After all of the Bar Mitzvah fun, Josh and I made our way to visit Josh's our cousins who also live in Maine. They live on a homestead called Ten Apple Farm which can best be described in their own words. Ten Apple Farm is a diversified homestead in southern Maine. On ten acres of land, we tend a small herd of Alpine dairy goats, assorted poultry, and a large kitchen garden. The farm is forever in process, and we’re gradually rehabilitating our apple orchard, while renovating our 1901 farmhouse with attached barn, built on the traditional New England plan: Big house, little house, back house, barn. We hand milk our goats and make yogurt and cheese, some of which we age in the house’s stone cellar. Throughout the year, we keep a flock of heritage laying hens, and in the summer we raise chickens, ducks and turkeys for meat. Every year we work to expand the garden and the growing season, with a goal of modest self-sufficiency. To that end, we put up as much food as we can for the winter: Freezing, canning, pickling, and drying throughout the summer and fall.Visiting the farm for the first time was an awe-inspiring experience. I have heard a lot about what they are doing on the homestead and about their values of self-sustainability, but to see it all in person was truly remarkable. Our cousins have strong, admirable values which they choose to live their lives by and are happy to share with others both inside and outside of their community. We try to live simply, to revel in the natural world, and to celebrate our connections with humans and critters. Every day on this farm is a learning experience, and we’re eager to share what we’ve discovered.Our cousins' photos and blog, which are housed on their website Living With Goats , and their books, The Year of the Goat and Living With Goats , chronicle their lifestyle, passion for goats, and the journey that took them from Manhattan to Maine. They also get at the heart of who they are as people and how their current lifestyle fulfills their values of self-sufficiency and living in harmony with the earth. As impressive as the above projects are, spending time with them on the farm brings to light a whole new level of understanding and admiration for what they are doing and, more importantly, why they are doing it.
Living self-sustainably, organically, and green are choices. Buying local and living in unison with the world at large are values to consider. For our cousins, it was the natural choice to raise their family on a homestead where they could live off of the land and know that the food they are eating is safe and healthy. It only takes seeing their 2 daughters running around the farm, climbing trees, and picking snacks directly out of the garden to see that they made the right choice for them. You can hear it in their voices when they talk passionately about their animals/orchard/garden, the excitement they have when they share how to make cheese/jam/new recipes, or the enthusiasm they have when running their homesteading workshops .
Josh and I were truly inspired after our visit. Living a more sustainable lifestyle is something we have been grappling with for the past year. 'Buy local' products and organic foods have been making their way into our home more often than not, and we have done our best to make better choices about what we put into our bodies. At the same time, we still eat a lot of processed foods and always choose kosher meat and poultry over local products. Finding the right balance between the two has been a constant part of our conversations as we build our home and create values for our new family.
This weekend we saw first hand what strong values and hard work can do. Both Josh and I were very taken with what we saw. We decided to try to do more on our end to follow our cousins' example by living a more sustainable life. While I highly doubt we will be trading in our city lives for a homestead in Maine any time soon, we do intend to make better choices when purchasing groceries. We also want to do our best to learn about where our food comes from before we eat it and work harder to use more fresh ingredients and fewer processed ones. I am grateful that our cousins took the time to show us around Ten Apple Farm and share their thoughts on sustainability and organic foods.