My husband Jeff and I have shared the dream of owning a farm almost since the day we met, nearly 31 years ago. When we would talk about our future farm and what it would be like, we described it pretty much like most people would describe a farm. Big house, barns, fences, storage silos, endless fields where large tractors are used to plant, cultivate and harvest vast expanses of corn and hay. So it’s a bit curious that the land we purchased looks nothing like that.
Our “farm” is not a traditional farm at all and is really not at all like the dream as we had envisioned it, however it’s so, so much more. It is wooded wetlands – swamp – consisting of approximately 100 acres of forest, 4 cleared acres and a 4 acre pond. There were no buildings, no fences and no vast fields waiting to be planted but it really didn’t seem to matter. It spoke to us just as it was. We were enchanted by it. No, it didn’t fit the picture we had painted of our dream but we felt called to live, to be and to explore … right here.
The two and a half year process of purchasing the land was a challenge that also brought many unexpected gifts. We discovered that the rules, regulations and criteria we had to meet to build a home here were, at their core, about protecting the resource value of the land. We were exposed to new terms in relation to describing and defining our land. Some examples are; transition area, habitat, nesting area, endangered, threatened, ordinary resource value vs. exceptional resource value, upland, wetland, and riparian.
What all that means is that our land is defined as a portion of a larger area of wetland or swampland which acts as a filter for the water running through it. It’s a transition area; a buffer between the higher land elevations and the point where land ends and water begins. It is home to native plant species such as various grasses, rushes and sedges, milkweed, several species of aster, fern, orchid, mints, mosses, and various trees and shrubs. This combination of greenery provides habitat for wildlife including bear, deer, fox, coyote, beaver, raccoon, rabbits, squirrels, eagles, hawks, owls, vultures, hummingbirds, turtles, frogs and snakes, serves as a stopping point for migratory birds and as a pollen and nectar source for important insect pollinators such as native bees, butterflies and honey bees.
What it all means for us is that by having a dream and moving toward it we’ve landed at a place that we hadn’t anticipated. It isn’t “less than” or “better than”, it’s just different and unique. We were open to hearing and following the call. We allowed ourselves to be enchanted by the beauty of the land itself vs being locked into a dream that could only be manifested as the vision of a farm we had described for three decades. Our dream is not necessarily manifesting as we had imagined but it is already revealing itself to be so much bigger than we had ever anticipated.
In the process of moving toward the dream we’ve pretty much turned our ideas and beliefs about farming upside down. We have discovered aspects of agriculture that we weren’t aware existed before this journey. As an added bonus, integrating new beliefs about agriculture has also somehow curiously revealed things of ourselves that we had forgotten or had been out of touch with for a very long time. Aspects of ourselves that when explored or revealed become like a sort of nourishment to the manifesting of the dream. Assisting it to unfold and blossom before us, petal by petal.
We’ve been given the opportunity to turn our beliefs about ourselves upside down a bit as well. What began as a desire to survive by growing things and living off the land has been transformed into a calling to live in stewardship to the land. In this we are watching and participating, moving forward and sitting still. In some cases we are assisting it to be and in others we are letting it be. In the “doing” or “not doing” we are moving from living a life of simply surviving into a life of absolutely thriving.