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  • Writer's pictureJenna

Free Range Living

When people visit our farm for the first time, I'm never sure what they think of our lives here. Honestly, I think it depends on what season they arrive and what the weather is like. Some people see paradise. They see a summer afternoon with grassy fields doused in sunlight. They see a flowing stream and pond with fish. They see gardens and forests, pets and livestock, and a humble house tucked into a mountain.

Other people... Oh, let's say a visitor in mid February - they see a scrappy farmstead of ice, frozen collie poop, and slush. Add into the mix a driveway icy enough to skate across and a windchill well below zero and it isn't feeling very Hygge is it? Then they come into a house rarely heated above 60 degrees by a wood stove. Cat and dog hair abound regardless how often I sweep. I mean, If you need more than a heavy blanket and hot mug of tea you're going to think you're camping.

But those are the extreme's of comfort on this farm. The reality is smack dab in the middle. Some days this farm is perfect to me, even in the dead of winter. Other days it is a to-do list of projects, repairs, and expenses so big I am ready to sell it all and hike the Appalachian Trail. Like anyone's life and home - it has moments that either convince you to keep going or validate your decision to move on. This farm keeps telling me to keep on. I think it's more stubborn than I am.

Here's why the cold mornings and slushy poop are worth it: free range living. We decide when we get up, what we do, where we go, and what we need to focus on that day. We both have responsibilities with freelance work. Clients do decide the shape of our days, as in what needs to be worked on. But we decide if we want to start the day at our computers and pound out a few hours of work - or do what we did yesterday. Which was putting off most of our desk work until well after we ate our ramen bowls on the hillside.

We had a sunset dinner on the grassy ledge of the farm. A place where we can see the mountains, fields, farmyard, sheep and horse pastures. It's better than TV. We enjoyed udon noodles, chicken broth from our sturdy birds, veggies and dumplings. And when that was resting in our tired bellies we finally sat down to computer work. The daylight hours were needed to clean out the chicken coop, prepare the rabbits for kindling, pull out the old kitchen garden fence to redo and expand the growing space, running, yoga, chores, etc. We like being outside in the sun during the day and will settle into long stretches of indoor work on rainy days or evenings. This is a lot of words to say, basically, we get to choose when we do what we have to do.

This may sound incredibly freeing, and it is in some ways, but it is also very restricting. You can't leave three cats, two dogs, and a brooder of 16 meat birds alone with a heat lamp unattended all night. You can't plan a weekend away if you need to heat the home a log at a time on the fire. You can't really do a lot if what you want to do involves spending money or gas away from home. Even a day out shopping for provisions and feed means making sure everyone here is set for a few hours before leaving. An overnight backpacking trip involves recruiting friends to help. Not exactly setting up an automatic feeder for a house cat...

But if you can find joy sitting on a blanket by a pond with a burrito picnic, or birdwatching in a forest mid morning - you'd love it. If the idea of saddling up your pony to deliver eggs in padded saddlebags to a neighbor sounds like a small adventure - you'd get it. And if you can find as much peace swaying in a hammock by a stream as you do in a meditation retreat at a temple - you might find yourself also striving for a free range life. The costs are high - especially when it comes to your time. But the price I'd have to pay to never even have a taste of it - forget it. Sit me in front of a winter wood stove any day. Spring always comes.

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