Throughout 2013, we have been making lifestyle changes.
In January, I had a week of sinus issues which brought me back to reading Nourishing Traditions and educating myself more on the Weston A Price Foundation approach to food. I was tired of being sick and knew that healthier eating habits leads to healthier bodies. (I want to note that we’ve not been sick since and the abundant Georgia pollen this year didn’t effect a single one of us either!)
We started making dietary changes, supporting local farmers and decided to start raising our own chickens in an attempt to have control over our food supply. In early April, we purchased two Nigerian dwarf goats (a dairy breed) to forage in our yard with plans to milk in the future.
This small scale backyard micro-farming as we called it, was allowing us to live our dream of farming on a small scale. John David and I both grew up on farms and have degrees in agriculture so the passion for agriculture is in our blood!
We were settling into a routine with all of our animals, feeling good about starting to become self sufficient and making plans for uses of goats milk (I was dreaming of making soaps).
Last Wednesday, I came home from a morning in town to find a notice on our door. It stated that there had been an anonymous complaint about our property and that we had one week to remove all animals from our property.
I was full of emotions, sad because I’ve grown a bit attached to our animals and upset that someone would call and make a complaint about our property without complaining first to us.
In our county, you are only permitted to have animals if you have at least two acres. Then you can have four animals per two acres. We only have one acre, therefore we aren’t legally allowed to have any animals other than cats or dogs. If you have more than 5 acres, you can have an unlimited number of farm animals provided you are selling animal products (like eggs).
The fact is, we were in violation of the law. We fully acknowledge that although we weren’t aware we were breaking the law. Last year, when we purchased our first four hens, we looked up the ordinances and could find nothing about animal restrictions in the county. The lack of ease in finding out regulations coupled with the fact that we lived in the county on an acre, we thought everything we were doing was completely within the law. (Now we know to call the county and ask lots of questions before doing anything!)
After the sadness, shock and frustration, we started making plans for removing our animals from our property.
We had already talked to our neighbors who own 6.5 acres of land adjoining our lot about using their field for our agricultural endeavors so we drew up an official agreement to lease their 6.5 acres. We were already planning on selling eggs but now we are definitely going to be selling eggs to make our little operation legal.
The situation has been a bit frustrating because we loved having our animals in our backyard and all of our animals got along wonderfully (the goats even slept in the chicken house at night!) We’re also saddened because there is not an easy way to care for our goats now so we’re planning to sell them.
For me, the biggest frustration is the feeling of a lack of freedom. Our little one acre ‘farm’ was a sustainable little operation but it’s illegal. It wasn’t too much to manage and gave us a bit of self sufficiency.
My emotions have been all over during this past week. Part of me wants to sell our home, move into town, just have a little garden and support our local farmers in their endeavors. Another part of me wants to purchase our own 5 acres and really make a go of small scale agriculture but the thought of that is overwhelming with 2 small children and a husband who works full time. I really like our house but things just feel different now without our chickens in the backyard, the fact that we have to cross a fence to get to our animals and the fact that someone has an issue with our lifestyle choices.
In many ways, I feel like we’re at this lifestyle crossroads. The questions ‘should we scale back’ or ‘should we scale up’ have been in my mind constantly.
While I have no idea how this story will play out, I just wanted to share what’s going on in our life, writing is helping me process everything.