Tuesday, May 30, 2017

RIP, Mustard E. Goat

She died on May 15th, with her head in my lap.  The matriarch of the herd, Mustard E. Goat was eleven years old, and her bloodline dominates the Harrison Farm herd of goats.  She was even-tempered and independent.  I always imagined that if she spoke, she would do so with a Scottish accent, inevitably complaining about the youthful shenanigans of others' kids.  The farm has lost one of its greatest characters.

My heart had told me during her pregnancy that this would be Mustard's last kidding.  We moved her to the special needs pen a few weeks ago to ensure she was getting plenty of the best possible grain & hay.  During the winter, Mustard had battled hoof issues and skin issues, but had bounced back from both.  On the Wednesday before her death, Mustard successfully kidded.  I was super excited that one of the twins was a girl . . . One more female to join the others who shared the bloodline of Mustard!  Autumn the Goat (boss of the herd) is her daughter, as is Becky Braune.  Mustard's granddaughters include Kaity Cupcake, Miss Barthol, The Loges, Kief, Black Jack, and Garden Goat.  Maggie (the newest goat yoga superstar) is a great-granddaughter to Mustard.

On Saturday morning, Mustard was grumpy, but I chalked it up to being an ancient mother with two active twins who were needing constant attention.  On Sunday all was status quo.  On Monday, I intended to do as little farmwork as needed.  May 15th is the one day of the year that I try not to work, as it is the anniversary of when my mother passed onward.  When I went down to the barn for the morning check, I was shocked to discover that Mustard's little girl was completely dead.  I took her to the compost pile and buried her, absolutely baffled as to what could have happened to her.   When I returned to Mustard, she did not want to get on her feet . . . And then I realized she was letting flies sit on her ears.  When a goat no longer cares enough to shake the flies off, they have lost their will to live.  With one baby left, I had to focus on his well-being.  I always keep some powdered milk onsite, should a situation like this arise.  Thankfully, the baby boy was quite willing to drink on a bottle.  

Unfortunately, Mustard kept going downhill all that afternoon.  I stayed fairly close to the barn, and frequently checked on her.  As the afternoon got late, I knew that her end was imminent and I found myself unable to leave her.  Her head was at an awkward angle, even with the pillow of straw I had given her, so I sat down next to her and placed her head in my lap.  I told her what a remarkable goat she was, and let her know that she could go peacefully having earned her reward.  I stroked her neck, and kept an eye on her baby.  I doubt that Mustard had any comprehension of my words, but I do think she perceived that she was in the barn where she had spent most of her life, surrounded by the other goats of her herd, and hearing the voice & feeling the touch of the human that had provided care for her.  

Despite my tendency to develop elaborate back stories for the animals, I know their true natures as beasts.  I know the place we each hold in the circle of life.  I hope that somehow there was a sense of peace for Mustard as she ended her time in this world.   I could not bring myself to bury this great matriarch in the general compost pile, and so I took her to the west pasture -- where general population of goats resides, and where Flirt the Horse is buried.  I went back to the compost pile and dug up Mustard's daughter, so they could be buried together.  This was purely for my own comfort, but it was the right thing for me to do.  

I have shared with some of my friends that we received a couple cancellations to Goats & Yoga when attendees learned that I raise meat goats.  It has weighed on me, and I have struggled to identify precisely why it bothers me so.  Both of the attendees who cancelled said they were meat eaters, they believed I was farming in a manner which they supported, but they did not want to interact with an animal who could become meat someday.  Another person did not even sign up for the class, but reached out to ask if the rumors were true that I raised animals for meat.  I am proud of the work that I do, and love talking about it with others.  When I am asked what I do with my animals, I usually explain that every creature on the farm -- including me -- has to contribute.  Some contribute by being parents, some by being guardians, some by being companions, and some by being meat.  The reality of the animal kingdom is that creatures are different.  A goat is not a dog, which is not an elephant, which is not a cat, which is not a chicken, which is not a human.  I believe in valuing each creature for what it is and for what it can contribute.  In some cases, this contribution is meat  . . . which then allows for income to be made to fund the farm, or nourishment to be provided for those humans who care for the animals.

