Monday, February 23, 2009

Part 4; "Best layed plans........."

We did agree that it was beautiful, quaint, rural and still 'civilized'. We meandered many miles just looking at farms, fields and cows. I was in love. We went looking for the next property on our list, this one i was not impressed with and didn't hold out much hope. It was easy to find, had plenty of land, a barn, outbuilding and an extra bonus, an old 2 bay garage right on Route 6. The house itself sat down a sharp bank from the road, close to the road but removed at the same time. There were no cars and Bryan being the brave one drove down the long driveway, we looked around and said hmmmm. I was sure someone with a shotgun was going to come out of the house at any moment and accuse us of trespassing. The yard had toys scattered around, gardening equipment stacked by the house, it didn't look like an empty house at all.
We finally drove away, talking about what we would do if it was ours. Fruit trees here, bigger garden there etc. etc.
Of course we had our 2 year plan and we were only there to test the waters. We drove on to see the last property on the list, it didn't even warrant a slow down.
For our budget the previous house had what we needed. Sure the barn needed work, but it was an existing structure. The shed showed some neglect, but it was an existing structure, it had a huge field, flat level land, the yard was huge, part was fenced for the dog. It looked like it had enough room for the 5 of us.
The big bonus was the garage, it could be converted into a storefront, I could finally sell my soap without loading and unloading my vehicle. But we had a 2 year plan, we just weren't ready.
We visited the property several times before heading home, our heads full of possibilities.

Part 3; After the Fair

While my husband and I dreamed about our little acreage, we were living on one income, I was staying home with the kids, we were settled. Up to that point in my life, my husband made my dreams come true, I had a wonderful husband who indulged my whims and needs, he went through endless amounts of paperwork and expense so we could adopt our two little girls, traveling to the other side of the world to fulfill my desire to be a mother. We were comfortable, not well off. Neither one of us had any real experience as a farmer, gardening yes, farming no.
On top of this Bryan had retired from the military and ended up with a job that put him on the road 5 days a week, suddenly I was a single mother who along with her daughters, missed the man in our life very much. How could we, in this uncertain economy, buy a farm, move hundreds of miles from our family and safety net, uproot our girls from the only life they had known. Well it turns out we could.
We left the fair with many ideas, Bryan is very practical and not prone to risk taking. I knew that in order for this to ever happen, I needed to make a practical plan. Time to hit the books.
I researched property, animals, farming options, animals and the list goes on. I then broached the subject with Bryan, only to find he was very open and receptive to the idea.
The fair happens in September, we thought up a practical 2 year plan. We would do our research, find the most affordable piece of land that fit our needs, make our move during the summer so the kids were not in the middle of school, learn as much about farming as we could from books, hands on experience, etc. It all sounded very practical, responsible and grown up. But as usual, the plan didn't quite work that way.
We scanned the Internet for land available in New York, Pennsylvania and occasionally Tennessee. We found many properties, some were amazing others were nice but lacking one of our requirements while others were one step away from The Grapes of Wrath.
Our memories went back to Wellsboro PA, it had many pluses, the only problem is that we hadn't actually ever been there, driving through didn't really count. My sister and her husband had been there for a golf weekend and they liked the town. They said it was picturesque.
At the urging of my mother, we decided to take a weekend and just go see the area. Reservations made, a list of properties created and off we went. Our reservations were in a town 15 miles away from Wellsboro, the list was only 3 properties, one of which we couldn't find, we really didn't have a clue what we were doing.

Part 2; Common Ground Country Fair, Unity Maine

The event that truly changed my life. We first attended in 2007. Tucked away in a rural area of Maine, it is an amazing old fashioned farm fair. There are no carnival rides, no funnel cake and no loud blaring music. Instead there are hills to slide down on bits of cardboard, very fast and fun for all, all manner of food from vegan, indian, seafood to maple products of all kinds, and wandering through the fair the sound of banjo music accompanied by the jingle of bells on the Morris dancers. It may sound quaint and simple, but that is the beauty of it. One of the guidelines for this fair is that all products must come from Maine, it is truly a home grown affair.
There are tents full of shorn wool, vegetables, books, political causes and more information on farming organically than you can possibley take in at once. There are sheep dog herding demos, mule teams, oxen pulling plows. All the while, the wonderful smell of sweet annie drifts across the fair. If you want to learn anything about alternative energy, housing, composting or recyling it is the place to be.
I fell in love with Angora goats, my husband with the many ways of alternative energy. Our daughters, truly urban girls, slide down the hills, wove cloth on the oversize loom and hammered nails into a board, enjoying every moment.
As a soap maker, I loved the many booths of soapmakers, Bryan wondered why with so much soap at home, I couldn't resist purchasing more. I never wanted to leave, I wanted to soak up as much information as I could. I left feeling elated, excited but at the same time saddened by the reality that a farm was not in our future, at least not immediatly.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Welcome to my journey from urban dweller to rural farm owner. My husband and I made the choice to move our family from Delaware into the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania. We purchased an small acreage complete with an old barn in need of work, a shed, house and as an added bonus a separate garage up on the road. This will hopefully one day be my soap shop. I have been a soapmaker for several years and have been successful selling my wares at craft shows around Delaware.
Our eventual plan is to raise Angora Goats, Finn Sheep and Chickens. Do we have experience? No, of course not. But fueled by an almost primordial need to return to the land, we had an idea of where we wanted to move, land price was important of course, a proximity to some semblance of civilization. We have 2 young daughters and years ago when our oldest was only 2 years old, we took a drive up to Coudersport Pa, for a bow hunting show. We missed the show, but drove Route 6 looking for a hotel room for the night. As we passed through Wellsboro, catching a glimpse of a Main Street, straight out of Norman Rockwell, I thought what a neat little town. Small and healthy and very picturesque. We stopped for gas and continued on.
That was 6 years ago, when our thoughts turned to rural living, we considered Wellsboro, land price was right, it was on the well travelled Route 6, the town was small but thriving due to the Grand Canyon of Pa as well as many other options for out door tourism. But before we were even seriously considering this move, we were invited to an event that turned out to be a catalyst in our lives.
The Common Ground Fair in Unity Maine.