November 12, 2012

11 months

A certain baby little boy turned 11 months last week. 11 months!! That's almost one year.

This kid is working on his 8th tooth. He stands unsupported and takes a few steps into the arms of mama and daddy. A few weeks ago, Nate and I turned around to see him standing on his own and clapping. A few days ago, we turned around to find him on top of a high piece of furniture. He's quite the climber. He talks a lot, hand gestures and everything - they're just not real words.

And... Zander has his own, very strong opinions. Like deciding that he does not want his picture taken at the park.

I know, it's just the beginning.

November 11, 2012

the search

Everyone thinks they've got the perfect farm for us and you wouldn't believe me if I told you some of the stories about the crazy farms we've seen and the interesting people we've met. I'll have to write a book someday. We've been at this farm searching thing for so long that we know just what we're looking for and we know just which questions to ask. The first question is almost always about gas. If you live in Western Pennsylvania, chances are you're pretty familiar with Marcellus Shale. Farmers, you see, are all too familiar.

I'll save the rant and just say that the shale contains natural gas and is the latest target for energy development. Of course, there are two sides to this, but many believe the methods used to extract this gas, known as hydraulic fracturing or 'fracking', can have devastating effects on the land, water and health of those affected. (Have you seen Gasland?) We intend to grow food on a future farm so clean water and soil are extremely important to us. It is next to impossible to find land around here that hasn't already been drilled, doesn't have a lease signed to drill, or doesn't have surrounding neighbors who have drilled or intend to drill.

Usually, the conversation with a seller doesn't go much further once we ask them about drilling. If it does, we ask for the address and begin our research on Google Maps. In aerial views, we can see the surrounding areas and we can see the existing gas wells and future drilling sites. More times than not, those drilling sites are above the property in question, meaning that the water shed could be contaminated. What good is a farm if you can't, or are afraid to grow food on it? If we get through those steps and the farm still seems like a possibility, we continue further, but it usually doesn't get that far. We have seriously considered leaving the state and trying to find a place where these issues don't exist.

We have in our minds a dream of what our future farm could become. Our dream involves creating a community-oriented sustainable system and growing a little bit of everything. Every property is different and the land dictates what can happen on each particular farm. The land may be hilly, flat, open or wooded. A combination of all those things would be perfect. For us, there has to be a house, though we're not picky at all. The rest of the farm is much more important to us. Outbuildings like a barn and garage are a bonus. Already existing fencing and a pond or stream are even better. Is the size right? Of course, the cost per acre comes into the equation. We need to be able to determine whether or not we can make the farm pay for itself. And then there's the all important question...where would the wood-fired oven go? Each farm we look at encourages us to bend and give a little as we try to imagine the possibilities the land has to offer. 

It is so rare to stumble upon a farm that has all of our dream components, including the gas issue. But recently, we did. We spent countless hours putting together proposals, spreadsheets and business plans, most of which were one-handed while nursing, soothing, or trying to entertain a teething, active, and almost-walking baby boy. We spent weeks on the edge of our seats, holding our breath. All of this, only to find out that we didn't get it. We were either outbid or we were second in line. We weren't dealing with the most upfront and honest person, so it's hard to know. Disappointing, to say the least. Maybe it wasn't meant to be ours.

While going though all of this, another possible farm opportunity presented itself. One that seems too serendipitous to ignore. After all, our entire farming career, however short it is, has been one serendipitous event after another, so it's worth paying attention to. It's hard to not feel that we're being steered or guided somehow by the universe. It feels like we're meant to be there and it's almost as if this farm needs us as much as we need it.

It's all ups and downs, this farm searching business. Mostly downs. We've been here before and we know not to get our hearts too involved...but it's hard. We learn more and more about ourselves each time we get this close to something. We're trying to let go and believe that whatever is meant to be will be, and that the right place will come easily. I know in my heart that we'll find it. Could we be close?