I suspect my comfort with the circle of life comes from being immersed so deeply in it. When new babies are born, I help to make sure they are standing & nursing.  I assist with deliveries if necessary.  I feed the animals, and trim their hooves, and provide their health care, and extract them from bad situations.  I have splinted broken legs, dug maggots out of wounds, and tended to broken horns.  When an emergency happens, it is my responsibility to manage it.  The burden sits on me to decide if an animal must complete its journey of life -- whether by being slaughtered or by being euthanized.  I birth them, I feed them, I heal them, and I bury them.  I serve these animals, and we all serve this farm.  Through the lifetime I have spent doing this work, I have come to peace with my own mortality and with my own place in the circle of life. 

My interns laugh about how often I joke that someday I will just fall down in the barn and the chickens will eat my face off.  I tease the interns to just drag me to the compost pile when that happens, as we do with the livestock.  I work every day to care for the animals, who eat the grass so they become big enough to slaughter, so that I can have nourishment to provide their care.  And someday my time in this world will end, and my body will be buried and will nourish the soil that grows the grass that the animals eat.  My existence is deeply vested in this circle of life every day.

I wish that those who question my work would come to visit the farm.  I wish somehow I could share with them how my heart cried as Mustard took her last breaths with her head in my lap.  I wish I could convey the sorrow I felt as I looked at her orphan baby, and thought about my own experience of losing my parents.  I wish I could share the joy in my heart every time a baby is born, the sweet sound of a newborn nursing successfully, the fear that grips me every time an animal is injured, the courage it takes to know that life & death decisions sit solely on me, and the nights I spend awake second guessing my efforts whenever I lose an animal.  I wish I could convey to others my firm belief that every animal should be valued for what it is, but should also be given the kindness it deserves for its time in this world.  

Some of my animals will serve by becoming meat; all of them will eventually die.  And so will I.  For the time they are here, they deserve respect -- as does every human life.  I wish I could somehow share this perspective on the circle of life with everyone who questions the legitimacy of raising animals for meat.  And I also really wish I could introduce them to Bad Hombre the Goat, so they could understand that a belligerent male goat is very, very different from the adorable babies in Facebook videos.  I hope that by telling the stories of the farm that I will be able to share with others the daily reality of a farm.  And I also hope that these stories will explain why I believe that there is no endeavor more noble than a farmer's calling to care for the earth and God's creatures.

Friday, April 7, 2017

What is Open Farm?

I love talking about the farm and about my animals.  When I have the pleasure of meeting new people and they learn that I am a farmer, they usually ask how many animals are on they farm and how many acres comprise the farm.  I will never stop marveling that I can now blissfully answer that I own 76 acres.  As I quantify the farm into acreage and number of animals (70+ goats, 30+ sheep, a hundred chickens, a donkey, ten barn cats, two amazing dogs), I am often told "Wow, you are a REAL farmer!"  That phrase brings me great amusement, as farms in Ohio are extremely rich in diversity of production & crops.  There are so many kinds of farmers and farms in our state.  I hope that Harrison Farm is a place where people in my own metropolitan area can visit to learn more about animal agriculture.

I love sharing the farm with others, and thus I frequently invite people to visit the farm.  Many of my friends would ask about a good time to visit, so their kids (human variety) could meet my kids (goat variety.  My schedule is quite erratic, due to the needs of the farm.  This led to "Open Farm": a time when we will be onsite and guests are welcome to pop in.  No RSVP is necessary.  The work of the farm will be carrying on, and visitors are welcome to see what we do.  It is a low key opportunity to see what our farm is like, snuggle a baby goat, pick up some fresh eggs, and take in the beauty of agriculture.  Most of the creatures who live at Harrison Farm have been given very elaborate back stories, and their adventures create a recurring animal soap opera . . . So come prepared to catch up on the shenanigans of the goats, the star-crossed love stories of the chickens, and the routine complaints of Finn Lambkins!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

A Good Day at Harrison Farm

Today was a good day at Harrison Farm.  It was cold, it was muddy, it was productive, and it was deeply fulfilling.  Best of all, it was a day full of people visiting the farm and animals engaged in their usual antics.

