Inch by Inch

I have great faith in a a seed. . . . Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.  -Henry David Thoreau

I am the proprietor of Quartz Hill Farm, which is a lofty declaration, because land that isn’t actually being farmed yet shouldn’t be deemed a FARM, and the reason we don’t really farm it yet is twofold.  One, the farmer that was working with us BROKE UP WITH ME (something about terrible soil, a herd of deer, and other vermin), but mostly, the lack of farming is due to my habitual procrastination and a tsunami of self doubt.  What’s even worse is that these emotions are not without cause.


Things That I Can Successfully Grow:

1.  Children.  Fourteen years and counting!  They keep getting bigger.  Score one for me!  They may not all be whistling Dixie, but they are still alive and kicking. 

They may not be all whistling Dixie, but they are still alive and kicking. 

2.  Weeds.  It’s like I’m not even trying!  I grown them SO WELL!

3.  An occasional vegetable garden.  By occasional, I mean two seasons.  TWO. 

4.  Mold.  This is where I really shine.  I can grow some simply STUNNING rainbow mold on many a cheese varietal.  My specialty, however, is the furry, white mold one can find on ancient leftovers. Forgive my lack of humility in this area.  I AM JUST THAT GOOD.




  1.  Houseplants, or really, perennials of any kind.  I’m shockingly terrible at this. Several well meaning friends and my eternally optimistic mother-in-law continues to present these items as gifts, which means these people are accomplices to plant homicide.  They need to watch their backs. . . being an accessory to plant killing could have you doing hard time.
  2. Soybeans.  Winter wheat.  Cash crops in general.  They start out gangbusters and then BAM!  Dead.  Eaten.  Choked by weeds and stymied by rocks. 
  3. Outdoor flower arrangements.  I cannot be bothered with this.  Flowers require care and attention that I simply lack at this stage in the game.  If we can’t eat it, then it is ignored. There will be no pruning.  There is barely watering. (read:  there is no watering).  There will certainly be no transplanting or bulb-forcing or soil testing.  It is all beyond me.  I keep children alive, and frankly, at this stage in the game, everyone should be relieved that I’m able to do THAT.

Despite all of this damning evidence, I am trying again.  THIS TIME WILL BE DIFFERENT, says the woman who is personifying the definition of insanity.  I WILL GROW FOOD AND FEED MY FAMILY.  I have a farm and WILL FARM IT.  

I am armed and ready with this:

and this:

Look at the determination on that face!  The TILLER WILL NOT BREAK HIS SPIRIT!

Look at the determination on that face!  The TILLER WILL NOT BREAK HIS SPIRIT!

and this:

Not sure how they will help.  But they look ready for SOMETHING.  And boy, WHERE ARE YOUR SHOES??

Not sure how they will help.  But they look ready for SOMETHING.  And boy, WHERE ARE YOUR SHOES??

My delusional, supportive farm hand (aka husband) is ALL IN, bless his heart.  He dug trenches to bring a water source out to the garden.  He helped till the area.  He is the architect and lead carpenter for the box creation project and the huge fence that will protect my tender shoots from the evil deer herd.  Let’s hope that all of this effort will be fruitful.  And vegetable-full.  *wink*

My boy even wrote a book to help me out.

Mel’s Mix and the vine trellises are enroute (thanks Amazon!).  Seeds are on their way.  LIVE PLANTS are on their way.  Heaven help those tender little shoots in my not so green thumbs.

Here goes nothing.  Or something.  Who knows?

A Better Story

I live on a farm with no crops and no livestock.  My farmer broke up with me because my soil quality is poor.  Poor soil + no farmer = no crops.  Ergo, no farming.  My poor little farm has been dormant for half a century, give or take a couple of growing seasons, and sometimes it feels like it's not going to change anytime soon.

I want to wake it up.

When we arrived at the farm, I planned to have chickens immediately.  Chickens.  Not LIVESTOCK.  If I'm completely forthright, livestock just plain freaks me out.  Just crops and chickens for me, thank you very much.  I allowed myself the first summer to settle into our new home and we agreed that we would to greet our little chicken ladies in the fall.

The First Fall came.  So did an intestinal parasite that rendered me nearly useless as a lifeform. (Gross, I know.  But, on the bright side, my funny children referred to me as WE - me and my parasites - for quite some time).   Intestinal Parasite = No Chickens the First Fall.

The First Winter came.  It was WINTRY.

You guessed it.  No chickens.

The First Spring arrived in all its glory, as did the litany of excuses.  Oh, but we have big sports commitments!  We are never HOME!  You travel incessantly!  How will I possibly do it all?  How? How?  HOW????   I'm dealing with a two year old plus three other boys.  I am not prepared to be a chicken whisperer on top of all of that.   NO.  WAY. 

We reach the Second Summer, and along with the heat and humidity comes the naysayers, buzzing like bees. (And by naysayers, I mean people who reside in my home.  You know who you are).

Chickens are so stupid.  They die ALL THE TIME.  What will you do when they die?  What will you do when you send the boys out in the morning to get eggs and the fox has murdered all of the chickens?  Or a hawk makes off with them?  They are smelly and dirty and did I mention stupid and annoying?  Who wants to eat warm eggs?  The baby will just toss the raw eggs around and make a huge mess.   Chickens are SO MUCH WORK and you will eventually have to kill them and you can never do anything like that even though you wax philosophical about the CIRCLE OF LIFE.  

Mid-Atlantic humidity and the naysayers' buzzing about caused analysis paralysis, which manifested itself in the form of reading everything I could about chickens but not actually bringing the ladies home.

Reading about chickens = BIG MISTAKE.   The halfhearted studying brought forth a near fatal case of


The Second Fall comes.  Still no ladies clucking in the yard.  The only thing that arrives are more books from Amazon on raising chickens and homesteading.  I drag Jason and the littles to a chicken swap and investigate coops that are nicer than our first home and are guaranteed to be predator-proof.  ("Ha.  Is there any SUCH THING?" sayeth the naysayers).  As we head into the Second Winter, and there is nary a hen in sight.

Then it hit me.


I scared myself into living a smaller story because I was afraid.  Chickens are not nothing, but they are not a big SOMETHING, either.  I let doubt and fear and the prospect of unpleasant work and naysayers and the possibility of predators and disease paralyze me into living a diminished version of who I want to be.

One thing I never want to be?  Too chicken to try something new.   

Even though it is little and millions of people have raised chickens without a problem and it is not a BIG STORY for many, it is for me.  The story that I want to tell about my life is this:  Inexplicably, the call I feel to farm is strong.  It is in my blood and in my bones, and even though I am ignorant, scared, and inadequate, I will work hard, learn a lot, and produce something for others to enjoy.  I want to be someone who is a good steward of her land and nourishes and nurtures those in her care.  Including chickens.  

Even though chickens are super scary.

Postscript:  STAY TUNED.  We have some little ladies to introduce to you.