Scared & Happy: You can be both
Things are really starting to come together here at The Farmstead. I have found my rhythm as a single mother and farmer. I'm getting more comfortable with some new farm help (more to come on that later), I'm knocking out some lingering projects (hello permanent fences around the orchard), and the dairy is nearing completion. Yeah, you heard me.
The dairy is almost done.
If I'm being generous I would say I'm about two months out from being licensed. It's been a long time coming. Or at least it feels like it. The first dairy equipment came home to The Farmstead a year ago, and yet, with everything that has transpired, my baby growing another year, saying goodbye to a 14 year relationship, building a dairy by myself, running a farm on my own, I feel like it's been 100 years. In fact, I feel 100 years old.
But I also feel so incredibly lucky. I've always been one of those people who believes we make our own luck. You know, the harder you work the luckier you get and all that jazz. And yet last year it was really hard to see that. But now, as I write this, sitting on my porch, looking out over my farm, the goats meandering around the fields in the last bit of energy, yet still kind of lazy, before bedtime waltz they do every.single.night. I am overwhelmed by how lucky I am.
It's almost like the universe has said, "Look, we know we dealt you a really really shitty year...how about something nice?"
If I had to describe myself in one word right now I would say, without a doubt, happy.
If someone had told me a year ago I would ever be happy again I would have told them to bite their tongue. And denied it adamantly. There's a comfort that we tend to find with our misery, and I was definitely there.
And yet, here I am today. So dang happy.
I'm also not afraid to admit.
I'm a little scared.
You see, the goats and I are in a routine. A single mom, single farmer routine. Yes I'm still hand milking, but even that seems less stressful now that my life is at such peace. I still find milking by hand incredibly romantic. The connection that I feel with these goats when I sit beside them, my head tucked up into their bellies, our breathing in sync...you just don't get that when you milk by machine. And getting licensed means making the swap from milking outside, in the fresh open air, by hand, to milking inside, by machine.
I'm also scared of losing my own peaceful existence. Before the divorce the goal of the creamery was always for it to be the catalyst to let me quit my job so I could work as a farmer full time. That option has, for lack of a better phrase, flown the coop. I need to work to provide for my child and to continue to pay for this farm. There is no way around it. But even in that decision there is peace. I've found new love for the work I do as part of my full time job, and even feel that I am a better employee for all the realizations this past year has brought me. I no longer feel the angst that I felt about quitting my job. My 9 to 5 work inspires me and motivates me.
I'm also finding time to enjoy my daughter and my own life. I couldn't tell you much about last year, mostly because I was in a haze of sadness. I refuse to let any more time be stolen from me. I have made the promise to myself to enjoy my Summer. There will always be work to do on the farm. My daughter is only young once and this is the only life we get. Last Sunday, instead of working, I loaded up Gizmo and Bjorn and we went for a hike. It was kind of a shit show (as you can only imagine hiking with a 20 month old and a goat would be). We never did reach the elusive waterfall we were looking for, but we enjoyed the wildflowers, met some very surprised mountain bikers and spread the gospel of goats. At one point Giz decided she didn't want to be carried anymore and would like to walk, and, this is my favorite part, hold my hand. The trail was maybe 2.5 feet wide. So please imagine me, in the middle, holding my daughter's teeny tiny hand on one side, and holding my giant goat's leash on the other, inching our way up the hill.
Of course, that doesn't mean the dairy dream is no more. The dream of dairy is just as strong and powerful as it ever was, tugging at my soul. I have sacrificed a lot for this dairy, I refuse to quit now. I'm just not sure what the future looks like. In my mind I see visions of a "Teaching Creamery" where like minded souls can come to The Farmstead and try out a dairy lifestyle, risk free, before investing their own relationships and capital into a venture. I dream of breaking down the barriers that I encountered when I reached out to other dairies to learn more. And still, I dream of adding a really beautiful and thoughtful flavor profile to my local market. I want to feed my community. I want to show children where food comes from. I want to connect adults with the earth and everything that grows from it. I want to be their farm. A working dairy only serves to supplement that.
And, perhaps most importantly, my dairy girls are working girls. I don't want to run a retirement home for four year old goats. I want to employ them. Shoot, I want to employ people someday too. Getting the dairy licensed is the first step in that. So yeah, I'm scared to make that leap. But I also know I'm not alone. If my last post sharing the reality of my divorce with everyone proved anything it's that I am surrounded by a beautiful community of kind and generous people who are, in the midst of their own busy lives, still rooting for me and Gizmo to succeed.
Besides, if this tiny little baby can teach herself to milk a goat then I can certainly finish my dairy. We won't let you down ;)