What is a “Biggest Little Farm”?
It’s a journey that started over half a century ago when I (Lori) was a little girl. We bought a house in the city that had an old chicken coop and woodshed in the backyard. I was enthralled with the idea that the people before us had actually had chickens in their backyard (backyard chickens wouldn’t become a “thing” until many, many years later). No one I knew in the whole town had chickens in their backyard, or a woodshed.
It wasn’t long until I had pulled the weeds that had grown up in the chicken run and cleaned out both the wood shed and the chicken house to create my own imaginary farm in the city. I liked my make-believe pioneering life so much that I secreted two plastic buckets up to my bedroom and started washing my own clothes by hand, hanging them to dry on a makeshift laundry line (a jumprope) in my closet. Eventually my mom noticed the lack of dirty laundry and, thinking I must have piles of it in my room, came to my bedroom door demanding that I surrender my hamper. When she saw my laundry washing setup, she looked amused and a little surprised, but left me to it. I guess she figured it wouldn’t take me long to get tired of hauling water from the downstairs bathroom, up two flights of stairs, and back down again. In the meantime, it made wash day a little easier for her.
A few decades later, when I was a busy mom expecting my sixth child, my husband and I bought a fixer-upper on an acre of land. We were surrounded by irrigation ditches that grew an abundance of wild asparagus, we had a big kitchen garden and smaller “snacking garden” for the kids so they could pick and eat anything they wanted without getting fussed at. I was in my element and I thought it was going to last forever.
A few years and a couple of babies later, the house was sold and I was back in the city again, this time as a single parent. I was just starting to find my stride again when the bottom fell out of the economy. At the end of the shaking, all the kids and I had left was some land I had purchased in Northern California to live out my “someday” homestead dream. We packed what we could carry and headed for the hills licking our wounds and looking for a more sane life.
So that’s how the “Farm” part came to be.
The “Biggest Little” part comes from a beautiful documentary I watched a year or so ago called The Biggest Little Farm. It may well be the most beautifully-filmed video I’ve ever seen. I consider it a must-see based on that alone. Stunning cinematography aside, the story of how land, properly stewarded, can go from desolate and barren to rich and productive fascinated me and gave me enormous amounts of hope and inspiration for my own acres of cheat grass and dusty clay soil. Our name is a tribute to the folks who opened my eyes to permaculture design, regenerative farming practices and loving land back to life.
This on again, off again journey to self-sufficiency has been fraught with so many setbacks that most of my kids are now far flung, and married with families of their own. We’re down to four of us left at home: me, my mother, and my two youngest sons. The married kids come home with their kids from time to time to decompress and reconnect with a life that’s slower, richer, and quieter. After a few days of renewal, they’re ready to dive back in.
My renewed enthusiasm for doing the work to rejuvenate my farm has birthed an equal enthusiasm for working on myself as well. I hadn’t taken a good, hard look at myself in a long time; when I did, I saw that my soul was almost as dry and listless as my soil. My weight has gone well beyond “a few extra pounds” and puts me at risk for diseases and injuries that will drastically affect the things I want to do. My muscles are weak and atrophying, my mind feels sluggish and I’m tired all the time. Even though I have more time now, I haven’t done any of the things I used to enjoy and I can barely remember any of the dreams or things I planned to do when life slowed down a bit. So along with my farm, I’m going to love myself back to life as well and talk about all of it here, on the blog.