When I Grow Up

Evan and I arrived in Montana on Monday (the 21st) for nearly two weeks of vacationing through Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota! After several weeks of working our tushes off, it has been great to see the loving faces of family and friends in the lands we call home. As mentioned in my previous post, I just finished my first year of graduate school and have spent the last week and a half catching up with all that was put off during the final crunch. Evan has been working double duty with me as well—he’s a real life saver.

“Growing Up” by Jeffrey Hamilton, 1999

Our accomplishments include building a chicken coop with an attached run for our not so chick-like chicks! After perusing the internet for design ideas and feedback from other chicken owners, we decided on an A-frame “chickshaw” with the coop on top and the run below. We attached two by fours as handles so the coop can be moved if we want—although it is a heavy son-uva-gun. Again, Evan was an angel in the process—he built most of the frame and the inside details while I started my first full week on the farm’s CSA. Furthermore, he did all of this on his days off from work! What a guy.

Starting the coop off was pretty funny. We had to revisit some geometry and trigonometry that neither of us has glanced at much since middle school and high school. Soh-Cah-Toa (a trigonometry trick, for those who aren’t familiar) finally came through! Luckily, through planning and patience, our angles worked out, the screws have stayed screwed, and the chickens are all snug in their coop. Now if we could only get them to go down their ladder and into the run…

Our chicken coop, with temporary screen over nesting boxes.

With all of this catching up to do, I reluctantly made myself a “list person.” A list person is someone who needs lists of tasks written down in order to get everything done. Now, I don’t think there is anything wrong with “list people” at all. It makes complete sense to make lists—they are motivating on a subconscious level, it is a great reward to be able to cross a task off of a list, and they prevent us from forgetting key tasks. This latter reason is my first and foremost reason for forcing myself to become a list person. I was forgetting too many things! My list included such things as: Take a shower, start grant proposal!, clean room (not crossed off the list, yet), pot up plants, buy chick starter, move canoe, clean up sap supplies, pack, etc. With that list largely completed, and my physical self being too far away from the list to do any good, I’ve created a new list of sorts: “When I grow up, I want to…”

This list is inspired by the amazing friends and family that we’ve had and will have the pleasure of visiting throughout our vacation. I’m pushing thirty, but still feel like I’m not really a “grown up.” This feeling seems to be mutual among many of the people I speak to (even my lovely father, who just celebrated his sixty-years-young birthday). As a kid, when I grew up I wanted to be a dentist. That has obviously changed, and the response has gotten more intricate. Here are some of the highlights of my “getting closer to being grown up” list:

When I grow up, I want nearly feral children to run in packs through the fields, climb trees like our ancestral apes, and splash in streams. Their laughs and giggles will echo in the valleys and their imagined worlds will be all but fully tangible to any nearby eve’s droppers. Bikes will be strewn about, with wheels still spinning where they were abandoned. Of course, when I grow up, my children will also bring those bicycles home, placed safely under an eave or in a garage—not directly in the blind spot behind the car, as many kid’s bikes are apt to lie.

Yummy home grown meal. Photo courtesy of improppe, Flickr.

When I grow up, I want to create meals from home grown produce and meat. These meals will be flavored with herbs from a kitchen window herb garden. I want to make soap from goat’s milk and lye from our wood burning stove’s ashes. I want to grind wheat into flour and knead bread for the bounty of all. I dream of wines fermenting in the basement and vinegars brewing in kitchen cupboards. I imagine thermally heated water for showers and baths and freshly washed clothing (many with grass stains, of course) dangling from clotheslines.

Future clothesline whitish whites. Photo courtesy of cmurrey, Flickr.

When I grow up, I want a yak and a nak (female yak). Together they will make adorable yaklings (some Googling confirms that this is not, in fact, what a baby yak is called—they are “calves”). They will love the cold winters of the midwest, and hopefully not suffer too much during the hot, humid spells of summer. We will make sweaters, socks and throws from their spring casts, and nak butter and cheese from the almost too rich milk of the mother naks.

Yak calf—possibly the cutest thing ever. Photo courtesy of Joachim S. Muller, Flickr.

When I grow up, I want to run or own an educational farm where students young and old can explore their passions, learn from experts and teach one another with confidence and open minds. I yearn for a place full of creativity and challenge, curiosity and imagination, and, above all, illumination. There is so much in this world worth knowing that slips through the cracks. We need places where parts of this information are put forth, naked on the table for others to feast on (or snack on if they so desire).

While many of these dreams are far-fetched, perhaps even unreasonable, some are attainable over time. I am very much looking forward to “growing up” for at least the next few decades. Growing up is fun stuff, and I’m discovering more and more that it is a never ending process.

I really look forward to hearing what you, my fellow farmgirls, want to be or do or have when you “grow up”!

Sending you peace and love from the heartland,


  1. Pamela deMarrais says:

    Hey Alex, I love your wish list! I don’t see any reason why you won’t attain everything on it, and then you can start another list! Your enthusiasm is inspiring. Keep sharing your ideas and your great stories. I hope that you have an awesome vacation!

  2. Laura says:

    Hi Alex

    Keep the dream alive ! You have fantastic visions for yourself and I can easily see you living that life, you have started doing so already. I also am still dreaming even at a different stage in life (my 2 boys are teenagers), yet I still have dreams of a farm suited especially for me, having and planting my favorite things. I have to say that yak calf is cute! Have to look into that, lol. Happy dreaming! "Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will."
    — George Bernard Shaw

    farmgirl blessings, Laura

  3. Evelyn S. says:

    I loved what you had to say about growing up. I got tears in my eyes. If you ever open that school you were talking about, then be sure and let us all know where to come and visit! When I grow up, I want to have never-ending patience, lead a not-so-hurried life and live somewhere, where I can’t hear the cars whizzing by.

  4. Shery says:

    You’re on a good track :o) I loved the description of your to-be children as ‘nearly feral’. That is what once was possible in this great country. I know because I lived it. Children wandered about and no one gave it a second thought … and that was in town. We lived on the fringe – very small town in Wyoming. So, ‘out of town’ meant you were Ab-So-Lutely OUT out of town probably before you saw the city limits sign. I wandered about all day in the summer on my pony…showing up only for meals. My mother knew my approximate whereabouts: somewhere around or on the outskirts of town and it was totally normal. I was packin’ iron sometimes because I carried my pop gun with me during ‘hunting season’ ;O) OhMyYes, live where you can let your children have FREEDOM … freedom to play and know what it is to be free. I think that is one reason it has lost some of it’s importance in some folk’s minds. So many have lost it little by little and now they don’t really know what it is to have it in the most real sense. You don’t miss what you can no longer remember the flavor of.
    Well, I digress. Love your dreams. Go and live them! If you’ve not seen the movie ‘2nd Hand Lions’…do so. It is about this very thing … and the comment made at the end, ‘Yes, they really lived’…is what I’m talking about. shery

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *