Thursday, March 28, 2013

Guest Post: Returning to our Roots

I am so excited to share another blog that I've been stalking following.  Today we have Jenny from Black Fox Homestead sharing her journey to full-time homesteading.

My paternal grandmother, herself a farm girl, reading to me:  "Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm".  It was my favorite.
My paternal grandmother, herself a farm girl, reading to me: "Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm". It was my favorite.

My husband is of Italian descent, with family still living in Italy and working on a farm that has been theirs for several generations. As a child and later as a young adult he visited for the summer. He was so moved by his experience that he cried when he left. When he got older, he said, he wanted to farm.

My grandmother grew up on a farm and later married my grandfather who was a farm hand. She learned to forage for dandelion greens which she canned, and made the most amazing pies. When I received a bundle of cash for a high school graduation present, I wanted to go visit her and spend afternoons picking cherries in a Michigan orchard. That was my idea of a good time.
Our First Home 
Our First Home

If one had known our roots one might have thought that we were bound for farming from the start. But we weren’t. We began our married life like most other couples our age: in a nice subdivision. Neither of us knew very much first hand about gardening, but one year I decided to give one a try.

Having read Square Foot Gardening from cover to cover I planted my first tiny, 4’x4’ vegetable garden. I really didn’t know what I was doing, I put all the wrong things in at all the wrong times, but a few small crops managed to grow: enough that I was hooked on growing food for my table.

My love of growing things led to my pursuit of a Master Gardener certification and it was through a dedicated and gifted extension agent that I learned about heirlooms. I remember the day she gave the lecture, explaining how these seeds had been handed down from generation to generation, and how, once planted, allowed to grow, and produce seed, we could continue the cycle. The thought gave me goosebumps. That summer I planted my first Cherokee Purple tomato.
Assortment of heirloom tomatoes
Assortment of heirloom tomatoes

It was about that time that my husband and I encountered some health issues that made us stop and think about what was in our food. We began to gradually make changes to our diet, eliminating as much processed food as we could and eating as much organic produce as we could find. I began baking my own bread, we located a local dairy that sold raw milk and cream. I began making my own butter. We worked to grow as much of our own produce as we could.

Our garden began to expand and take over our back yard, and we began to wonder aloud about a farm. It was never really a serious dream, it wasn’t one we thought was attainable, but every so often, we’d sit on our back porch overlooking the lettuces and beets and talk about how cool it would be if we could raise all of our own food.

Then, one afternoon we realized that the tone of our neighborhood had changed and not for good. It was time for us to make a change. The dream of a farm surfaced again. After much scratching of figures, adjusting, refiguring, and more scratching we realized that we could make it a possibility. We located a lovely spot some forty miles east of where we lived, a gently sloping acreage with a large pond. We built a small red pole barn and fitted it out as a home.

Last October, we moved in.
Our garden, the barn, and our home Our garden, the barn, and our home
The transition from city life to living in the country has not been without its challenges. We’ve learned the hard way that growing food on a large exposed plain is quite different from the protected miroclimate of a back yard. We’ve learned to live with the mud, and we’ve learned to adapt to living 15 miles from a well stocked grocery; but we’ve never regretted our decision or wished for a second that we were back in the city.

This past February my husband decided to take an extended leave of absence from his computer consulting job with plans to work together to see if we can make a go of full time market growing. 

Boots Black Fox
We currently have eleven 5’x50’ garden beds which hold a variety of cool season heirlooms: lettuces, Swiss chard, spinach, kale, and beets. They will soon be joined by eight different varieties of tomatoes, summer squash, peppers, and beans as well as a fava bean green manure crop to help enrich the soil for future planting.

In June we are scheduled to receive eight tiny Rhode Island Red chicks, the first of our livestock. Future plans include dairy goats and there has been talk of pigs, ducks, geese, meat birds, and perhaps a dairy cow.  The eleven garden beds will increase to twenty-two.

My favorite time of day on our little farm is sunset. There is something spectacular about ending a days’ work and looking out over our land, seeing the vast expanse of sky above painted with a beatifully setting sun. No two are alike, every evening the show is completely different, offering something new.
Sunset at Black Fox Homestead Sunset at Black Fox Homestead 

Tired of city life and the stress of an eighty hour work week, Jenny and her husband decided to trade in their computer consulting business for life on a homestead as full time market growers. In the fall of 2012, they moved to a small acreage in rural Northeastern Oklahoma where they are learning to live off the land. On her blog at , Jenny writes about their transition from city to country life, learning how to can and preserve food, and their experiences with gardening naturally. Visit her growing Etsy site featuring country curtain patterns, gardening books, and other vintage treasures. Connect with her on Facebook, Pinterest, and follow her on Twitter @foxhomestead .

Join me as I party HERE.


Anonymous said...

What a peaceful life it sounds like she and her husband have! And that sunset...beautiful!

Mandi Roach said...

Hi there! I have ventured over from Thumpin’ Thursday. I'm enjoying this little peek into your world! Just lovely! XOXO, Mandi @ All My Happy Endings

Lisa Lynn said...

Thanks for sharing Jenny's story on your blog! I love the photos of the sunset and the red barn house is awesome :) My hubby and I have considered building something similar when he retires and we move back to NY and our hometown.

Best wishes and many blessings on the road to self sufficiency Jenny!

Ang Meltingmoments said...

Oh hoe I long to have my own garden. We currently live in a first floor unit. This sounds amazing.

Meredith said...

It takes a lot of courage and faith to make a leap like that--I so enjoy reading about your adventures--the way you learn from trials and errors as you have moved from the city to the small town. Thank you for sharing your story--and very best wishes to you both. I'm a dedicated follower!!

Carol J. Alexander said...

Great story. One of faith and adventure! Thanks for sharing.

A Daughter of the King said...

I loved reading this story. The photograph of you with your grandma and the story of your husband's roots are especially touching.

Kathy Shea Mormino, The Chicken Chick said...

Great post.....Thank you for sharing with the Clever Chicks Blog Hop this week; I hope you’ll join us again!

Kathy Shea Mormino

The Chicken Chick