Mark Twain wrote:
All you need is ignorance and confidence, and the success is sure
and when we purchased Beekman Farm in Sharon Springs, NY, in 2007, we sure were hoping that he was right. (He also said to buy land because they’re not making it anymore, and this had proven to be pretty good advice over the years.)
Twain often wrote about the power and pull of rural life and, in fact, in his recently released autobiography (click here for info) he tells the story of how his wife, Olivia, had to remind him not to wear his galoshes when invited to an official White House dinner with Grover Cleveland (should we be invited to the White House, we would wear ours because we would plan to work in the vegetable garden)
While both of us had grown up in rural locations and had spent many barefoot childhood summers walking among the rows of a garden, we knew nothing about managing a farm.
But, alas, this is what we wound up doing when a down-on-his-luck goat farmer and his herd of 80 homeless goats showed up on our doorsteps. Who could say ‘no’? What Farmer John didn’t know, we asked our farming neighbors, and for everything else we Googled. (It’s really amazing what you can learn to do by searching Google.)
Life on the farm has taught us many things: how to grow over 110 varieties of heirloom vegetables, how to raise and harvest over 80% of all the food we consume, how to make cheese, how to make soap, even how to weave our own fabrics and cast our own utensils.
But more than anything, it has reawakened in us a desire for a real community, which is something that so many of us have lost behind the barrier of the computer screen.
This summer when we needed to make some repairs on the barn, we asked friends and neighbors to join us on the farm for a “barn raising”. In the “good ol’ days”, entire villages would come together to help a farmer erect his barn. Everyone would show up to help because they knew at some point they would need to have the favor returned.
In those days, the menfolk did the lifting and the women would cook the food to celebrate the completion of the project.
Of course, we run a modern farm, and when we have people over for “whitewashing the fence”, the responsibilities are not necessarily divided along gender lines. Some of the best cooks are men! We let people decide what their best contributions will be.
We still remember the toast we made as all of our guests sat down to this feast:
“At the end of day, life is not about the things you have. It’s about the stories you have to tell. We thank each and every one of you for being a part of ours.”
We like to think that Twain would approve.