One of the many things I have enjoyed about writing for Community Chickens is getting to share the stories of many of our readers. Some are just undertaking a backyard flock, others are experienced farmers and a few of the Community followers are still in the dreaming and planning stage of their coop and flock. I especially admire the folks who decide to make a complete lifestyle change and go head first into homesteading. This undertaking is full of colorful tales – stories that should be shared to encourage and learn from each other. That is exactly what Community Chickens is about; it’s not just educated poultry experts giving advice – we’re a group of folks who enjoy raising chickens for a number of reasons (fresh eggs ♥, enjoyment, self sufficiency) and want to share our stories with other poultry enthusiasts!
This month’s featured Community Chicken Keeper is Lana Jackson from Gnome Range Farms. Continue reading as she tells of becoming a middle-aged farmer:
Snap, Crackle, Pop is no longer the song whispered by my breakfast cereal. It is now the orchestral symphony played by my body and joints at 4:30 a.m. every morning as I rise to start another day on our 13 acre farm, Gnome Range Farms. Why, oh why did I wait until I was 45 to start farming? I’m not really complaining, lunches with my middle-aged friends has become less and less about “chatting” than occasion to have our own “Organ Recital” about the latest injuries, illnesses, aches, and pains… Apparently, once you hit a “certain age”, it’s compulsory to complain about the betrayals of our aging bodies. Your brain may think you’re still 20, but your hips and knees frequently remind you that this isn’t the case!
It takes a lot of faith and dedication to farm at any age, but I think it takes something bordering on the maniacal to start this venture when you’re 40 plus. It requires you to believe with all your heart that you’re doing this for a good reason. For me, that dedication comes from the desire to better manage my health by controlling what I eat. After years of research about healthy eating, I came to the conclusion that sustainable and humane agricultural practices are the best way to get food I can trust. This belief compels me to rise early every morning and take care of the chickens before going to my full-time job in the city. Even though I’m overjoyed with my new rural lifestyle, there are still days when I wonder exactly how I got myself into this mess. Let me start by saying that I am 100% City Kid! I never raised chicks for a 4-H project. I didn’t run with the exotic herd of blue jacketed FFA students who descended upon our high school during their annual fall migration to the national convention in Kansas City. Heck, before I got married I had never even cooked a meal on my own much less been solely responsible for the welfare of another living creature!
My only exposure to farms and livestock was during brief visits with my grandparents and farm-dwelling cousins. When my husband and I met, I was thoroughly and irretrievably URBAN. I couldn’t envision a time when I’d long to get away from the city for a quiet meditative session mucking out a chicken coop. I never thought that watching a swarm of dragonflies descending on our pasture would hold as much fascination for me as the latest star-studded Broadway hit. The younger version of me thought the soles of my feet would forever pound pavement in a large city.
Even though I’ve lived far removed from rural like, much of my time has been spent in learning multiple do-it-yourself skills. I’ve learned basic woodworking, plumbing, and electrical skills. Somehow I even managed to learn to cook and can food which was not only recognizable but tasty! However, my obsession with learning do-it-yourself skills, didn’t seem to have seem to have a real purpose until I decided to take my food choices into my own hands. Admittedly, our weekday mornings and evenings are full of chores. We’re always the last ones on the farm to be fed. This sometimes means dinner is a fashionable 8:00 p.m. and is usually followed by a rather unfashionable nap in the recliner. Once we wake up again, it’s off to bed to start another round the next day. Even though it appears that we’re working all the time, it’s work we love!
Our animals are both a trial and a joy. Even though they will eventually be food for us, we now understand completely what sacrifices are demanded of others for our food. Food is no longer a nameless lump wrapped in cellophane. Our food is now valuable, revered, and never squandered. We’ve worked too hard and, in the case of our meat, the animals sacrificed are too precious to waste. There has also been a change in our attitude toward land, weather, seasons, and wildlife. Our lives are now lived mostly outdoors with a deep connection to our land. We feel linked to our world now in a way that we never experienced in the city. Never again can we go back to thinking that trash is thrown “away” or that food appears at our beck and call with no effort. Our purchasing habits have even changed in order to eliminate wasted money and excess consumerism.
This wasn’t an easy decision to make or simple task to accomplish with just two people. There was a lot of soul searching, experimentation, and deep contemplation before we finally made the decision to go country. These changes are now more than dietary, they are almost spiritual. After doing this for more than a year, I keep asking myself, “Why did I wait until I was 45?” This is the best choice we’ve ever made!
Thanks Lana for sharing the story of how you made that life-changing decision to leave the city life and create Gnome Range Farms.- I’m sure you’ll inspire a few of our readers to take the plunge into the farm life!
You can view more of Lana’s homestead and photos at her farm’s facebook page:
Gnome Range Farms, LLC (facebook)