Derek and I were comic amateurs when we first started raising our own chickens. We hovered over the brooder marveling at the tiny peeping birds. We laughed as they skittered about and fell asleep on their faces with their beaks pointing into their scratch. We unintentionally lost a few, unfortunately testing our limited skills on the cute, little bundles of fuzz. Worse, when it was time to transition this first flock to the soup pot, the first several butchered suffered slow deaths as the result of our obvious lack of experience.
If Derek and I weren't both so stubborn, we might have given up entirely on our dream to live sustainably off our own land. We lost several litters during the first two years of rabbit breeding. Our first crop of Brussels sprouts was astonishingly robust but the fruit remained stubbornly small. Our apricot tree withered and died, our rooster became fierce, and both of our bee hives swarmed within the first several months beekeeping. We brought many years of gardening experience forward, but held limited knowledge of growing produce in an environment with a relatively short growing season.
Instead of giving up, we poured through books about homesteading, beekeeping, animal husbandry, and salmon-safe farming. We consulted organic gardeners for insight, and I volunteered at a local farm. Over time everything became a little easier. We began to see big, satisfying successes. The more we invested in our soil, the more bountiful our harvests became. Our meals were packed with our own fresh produce. We continuously renewed our flock as our older hens became less productive layers, and were fortunate to have brooding hens take on the brunt of the work. Breeding chickens became almost effortless and, after the initial set-up costs, near profitable.
Farming is certainly no easy pursuit. As Kimball shows, sometimes your milk cow gets attacked by a dog, or the financial uncertainty puts a strain on your relationship. However, there is so much joy in it that the challenge of the work pays off. Kimball writes so eloquently, “As much as you transform the land by farming, farming transforms you.”