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“Don’t Let the Old Man In”

Updated: Mar 29

Toby Keith passed away last week. If his name doesn’t ring a bell, he was a country artist that Bryan and I listened to especially in the 90’s. His last hit song entitled “Don’t Let the Old Man In” really resonated with me. It’s a song about how time comes for all of us, but we can't let it dictate our life. It's another way of saying we should live life to the fullest while we're here no matter our age. Ever since I had two different cancers in my early 50’s, Bryan and I have been living this philosophy. We responded to these health battles with a move that surprised basically everyone we knew at the time; we left the corporate world and city life for a rural lifestyle.

Initially, we were just going to have a small homestead and build the dream home. But one farm animal leads to another and another and soon we had everything: chickens (layers and meat birds), Muscovy ducks, goats, sheep, cattle, rabbits, alpacas and hogs. We also decided to grow our garden from a personal garden up to a market garden with a focus on specialty lettuce. Over time we narrowed to pigs, chickens, cattle and sheep – a pretty standard mixed farm composition – in a standard direct-to-consumer model while we continued with the market garden.

Animals and equipment go together, and the same addiction to “more” that leads to all those animals is also true of tractors- you can never have too many of those either, apparently. The tractor seems to come with bush hogs, post hole diggers, hay rakes, hay balers, seed spreaders… which means gone are the speed boat (traded for a tractor), snowmobiles, canoe, vacations, time spent reading by the lake…

I should stop here and say that none of what we accomplished would have been realized without the help of farmer friends, who explained how the equipment worked and came over to our place to show us techniques – like getting calves and lambs to nurse. There was so much to learn about the different animals, especially in terms of husbandry and we will always be grateful to those farmers who were willing to be our teachers and mentors.

After 12 years with this first farm, we decided to move north to Thunder Bay and set up a new farm with my oldest daughter and son-in-law. This took several years to execute (and over 10 trips with truck and trailer). We needed to sell our small farm, which was not an easy feat due to the uniqueness of the property. And as many farmer friends had remarked it "wasn’t much of a farm" either. Thank you for that insight, Robert! "No real barns just sheds" – Thank you, Geraldine, for pointing that out! "No real pasture" - Thank you, Casey. But it sold and we are now entering year four of start-up on our Thunder Bay sheep farm.

Bryan and I have remarked that we left the world of weekends and evenings to never-ending work. To be honest, most of the time this isn’t a pleasant thought and we have often felt like Molly Maids. But we still marvel at how far we have come. On our current farm we have a hydro farm light in the yard outside of the barns (this is a big deal as it signifies a big enough operation to justify this kind of light). A very expensive sheep handling system, two gravity feed bins, and nicer barns than we ever imagined feel like really significant accomplishments considering our first farm started with just a shed. And as much as it all has kept us super busy, it has also kept us mentally engaged and challenged.

You also probably know that we decided to add to the challenge (and stress!) with a wool mill. It’s no secret that I’m now in my 70’s and we have had many people comment on my age, especially when they learn that I am basically the sole operator in the mill. In the last 7 months, I have had to learn to use a picker, carder, draw frame and spinner. All of these pieces of equipment are just that: equipment. They do not magically turn wool into yarn with the flip of a switch. And with my daughter breathing down my neck about yarn and other custom milling orders, I have no shortage of things to do. But I’m learning every day and I’m still excited about all of the things we can do with this equipment.

So, when I heard the song – “Don’t let the old man in” I thought: We are so busy we will never hear him knocking.

Image 1: Bryan on the Hunter Creek Farm

Image 2: Beverly in the garden (2012)

Image 3: Chester, our Border Collie, with the sheep at Hunter Creek

Image 4: Beverly's Big and Bold Salad

Image 5: Beverly with her garlic crop at Hunter Creek (2012)

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