Back in the States, I led a pretty healthy, organic life. Whole Foods was my peaceful sanctuary during my lunch break and farmers' markets made me incredibly happy. I loved chatting with the farm owners and finding out when kale or asparagus would be in season again. I knew which fruits and vegetables needed to be organic, and which ones you could get by with buying regular. If I bought meat, I knew where it came from and made sure he was a happy cow before… well, you know. I was strict about buying organic, fair trade, shade grown coffee. I enjoyed this lifestyle.
My sister-in-law, who has similar thoughts and beliefs, suggested that I read Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle". It is a true story about the author and her family living off their land for one year. Everything they ate had to be grown either on their land or purchased from another farmer within 50 miles. Each chapter covered one month and she went into detail about what they planted that month, what was in season and even included a few recipes for creative dishes they made. I was shocked to find out how much of the food we eat is entirely out of season or worse, shipped in from South America – not to mention how many animals have been genetically altered.
That's when I decided... I want a farm! I want to grow organic food and gather fresh eggs from my backyard! I want to pick my own fruit! I want to make my own cheese! I want to browse gardening magazines and seed catalogs! I want a donkey! Yes, this is the life I want. I had even gone as far as looking at real estate online. I found some great farms for sale (and by farm, I mean a house with 2-3 acres) in Kentucky, Upstate New York and even Costa Rica. This was my plan post-Peace Corps. I had no idea how I was going to pay for this or maintain a job while simultaneously milking my cows, but I was going to figure it out.
And then I moved here.
At first it was cute… the cows, pigs and chickens meandering down the dirt road, the roosters crowing outside my bedroom in the morning. I remember one day during training, we saw a few pigs rooting around the school. My boyfriend, who happened to live next door, looked over at them and casually said, "Yep, those are my pigs." Another morning there was a donkey in the schoolyard, just hanging out, minding his own business. Like I said, it was cute. We were doing the Peace Corps thing! But after a year of being woken up by these crazy animals, I'm kind of over it.
I was in Tbilisi all weekend and when I got home yesterday afternoon, I opened the gate and noticed we had some new members of the family: four white chickens, happily clucking around the yard, along with Steve and Henry, our roosters. I smiled and went inside, not thinking about what this meant to my peace of mind.
It was 5:38 this morning. Something must have riled up the chickens because all four of them were right under my bedroom window, clucking like they had just heard the craziest gossip. I guess the roosters wanted in on the action, so they started crowing. And, little did I know before coming here, when one rooster crows, they all crow. First it was Steve, then Henry, then the rooster next door, then another rooster slightly farther away… so on and so on, until at least 7 or 8 of them were in competition with each other. Then the turkey got all twitterpated, so he started gobbling. And to top it off, the neighbor's giant dog started barking, I think telling them all to shut up. It was pure chaos. Crowing, clucking, gobbling, barking… and it lasted for 45 minutes. I tried to cover my head and go back to sleep but it didn't work. At one point, I wondered if there was such a thing as an animal hit man. Or maybe just a kidnapper. Either way, I knew right then that my farm dreams were officially over.
I still want a small organic garden, but never again will I have chickens, turkeys, cows, pigs or roosters anywhere within a 5-mile radius of my home. I like my sleep entirely too much, and will happily let someone else gather my eggs, pick my fruit and milk the cows. But maybe I'll still get that donkey...