My new Assistant Zach has survived four weeks of being a minion at Harrison Farm, and he fits in very well to our farm family.  Zach is active in FFA, is passionate about playing football, is a very good conversationalist, and has a positive attitude.  Thus far, this intrepid sixteen year old is managing to tolerate my eccentricities as a farmer quite well.  He has been a most welcome addition to our team!  My former interns Elizabeth & Marissa were both out to the farm today, along with Student Assistant Zach.  Elizabeth is a beacon of so much goodness & laughter, and the work load somehow seems much lighter just by the virtue of her company.  Marissa is preparing to transition from intern to assistant at Harrison Farm as she wraps up her college career.  I am markedly impressed with the manner in which Marissa is embracing more opportunity & responsibility at the farm.  She has a strong intellectual curiosity and a heart for animals.  Neither Elizabeth nor Marissa grew up on a farm, yet one would never think that to see how competently they have learned to manage the work of Harrison Farm.  They are both strong, caring women.

Today I was onsite all day with my awesome team.  I gave them each individual tasks & group projects to accomplish -- and then unleashed them.  I am full of pride for the leadership & work ethic that they displayed in carrying out their assignments.  At our designated time for lunch break, my team returned and settled in around the kitchen table.  I finished making lunch, while they read over three articles I had saved for them as our weekly "Harrison Farm Required Reading": an interview with the Executive Vice President of Ohio Farm Bureau, the obituary for the amazing physicist Dr. Mildred Dresselhaus, and a personal reflection by the President of the University of Richmond on the value of listening.  

As I prepped our lunch -- and watched those three remarkable young people sitting at the kitchen table reading -- my heart was so full.  They finished their reading, we prayed, and then we dined.  Our menu was Harrison Farm scrambled eggs, Red Beans & Rice with Harrison Farm Goat Sausage, and Harrison Farm Lamb Brats.  We like protein.  For dessert, we enjoyed a batch of Grandmother Harrison's Chocolate Chip Cookies.  During the meal we discussed the "required reading", laughed about our misadventures with the day's farmwork, and made plans for the future of the farm.  I cannot imagine a more fabulous lunch than what I enjoyed today.

I love this farm with all my heart, and I believe it deserves the opportunity to serve a purpose for our community.  My heart is full of joy as I watch these phenomenal young people gain skills, embrace animal agriculture, and become mature citizens of integrity.  Our afternoon brought more farm work, a "traveling goatherd" expedition to a neighbor who needed help with a goat, and a wonderful visit from one of my very favorite families.  It was a good day.  My grandfather had a plaque in his office with a quote from President Abraham Lincoln: "I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives.  I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him."  These days it seems that this farm looks a bit prouder, stands up a bit taller.  Harrison Farm is finding its purpose.  And it seems that Katherine Harrison is, too.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Testimony on Farm Taxes

I truly appreciate the support that my community offers to Harrison Farm, and I want to make sure this land in turn serves the community around me.  Recently, I had the opportunity to testify before the Ways & Means Committee of the State Senate on farmland taxation.  The formula for taxation on farm land currently includes certain factors which have created a very difficult burden on farmers.  Senate Bill 36 would help by refining the formula to make it more accurate for how farmland is used.  I share this in the hope that my friends who care about the work of Harrison Farm will also be advocates for policies that keep farms in operation!  Garden Goat & Finn Lambkins thank you!

Chair Eklund, Vice Chair Terhar, Ranking Member Williams, and members of the Senate Ways and Means Committee: thank you for the opportunity to provide proponent testimony on Senate Bill 36.  

