Life Right Now: Liesl of Buckaloo View

Monday, April 3, 2017

When Liesl first came across my radar I felt a jolt of recognition. Here was another woman whose life and work appeared to be similar to my own life and work. At least, I thought so. It's hard to tell what someone's world is really like, looking through these dim windows of blogs and Instagram posts. I hesitated to reach out, because I didn't want to invade or pry or be a stranger from the internet, but Liesl's life and work kept drawing me in and so I finally reached out and asked if I could send her some Osage orange wood, which can be used as a dye. I sent her some wood shavings and also a hefty chunk of the wood. :) It was a delight to see the colors she managed to extract from the wood.

It was also a delight when Liesl told me that yes, in fact she did live and work on her family's farm, Buckaloo View. You know that feeling of meeting someone you don't have to explain yourself to? This was how it felt, meeting Liesl.

Life Right Now is all about connecting with women who live their lives in a way that is wholly and truly their own, however discordant with society these lives might seem. It's about celebrating the unexpected things of life where we are now, and ultimately, it's about encouraging each other to live those lives, however discordant with society, truly our own.

Here's Liesl:

On planning, or not

When someone asks me where I see myself in ten years, I’m one of those people who immediately answers “happy.” In a way, I suppose I’ve been rather myopic. Seeing long-term goals clearly has always been a challenge for me. I was never one to make concrete plans or lay the foundation for anything specific. Daydreams and fantasies of my future flitted their way through my mind often. Perhaps a hermit approach, a small cabin in the woods, packed full of stacks of books and fabric and yarn, a flurry of furry critters swirling around my feet; or a little cottage overlooking a rocky coast making art and endless cups of coffee with a lover; or a suburban standard, jogging in the early hours, designing or decorating homes for others by day, running kids to soccer practice in the afternoons, and drinking wine with fellow moms in the evenings; or my favorite: a farm wife life, with a brood of barefoot children running around the yard with chickens and pigs, an apple pie in the window, ripe tomatoes from the vine in the bright August sun.

On finding one’s place

But they were all just fantasies. Twenty-one year old me had no concrete idea where she’d be at 31. So honestly, it should go that anything could be considered a surprise. But still, somehow, where I am now surprises me to the point of taking my breath away. I’m becoming a farmer or rather, even more so, I want to farm.

On the path that led to life right now

All of my experiences with farming have been secondhand. I come from a long line of farmers on both sides of my family. On my Mother’s side, they were dairy farmers until the fifties. On my father’s side, they were immigrants, hobby farming their way to the “American dream.” It saved money, kept them connected to their food and ecosystem and taught the value of a hard day’s work. Until I was eight, I lived in one of the rental houses on a working dairy farm, running through the fields, feeding Jersey calves and picking blackcaps with the farmer’s children. I shelled peas with my grandparents on the back porch and helped my father dig potatoes.

On the path ahead

I currently live on my maternal family farm. I’m the fifth generation to get this dirt under my nails, putter away in this barn, and look out over what we’ve simply come to call “the view.” The last few years have been challenging and full of loss and change. In a therapeutic purge, my mother and I decided to have our second field cleared to qualify for farmland preservation and bring this last piece of the family farm back to life. The commotion and resulting change was so big it brought friends and neighbors to our place, standing agape at our view. I often overheard my mother say, “Well, she wants to farm.” My heart would sink with fear every time. Then buoy back up with hope. That is where I am, a strange mix of fear and excitement about the path ahead of me.

On going it alone

Born into a large family and growing up surrounded by generous-hearted friends have made many of the chores and changes here possible. The help people have offered on this farm is more touching than my language has the capacity to express. But still, somehow, I’m headed into this alone. I’m single. My mother jokes that I need to find a nice farmer so I don’t have to work so hard. I chuckle and think it sure would be ideal, but know deep within myself that if I’m not willing to go down any part of this path (somewhat) alone, perhaps I shouldn’t be going down it at all. Building confidence in myself as a "farmer," and not just the "farmer’s wife," is crucial. Taking the wheel and steering is scary to me. The responsibilities here, especially as someone so inexperienced, whether they be self-imposed, imagined or very real, all keep me awake at night. Are my chickens OK? Am I really ready for sheep? What if they all die? Will I have the energy to keep up with everything? Am I going to go broke? Will asking for and accepting help ever get easier? Will I be able to handle things without help?

On the joy of challenge and promise

In concrete, tangible terms, "the view" behind our barn is what brings me joy. Looking at our two humble fields nestled in front of the rolling hills of Northwestern New Jersey, I feel hopeful and excited. I didn't work for this place, I didn't earn it. It was handed down to me. The challenge and promise in it brings me joy.

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