What happens when a dietitian mom leaves the city and starts a farm? Happy 2nd Anniversary Amanda and family. The world is truly a better place with the Mellowsprings!! Thanks for bringing the readers back to earth at this time of year. – Laura Cipullo
Deep Roots & Tall Branches: Farm life for my little Oak Tree
By Amanda Mellowspring, MS, RD, CEDRD, LD/N
Eat from the Earth Nutrition Counseling, LLC
Mellowspring Family Farms, LLC
This month marks the beginning of our 2nd year as farmers. I say it this way because this is just the beginning! This lesson feels similar to being a parent – the end of the first year, is really the beginning of the “two’s”. That is when our journey to becoming farmers actually started – when our little acorn had his first birthday. Within two weeks of his birthday, we were packed and headed for our farm in the mountains. Nevermind we had never actually visited the land we were leaving everything for, we just knew that this was what we wanted for our family, namely our little acorn. Amazing how the world shifts to make room for the potential in the smallest little things, like acorns.
Our decision to start a family farm was multi-fold. We wanted to spend more time together as a family, with shared focus and energy. We wanted to give our little acorn something to grow into. And we very much wanted him to appreciate nature. One of the reasons that I love the basic concepts of food and eating, is because it is so tightly intertwined with nature. The way that we engage with all of our foods can connect us or disconnect us from the world around us. We knew that we wanted our little acorn to take pride in his process of becoming a mighty oak and that would require living into nature in a deeper way.
Our first year of farming is full of practical lessons & adjustments in things like fencing, gardening our new land (with a toddler – ie. kamikaze gardening!), chicken coops (free range chickens poop everywhere!), fencing, livestock guard dogs (bark all night!), fencing, pigs are some of the sweetest animals (once you get used to the smell, seriously the smell!), free range turkeys (bark like purse dogs!), Jacob sheep (you can literally tell their baa’s apart!), oh and did I mention fencing…fencing! I think farming vastly involves fencing, re-fencing, and moving fencing. All of this to say, there have been so many lessons. Again this is just the beginning of two city kids, raising a farm boy to the best of our farming ability.
The rewards of this first year have been countless in our connection with nature, our community, the animals, and one another. But, the greatest reward that we continue to experience on a daily basis are the moments that my husband and I look at one another and our eyes smile together because in their reflection our little acorn is living his normal life, his farm life, and doesn’t know anything different. The view from his carseat rivals any good farm truck, with a hatchback full of chickens, pullets, turkeys, lambs, pigs, and dogs at various times. All the while, he plays with his little toes and sings songs because this is his norm. He has napped with a LGD pup on his lap en route to the vet’s office and the world paused for a moment in our eyes. He helps big kids see that our dogs are sweet even though they tower over him and weigh over 100# now by kissing their faces and crawling around on their furry backs. Our dogs guard our little acorn with vigilance and compassion by standing over him and demanding that others keep a distance.
He runs after the sheep for fun, helping mama and papa corral them in to new pastures, yelling “lambies” and laughing hysterically. He grabs the ram by the horns through the fence to kiss his nose because that’s how papa catches him (and because he isn’t allowed to play with the rams inside the fence during breeding season).
He sticks his hands through the slats on the pig paddock to pet the “piggies, snort, snort” as mama goes running to catch up, yelling not to reach into the piggy area! He talks to the piggies and laughs when they escape into the yard and play chase with the dogs.
He collects eggs from the chicken coop and even pretends to lay eggs himself; he even recognizes the special “eggs” sound that the hens make when laying. He also gobbles up eggs for breakfast (& sometimes dinner) and tells the hens, “thank you for your eggs” when he gathers.
He knows that chicken and chickens are the same thing. He knows that piggies make bacon (yes, we eat bacon), and he knows that turkey is kind of like chicken.
He eats like a farmer, plays like a farmer, and knows how they work together. He leads hikes with the chickens and turkeys into the woods and calls for the dogs to keep a watch. He tastes leaves off the trees and shares these new flavors with friends who may be visiting. He picks berries and grapes off the land and has them eaten up before we get back to the house. (No need for canning this year!)
As we start our second year as farmers, I am so glad that I can look to him to learn what living on the land, in union with our plants and animals truly means. His life is a reflection of the purest loves. His decision to live into this life has helped him to put down deep roots. His life is not a response to the world’s concerns about food sources, food ingredients, or factory farming. His life is about connection, love, and appreciation. It reminds me of one of my favorite thoughts – Notice how a tree sends its roots deep into the earth. May we also learn to nourish ourselves in ways that are not just leaves & branches meant for others to see.