3. What is your favorite part of your farming lifestyle?
One of the most satisfying days I’ve ever had was this past Labor Day. My mom and my brother and his family came to visit for the day. I fed 13 people, and not one thing on our dinner plates was purchased at the store. We had pork chops, green beans, applesauce, potatoes, and deviled eggs, and every bit of it was grown or raised by us.
My kids have skills and knowledge that no one at their schools have. The kids have helped us with every part of gardening. They’ve been an integral part in raising and butchering the animals (including helping me give shots to sick ones!), of canning and preserving the food, and of keeping the property maintained.
The kids don’t have just a cursory knowledge of the circle of life. They see it for themselves every single day. They see how everything God made works together to keep the Earth healthy for generations to come.
4. What have you struggled with?
Our biggest struggles come from animals. Sometimes I wonder if a farm animal’s sole purpose is to figure out how to die. We have been gobsmacked over and over again by the things our animals do. With each incident, we learn something and fix something, but they just find a new way to get into trouble. We just have to laugh sometimes, because otherwise we’d be blubbering messes on the floor.
For some examples, you can read about the time one of our pigs drowned itself, or or the time a chicken broke its own neck.
Other struggles come from wild animals. The infamous spider infestation of 2005, the yearly running of the mice when the corn around us is harvested, and the quarterly bat or bird in the house make life horrifying at times, but they’ve proven that we are way stronger than we thought.
5. What has been the most surprising thing about incorporating this into your life?
The most surprising thing is that we like it.
Yes, it is a lot of work, but it is the kind of work that has extremely satisfying results. With each thing we do, we are inspired to do more to get back to living the way people did before machines and modern conveniences took over. (Although using the outhouse will only happen in the midst of a major catastrophe.)
6. How has being involved in agriculture affected your faith?
You cannot walk around our property without seeing the beauty God created. You can’t live the way we live without seeing the brilliance of God’s plan. Seeing God’s plan in action in nature most certainly helps me to trust God’s plan in other areas, and with this in mind, it is much easier to follow Him wherever He leads me.
7. What advice would you give a complete newbie (you know, like me)?
Read. Lots and lots of reading. I have learned so much about raising healthy chickens from blogs, most especially what to feed them.
I’d also advise a newbie to take it slowly. Don’t jump in and do everything at once. It is too easy to get overwhelmed. Make a prioritized list of what you want to do, and keep it in the back of your mind. Our first year, we planted a huge garden. We got very little from it, because we didn’t know what we were doing. The next year, we started over, starting small with just a few veggies. Each year we add something new and get better at gardening in general. Farming is not a race. It’s a lifestyle you perfect over many years.
Lastly, mistakes will be made. We’ve lost an entire flock of chickens from one stupid mistake. It happens. Learn what you can from your mistakes and move on. Do not beat yourself up about it. From what I’ve heard from real farmers, it happens to even the most seasoned of us.
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Christine is a woman who rarely makes solid plans in her life, but does whatever comes her way. As a result, she's taught just about every grade, decorated cakes to put her husband through law school, owned a photography business, given birth to six children, and bought a 140 year old house that happened to come with a small farm. Since purchasing the farm, Christine and her family have made countless mistakes, but through those mistakes, they have learned how to live a healthier, better way of life using the resources God has given them.
You can find her writing at A Fly On Our Chicken Coop Wall.
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