I am Katherine Harrison, and I own & operate a small livestock farm near Canal Winchester, in southeastern Franklin County.  I am the fifth generation of my family to work this particular farm.  Nearly my entire life has been spent working on this land, and I love it with my whole heart.  I raise goats, sheep, and chickens.  In addition, I have a wonderful guardian donkey, ten unruly barn cats, and the best farm dog ever.  Harrison Farm focuses on celebrations and animals and teaching -- as those are my passions.  

The mission of Harrison Farm is to enrich lives by connecting people with animals and farming.  Besides raising meat & eggs, I use my farm as an opportunity for people to learn more about animal agriculture.  I work with the Ohio State University to provide internships for animal science students, and I am very proud of the eight young ladies who have interned with me.  I also work with my local high school FFA program, and have had ten amazing student assistants work on my farm over the last decade.  We host a number of events at Harrison Farm, including a quarterly Open Farm, on-farm dinners catered by a local chef, and the extraordinarily popular goat yoga.

Living near a metropolitan area provides many wonderful opportunities for me to connect with individuals who are curious about farming, but know very little about it.  Since my farm is only a thirty minute drive from downtown, it is a convenient location for urban & suburban residents to visit.  Admittedly, it is the opportunity to snuggle adorable baby goats that draws visitors to the farm.  I have found, however, that if you place a baby goat in someone's arms, they immediately light up and want to learn everything they can about animal agriculture.  Although my farm is a small one, it gives me the opportunity to answer a wide range of questions about farming.

I truly feel that farms like mine are important for metropolitan areas.  Farms provide green space, employ members of the community, and enhance food security.  Unfortunately, the reality is that there are great pressures placed upon my farm due to our close proximity to an urban center.  One of these realities is a higher tax burden, as I am quickly discovering as a new land owner.  As mentioned, I am the fifth generation of my family at my farm.  I grew up with my grandparents, who taught me so much about farming and about life.  I am the only one of their descendants who is a farmer, and my parents are deceased.  Unfortunately, the generation between my grandparents and myself did not view the farm with the same love that I do.  For them, it was a valuable real estate asset that could be sold.  

I recently had the opportunity to purchase at auction the 44 acres of my grandfather's farm which adjoin my home, out of the 323 acres which were auctioned off.  I would have loved to have purchased the whole thing, but my finances were not such to be able to do so.  I have the habit of following my heart even in business decisions, which was abundantly evident in my decision to purchase those 44 acres.  To break down the tax implications on this piece of property, allow me to share some details on the financials.  I have not yet finalized a rental agreement, but for a few years I will likely rent the land to a neighbor to farm.  I anticipate this can bring in about $180 per acre per year. The taxes run approximately $120 per acre per year.  That leaves a possible net of $60 per acre per year to pay down a loan for $300,000 to purchase the land.  That is a tough financial situation to navigate, yet it illustrates the difficulty of keeping land in farming when taxes take such a steep portion of any potential profit.

Farmers are deeply vested in our communities.  I love my farm, and I love sharing it with others.  Part of the responsibility of being a steward of the land, is paying appropriate levels of taxation.  The current tax situation on farmland, however, creates added pressures that make it more difficult for small farms to remain in metropolitan areas.  Farms like mine play a vital role in our community and I invite you to visit Harrison Farm whenever you would like to enjoy the antics of adorable baby goats!  Thank you sincerely for the opportunity to provide proponent testimony for SB 36!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Happy Birthday Laura Ingalls!

Despite appearances otherwise, this picture of a belligerent pioneer girl is from my own childhood and NOT the childhood of Laura Ingalls.  It was taken when I was four, on one of the re-enactment wagon trains which my mother so adored . . . and I was absolutely convinced was a level of hell which Dante forgot to include.  The only reason I tolerated these weeklong excursions on horseback across the Dakota Prairie was because I hoped it would bring me closer in spirit to Laura.  From an early age, I was completely in love with the stories of her life which she told in the Little House books.  Today is the 150th anniversary of her birth, and I am reflecting on the impact which Laura had on my life.

