Friday, September 2, 2011

Welcome to My World

After over 3 years of renting a small house on the family farm, we have finally decided to hire a realtor and start house hunting. Although we aren't in a huge hurry to pack our bags and we plan to take our time with the process, it is possible that this was our last summer in this house. And as excited as we are to finally have a place to call our own, we're sad to leave the house where we started our lives together. So in honor of our little town and our tiny farmhouse, here is a snapshot of life on the farm....

If you travel toward the southern end of Interstate 39 in central Illinois, you will pass a small town with no stop lights, no restaurants, and no buildings over 2 stories tall. If you venture down the off ramp, you'll see the bank with one drive-up window and the Casey's General Store where the local farmers get their morning coffee. If you make your way out of town, you'll see miles upon miles of corn and soybean fields. Somewhere among those fields is a little yellow farmhouse with chickens roaming in the yard and a barefoot toddler pushing a stuffed bunny in a miniature stroller. Welcome to my world.

I say that we are farmers, but really it's my in-laws who farm full-time, although Matt does work in the field part-time during the busy times of planting and harvesting.  His parents live in the next house down from us (about a half mile down the road), and his grandma lives in the next house after them. Now, I'm sure you're probably feeling sorry for me for having to live so close to my in-laws, but there are some definite perks - like when Reese was a newborn and Matt's mom would come down just so I could take a shower and start dinner or when having an evening alone is as easy as running the baby next door.

On most mornings, Reese and I head out to play in the yard and I see my father-in-law working out by the machine shed. We wander over to say hi and Reese pretends to drive the tractor. Then we continue up the gravel path toward the chicken house. As soon as the chickens see us they all come running and Reese feeds them our produce and bread scraps from the day before. Then we head back toward the house where I push her in the swing or take her for a ride in the wagon around the edge of the property (which makes up for the days when I skip my workout).  

In the 6 years since I've been with Matt, I've participated in a lot of activities that only happen when you live in a place like this. In the spring we raise a new batch of chickens to butcher, and yes I have participated in the "annual chicken slaughter" where we kill, bag, and freeze about 60 chickens, which means I never buy chicken (or eggs) at the store. It's a big family assembly line (or I should say dis-assembly line), and I love knowing that our meat isn't pumped with hormones or poorly treated (which is well worth a couple days of chicken guts on my hands).

In late summer we harvest the sweet corn at its peak of freshness and we shuck, blanch, and freeze enough corn to last all 3 of our families (us, Matt's parents, and his sister's family) until the next sweet corn season. In the fall, I pick apples from the trees in the yard and I freeze a year's supply of apple sauce and pie filling. The harvest season is usually finished just in time for Matt to get all of his friends together to hunt on his family's property. We usually count on Matt killing at least one deer to supply us with ground meat for the year (deer is incredibly lean and much healthier than beef).   
By far though, my favorite thing about living in the country is the separation from the rest of the world. Time just seems to slow down out here (even for someone like me). We don't hear sirens or horns or trains at our house. We hear birds and crickets and motorcycles on leisurely rides. When I stare off into the distance and see only the blue sky and green fields, I find it easier to forget my troubles, quiet my mind, and spend a few minutes with God. Although it can be tough to drive 20 minutes to the next decent-sized town (you don't make a "quick run to the store" out here) and I don't have a lot of neighbors to keep me company during the day, it's well worth the trade-off to be able to roast marshmallows and hot dogs over a bonfire or to sit on the patio with no other houses in sight or to look up at a clear night sky and see every single star. Some people call it the boring-middle-of-nowhere-boondocks. I call it home.

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