My Dream is to Shovel Manure

We found our dream home entirely by accident in the summer of 2015, two months before our wedding. We had been looking casually for houses in our hometown of South Windsor and happened to come across a 1+ hectare plot that straddled the town line of South Windsor and Broad Brook, complete with barn, outbuildings, gardens, and forest.

Despite not really being in a position to buy at that very moment, we couldn’t hesitate. So, amid the stress and flurry of activity that was our DIY wedding at a town park, we purchased our little house on a shoestring and have been putting off a few of my own goals while my husband continues to settle into his job as a firefighter.

Currently, I work in marketing, which is the last reasonably reliable career for creative types who have relinquished just enough of their souls to capitalism to pretend they do something marginally artistic, but I had a psychological awakening about five years ago when I walked out of a miserable position (also, notably, in marketing). It is important to know that I have, for nearly a decade, had a strange obsession with bees and fancied myself an apiarist. Realizing one day, while volleying emails trying to tactfully convince my boss that her remarkable inability to tell black people apart was pretty racist, that I had no agricultural experience and even less patience for the bigots who employed me, I went searching for a farm I could volunteer on during the weekends. In actual fact, I walked out of this job and took an unpaid* internship on the beautiful and fearlessly unique Beltane Farm in Lebanon, CT.

logoBeltane Farm, if you ever get the chance to visit (and I hope you do), is slightly ramshackle, very bucolic, delightfully whimsical goat dairy located at the end of a winding, dusty (actual) dirt road. The farmer, Paul, is married to a high school Latin teacher, so every goat bore Latin names. Moreover, Paul, like all truly kind and generous people, has a habit of welcoming in strays. He adopted two formerly abused donkeys, Nestor and Geronimo, which he called a “his and his” matched set. He pulled in a feisty red Shetland pony named Bailey who once chased off a trio of old ladies who had set up in the back field to paint the pond. The farm had two bovine residents at the time, Asa and Betsy, named after the original farmers. Betsy was round and black and full of bluster and her brother was a big red sweetheart who was afraid of his own shadow. The barn cat was a former stray, who Paul called Hester (after Hester Prynne as she showed up pregnant), would ride on my shoulders while I hauled hay. A flock of mismatched chickens, whose names no one could remember, rounded out the bunch of livestock that I met with daily, aside from the two sweet, old dogs that Paul and Mark cherished. Paul also collected stray people, and at that time of my life, I absolutely felt like a stray.

It was at Beltane farm in the fall and winter of 2011-12 that I realized two things about myself: one, I was not actually made to sit behind a desk all damn day; and two, goats are cheaper than therapy and twice as effective. But reality called, and an unpaid internship was not helping us pay the bills, so I returned to the desk-sitting world of post-modern turd-polishing.

In the years that have ensued, I have had five different jobs, Adam has had four. We’ve adopted two dogs to join our two cats, managed to legally bind ourselves to one another, and bought our home. After quite a few years crawling back from crippling unemployment and shaky (at best) finances, bolstering Adam’s career goals and ensuring a stable(ish) future, I’ve decided I cannot defer my dreams of shoveling manure, getting stung by bees, and laughing at chickens any longer.

I have two three pound packages of bees arriving in late April, which I will welcome into two Warré hives. I’m actively searching for angora goats to bring home. And as soon as the ground thaws fully, we’ll build a chicken coop to hold a flock of the most unintentionally hilarious animals I’ve ever seen. While I’ve worked with goats before, I am still pretty new to all of this. This is our journey scraping together the will, resources, and know-how to let me follow my dream of blissful small-scale farming.

*I was paid in amazing farmstead goat cheeses, which is actually much better than money but also considerably harder to pay the rent with. 

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