As a child, I read and re-read all the books in the Little House series.  Laura's adventures seemed so real to me.  I learned the lesson of always obeying one's mother when Laura's life was saved from a possible bear attack because she did exactly as her mother told her.  I knew Laura & I had to be kindred spirits with her love of her dog Jack, just as I loved our dogs Mop and Aaron and Sadie.  When Jack went missing during their wagon travels, I was heartbroken.  And when he found the family again, I was as joyful as Laura must have been.  I worried about Mary when she went blind, detested Nellie Olsen for being such a snob, and understood why Laura loved working with Pa on his farm.  As a child, my concept of true love was based on the courtship of Laura & Almanzo.  The life which Laura wrote about influenced so much of my perception of my own world.  Even the dresses I chose as a child tended to have a "prairie" influence!

Before I could read the books myself, my mother read Laura's stories to me.  These stories became something that strengthened the bond between us.  My mother knew she could "shorthand" any lesson she wanted to teach me by referencing something that Laura experienced.  We took many trips to visit Laura's homes.  As a child, my mother would let me pick out a doll or another memento when we visited one of those historic sites.  As an adult, I would buy any book about Laura, and then my mother would read it to me as I drove during our travels.  We saw the Little House in the Big Woods in Pepin WI, drove to the cemetery in Independence KS to pay our respects to Dr. Tan who saved the Ingalls family from Malaria, hiked to the site of the dugout on the Banks of Plum Creek, and visited the hotel at Burr Oak IA that Pa Ingalls briefly managed.  Many family trips were taken to DeSmet SD to tour the Surveyor's House, visit the replica of the Brewster School, see the still-standing Cottonwoods that Pa planted on his land claim and read the historic marker there (on which Bette the Poodle enjoyed posing), and pay our respects at the cemetery to Pa, Ma, Mary, and Carrie.  One of my favourite memories was the visit that my mother & I made to the home of Laura & Almanzo in Missouri.  We had an amazing time there, and I learned a great deal about Laura as a writer.  Even more important: I learned that Laura & Almanzo had a herd of goats at Rocky Ridge Farm!  

Through these travels, I learned that the Laura Ingalls Society sponsored an annual essay contest.  In 2007, I wrote an entry about my travels with my mother to Laura's homes, how these experiences drew us closer, and the lessons that Laura & I both learned from our mothers.  It was a humbling moment to be able to surprise my mother with the good news of the recognition I received for that essay.  She was in the last months of her battle with cancer, and I was tremendously excited to surprise her with the essay I wrote on our travels together and the award I received for it.  Laura Ingalls may have lived so long before me, but her words taught me lessons, exposed me to new ideas, and allowed me to experience her adventures.  Reading these stories with my mother deepened the bond between us and I am terrifically grateful for the happy memories which we shared through our love of Laura's books.

When I was a child, an adult asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I can still vividly recall how she laughed at me when I said I wanted to be Laura Ingalls.  I was quite indignant as a five year old that this adult could not appreciate my life goals and told me dismissively that I could not be Laura Ingalls.  And now at age 40, I am a teacher, I am a farmer, I have travelled this country, I am a writer, and I own goats . . . Life goals achieved!  Laura's words still influence my life.  Frequently when I think of leaving the farm for a quick errand while looking an awful mess, I recall Laura's admonition that when you go to town you are always representing the farm community -- and then I get dressed up as Laura would to best represent farmers.  I am grateful that my mother inspired me to love reading and introduced me to Laura, I am fortunate that I found such a remarkable woman to inspire my mind as a child, and I am grateful that Laura Ingalls taught me that a person's life lived with dignity can impact others long after they have passed.  

