I like city living. I can take the train or bus just about anywhere. I can order Thai takeout or sushi at midnight. I can buy groceries at two in the morning just around the corner if I want to. I’m two blocks from the lake, with a beach. And I get my fill of the good life too– I garden in my apartment, I can finally make a decent pie, I knit, and we can go hiking within an hour’s drive of our place. But I do dream of having a few acres to spread out into a real farm. And not a hobby farm, but a real working enterprise. Just five or ten acres would suit me fine, and more than meet all of my dreams.
I’d like to own four or five head of small (dwarf/miniature) cattle, a couple of goats, a flock of chickens and some beehives. Maybe a turkey or two. These would mostly be for personal use, but I’d likely end up selling any surplus, especially of milk and eggs. We could have all of our beef, chicken, turkey and goat meat for the year. I’d like to be able to make soaps from the cow and goat milk to use and to sell. And I’d likely sell a lot of honey and beeswax-based products.
I’d like a large market garden where I could grow all heirlooms both for home use and sale at farmer’s markets and by subscription as a CSA. I’d like a small orchard with antique apples (grafted onto dwarf rootstock), a few hazelnut trees, a couple of bush cherries and blueberry bushes. If I have the room, I’d like to squeeze in a stand of sugar maples and persimmon trees.
I would like to have a small greenhouse and the livestock would require a small barn and chicken coop. I’d also like to a add a small community center building. There would be a hall that would be great for farm events like community dinners and workshops. It could also be rented out to individuals or other groups for meetings and events. This building would also have a commercially licensed kitchen that could be rented for individuals who need a licensed kitchen to create their own value-added products for sale. It would also be used as a communtiy canning center.
I’d like to have a small one room cabin on the back of the property. It would be a great weekend retreat and could also be rented or CSA shareholders could stay in it when it visiting. It would be spartan yet comfortable. It would have a queen-sized bed with a featherbed. It would have a small table with a red checked tablecloth and a pitcher of fresh flowers. It would have a wood burning stove. I think it would also have a small modern bathroom with a toilet, pedestal sink and clawfoot soaking tub. I don’t think I’d have it wired for electricity though– a couple of oil lamps would suffice and big windows. It would have a small porch with two rocking chairs and some potted plants. Visitors could join us at the farmhouse for meals with the option to order “room service” for one of their meals– a lovely picnic basket of smoked meats, fresh fruits and salad, home baked bread and pie with a bottle of wine (or champagne as the occassion dictates it). The cabin would also have a teakettle and an assortment of teas. Wow, I wish I could go there now!
The farmhouse would be small. I love little houses, and it would be all the space we’d need. I’d like a traditional farmhouse, but with an open floor plan. I’d like the living room, dining room and kitchen to be one large space. The kitchen would have a reproduction gas stove and electric refridegerator. I’d like a large fireplace (reminiscent of the walk-in colonial ones, though scaled down in size slightly). In lieu of built-in cabinetry, I’d have upper shelves mounted on decorative brackets to show off my collection of dishes and glassware. I’d have a pie safe, Hoosier cabinet and other free-standing furniture. I would also have a small walk-in pantry with an old screened door for the door and shelves and bins for vegetables and dry goods. I’d have the fireplace be the center of the living area (instead of a tv, though I’d still have one tucked away somewhere) with comfortable chairs, rocking chairs and a small loveseat (no giant sofa). In the bathroom (only one for the whole house– sounds crazy by today’s standards, but I just don’t understand the houses that have three or four that never get used) there would a claw foot soaking tub, beadboard walls and vintage fixtures. The bedrooms would be cozy– I think I’d like to have three. There would be wide-plank pine floors throughout the house (maybe tile in the bathroom). I’d have a porch with a swing and lots of potted plants. Just outside the kitchen would be a small garden for herbs and salad greens (seperate from the main garden) and a brick terrace. There would be a small cellar for vegetable storage. I think the entire house (not including the porch and garden terrace) would probably be less than 1500 square feet. Storage would have to be clever in a space that size, but I can’t imagine having more space than that. It would be more than we would need. I’d like to have the house powered naturally, either by solar or wind power, or a combination of both. Ideally we could be completely off the grid.
Granted, I’m not going to find ten acres within city limits of Chicago. But I’d like to stay near a big city (preferably near a large body of water), for a couple of reasons. The farmer’s markets are excellent. And we’d be close enough to go into the city for the cultural stuff we enjoy like the museums, events, concerts or even just a day at the beach. It is my goal to have everything I just described. To me, it’s paradise. I know it won’t happen overnight, by little by little I hope to build up a small farm and a sustainable way of living.