Happy Birthday, Laura!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

A New Year at Harrison Farm

On New Year's Eve, it seemed that every little thing that could go wrong did.  Nothing was catastrophic, but nothing went smoothly.  The animals wanted my full attention, and thus endeavored to create every scenario possible to keep me in the barn.  I finally ducked out to get to the post office before it closed at 10:30 . . . And walked in as the counter officially shut down.  This meant a detour to another post office -- but first a trip to the feed mill.  In an effort to be on time to the post office, I had left my feed sacks for filling at home, and therefore had to purchase new ones.  And then it turned out that part of what I needed was not ready, and so a second trip would have to be made back to the feed mill later that day.  The weather was gray & depressing, I was fighting a headache, I got stuck on an hour & a half customer service call, and by 8pm I was in my garage still trying to prepare hides for tanning.  There is only so long a hide is fresh and can be salted, and so I absolutely had to finish that task even though it was New Year's Eve.  It is a whole new level of partying when you find yourself on your knees in a cold garage scraping flesh off hides on New Year's Eve!  I will admit that my attitude was more than a little cross at that point, and then I made the decision that I needed to change my perspective on the day.

My lengthy customer service conversation that afternoon had been with a representative to renew the domain name for Chimeara.com.  It expired on New Year's Eve -- which I had known for three weeks but did not focus on until I realized the date had "suddenly" arrived.  Just my luck: the customer service rep was named Matt.  We spent a LOT of time waiting for computer screens to process information, and thus Customer Service Matt learned a great deal about goats and about the Matt who broke my heart.  On New Year's Eve 2015, my Matt -- the man who I had loved with my whole heart -- had asked to come out to the farm that evening.  Because I am a decided romantic, I bought some very nice filets and cooked quite an outstanding dinner.  After all, if a gentleman asks to see a lady on New Year's Eve, it must be a date.  I adored Matt with all my heart, and happily welcomed him to my home that night, with the unrelenting hope that we could restore our relationship.  He heartily ate the meal, and then it slowly dawned on me that he only wanted access to my home to get the rest of his belongings.  Rather a heartbreaking situation for those meager remnants of my already shattered heart.  I told the story to Customer Service Matt when he asked about my New Year's plans.  I observed that even being on a lengthy call was better than my previous year, and then he got the full story when he inquired why.  I made Customer Service Matt promise he would never behave like Matt who broke my heart.

So there I was in my Carhartt overalls that evening, scraping flesh off a hide, and trying to improve my perspective about my world.  The hide was being prepared to tan and then market as part of my expanding farm business.  This was part of my effort to honor my animals by using every part of their body that I could to support the farm.  That concept is part of my belief that every animal on the farm must contribute: some contribute by being parents, some by being guardians, some by being companions, and some by being meat.  The farm I love can only be a working farm if every creature on it -- including me -- contributes to it.  And that farm is growing because of my long hours working on it, and because of the stubborn attitude that keeps me going even when others would quit.  Slowly that night, I began to adjust my perspective to understand that even a simple messy task at an inconvenient time could be an emblem of success.

2015 was the most painful time of my life.  The second half of that year brought so many unimaginable challenges.  The analogy occurred to me just recently that I had functioned like a shell-shocked soldier for much of 2015.  I just could not fathom the crises that kept raining down on me, as they followed so closely on the heels of the very happiest time of my life.  I had loved Matt completely, I was decidedly happy working at his family's farm, and I could not wait for the future which we were planning.  And then everything fell apart.  Everything.  And I could barely function from being repeatedly worn down.  A broken relationship, deaths, the robbery of my home, unexpected job transitions, my health issues, severe financial struggles, rejection by extended family members . . . I looked onto my own life like a soldier in the trenches of the Great War who could not get a grip on the destruction around him.

My greatest accomplishment in the first quarter of 2016 was that I did not kill myself.  No one intends for "suicidal" to be an adjective that applies to them.  I cannot fault myself for my struggles, as my entire world was crashing down around me.  My job had unexpectedly ended, and so I was home all day in a drafty farmhouse with a furnace that kept malfunctioning.  My grandmother's belongings from her retirement home were in boxes overtaking the dining room and living room.  I was in a chaotic house where my mother had lived, where my grandparents had lived, and where my great-grandparents had lived . . . And like the Last of the Mohicans, I was the only one left.  I viewed myself as a colossal failure to the dreams of my ancestors, as I sat miserably in a house swirling with their memories.  I had no money, I had no job, and I was terrified of having another seizure.  I had gone off of my anti-seizure medication as Matt & I intended to start a family as soon as we married -- and now there would be no marriage, no children, and no Matt.  There I sat in a house that felt like my tomb, and struggled to find any reasons to keep going.

Even if I could not see it then, I had many things that kept me going.  There have been people in my world who teased me about my devotion to my family, but those ancestors handed down to me their toughness, their discipline, and a hearty dose of the notorious Harrison stubborn streak.  So I just kept going.  There have been people in my world who teased me about my love of animals, but those animals gave me a reason to literally get out of bed every morning.  There have been people who teased me about the value I put on relationships, but those friends kept checking on me & loving me even when I was at my worst.  I did lose some people when my world became so difficult, however, I can no longer regret their absence.  After my dark months, I know that the friends who stood by me are the truest friends that a person could ever imagine.  I did not want to let down my family, I did not want to let down my animals, and I did not want to let down my friends.  So I just kept going, and now I am decidedly proud of myself for that.

We are doing things at Harrison Farm that I could never have imagined a year ago.  We tan hides.  We have a successful egg business.  We make delicious lamb sausages.  We have an internship program that includes Friday Fun Day.  We are a real LLC.  We exhibit our Chimeara line of etchings & jewelry inspired by animals at local shows.  We do event planning work for weddings, and non-profits events, and political fundraisers. We have an ad in our church bulletin.  We are building a website.  We were in Edible Columbus.  We host amazing goat yoga classes and Open Farm events.  I use the term "we" because I know keenly that the farm would not be here -- and I would not be here -- if not for the good friends who support me.  This farm is not just about me, it is about every single person who kept me going to get to this day.  And today in particular is the very first day that I awoke in the farmhouse that I now own, on the farm that I now own.  Perhaps the biggest change in my world is that I now legally own the land which my ancestors originally purchased in 1927.  I blissfully own it, but I will never lose sight of the fact that this miracle only happened because of everyone who gave me a reason to get to this day.

On New Year's Eve I changed my perspective.  I finished my work, put on one of my ridiculous miniskirts & mad bomber hats, swung by the feed mill to pick up the rest of my order on their dock (yep, me throwing fifty pound sacks of feed in a miniskirt is impressive), and then went to a friend's house to enjoy the last couple hours of 2016.  Another miracle of my world besides my loyal long-time friends, is the new friends who have enriched my world in the past year.  The rest of New Year's Eve, and then a brunch on New Year's Day, were spent with friends who became a very big part of my heart in 2016.  Any time I start to feel down about my world, I think about my friends -- and I know that I am the luckiest person in the world.

Through those dark days a year ago, I clung to the lessons of my family.  The integrity my mother instilled in me, the honesty which my grandmother emphasized to me, and the loyalty my grandfather displayed.  I thought so much about Monnie Harrison: home alone, with a fire about to destroy her home, using every ounce of her strength to push her piano out of the conflagration.  I tell that story to every young person who works for me, with the admonition that you never know how strong you are until you are required to be.  That piano is now legally mine, and I believe in my own way I finally showed myself tough enough to be its owner.  How remarkable and how foolish in the face of peril to save a beloved piano from a house fire.  How remarkable and how foolish in the face of peril to risk everything to preserve a family farm.  There have been many people who did not believe in me, but somehow my friends did so even at the times that I did not.  For the first time in my life, I truly feel worthy to be the daughter of Rebecca, to be the granddaughter of Virgil, to be the great-granddaughter of Monnie.

Dulcius ex asperis.  Sweeter after difficulty.