Naturally Knotty Farms

How to Overcome Fear When Building Your Dream

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When I was little, I had this dream. It was more of a day-dream or longing. I grew up on 200 acres with my family. We had a huge garden and every year it was a family adventure planting the seeds, hoeing the weeds & finally; harvesting the goodness. Then my sister and I set about helping Mom can or freeze everything! I hated the canning part, but any given day each summer, you could find me out in that garden munching on what was available, contemplating life and day-dreaming.

The Dream

The dream was simple; have a huge garden, with loads of fresh fruit & veggies that I could share with family & friends. I dreamt of self-sufficiency, living off the land and enjoying a quiet, peaceful life raising my babies. That was it. No grand house, no impactful career, just me, my family and my garden.

Life had other plans…

Growing up, the garden was my sanctuary. In the garden I was free to dream, think, or just be. I am still recovering from several childhood traumas, but one thing that brings me joy, is remembering all the time I spent in our garden, or Grandma’s garden (her raspberries tasted better than ours, I’m sure of it!).

I left home when I was 17 and as any teen-ager does, I made a few wrong turns. I lived through a few very toxic, abusive relationships, and struggled as a single Mom. It seemed that my dream was never going to come true. I just couldn’t seem to find the time, money or resources to build my garden & live in peace. Instead of veggies, I had flower beds and this worked for a few years. I loved digging in the dirt and watching my flowers bloom.

At one point, both my girls were sick (with potentially life-threatening illnesses). This stopped me dead in my tracks and forced me to re-evaluate everything I knew in life. After both girls were a little more stable with their health, I went back to school. I studied Addictions & Mental Health and set off on an amazing 10+ year career helping people who could not help themselves. I loved every minute of it!!! Life was finally turning around.

Dreams do come true

Back in 2012, my husband’s Mom called. She had been having some minor health issues and her vision was beginning to fail. She asked if Bob & I would be interested in moving to the farm with her to help her out. Immediately, we agreed. Nancy was the closest thing I had to a functioning Mom and to repay her for all the kindness she extended me over the years, helping her in her final years was an easy choice.

Bob’s parents bought this land in 1970 and built a beef cattle/cash-crop operation that they ran successfully until Keith’s death in 2006. Nancy then rented out the barn & the land to local farmers and continued living on the farm. Once we moved up here, the dream starting nagging again. Nancy was not a huge fam of change, so we left the farm just as she was running it until her death in 2020. Somewhere in there, Nancy and I watched the Biggest Little Farm on Netflix and I was sold!! THIS was the dream I had. If they could build it on dead soil in California’s dessert, than surely we could build it on fertile ground in Southwestern Ontario!!

This is just the beginning

Bob inherited the farm from his parents and we set to work! The first year, we had a full 1-acre garden and started a simple subscription produce program. It was a huge success but it was also a huge struggle. It rained that summer. More rain than we had seen in years. The garden was an inaccessible swamp most of the summer. I started thinking that maybe this dream wasn’t meant to be after all, but I still had this vision and a dream that just wouldn’t die or get washed away in the rain.

This issues we ran into on year 1:
  • Too much rain
  • Water runoff issues
  • Out of control weeds
  • Inconsistent harvests
  • Crops washed out.
  • Seedlings did not workout well at all.

Well, we can’t control the weather, so we better figure out a work around for that. Water runoff we can control, weeds we can control, and inconsistent harvests & crop wash out we could work around that too. The seedlings was another issue we could work around, but we’d need a greenhouse.

Building the Dream

In order to fix the issues we had Year 1, we needed to invest some big dollars into the farm. We found a financial backer and set to work. We now have solutions to the issues we had:

  • Build a greenhouse – start the seedlings, grow veggies all year round. This not only saves money buying the plants for the garden, but it also allows us to have fresh produce all year long.
  • Invest in implements for the tractor – we purchased a hiller that will create mounds to plant in the garden. This will help with excess moisture and allow us to control the weeds between rows with the rototiller that also goes on the tractor.
  • Compost – adding rich compost to the soil feeds our plants and improves our soil. We asked our neighbours to bring us their yard waste. Most places charge you a fee to drop your leaves, dead plants and garden debris, but we offer it for FREE! We take anything that comes out of your yard; branches & limbs that we use to make wood chips, plants, leaves & kitchen waste that we add to our compost. It’s a win-win for our little community.
  • Bio-degradable Mulch – Once the rows have been developed by the hiller, we will cover them in mulch to control weeds, warm the soil, helps to further degrade the compost and makes planting so much easier.
  • Customers – The saying “If you build it, they will come” is true, but first you have to tell them that you have built it. For this, we brought in our very talented & brilliant soon-to-be son-in-law. Wes in a marketing genius and has helped us increase awareness of our farm and the plans we have for it!
  • Create a runoff river – We have a pond that was draining into the garden and washing our our crops. So, we build a berm around the pond to better contain the water that we use to irrigate the garden and have a “no plant zone” that will remain green to help direct any runoff away from our crops.

Future Plans

In the next 3-5 years we will add more greenhouses and some livestock.

  • Greenhouses – Additional greenhouses will allow us to serve more people during the winter months.
  • Chickens – both laying hens & meat hens. We will have eggs to sell & meat to fill the freezer. The chickens will also eat the pesky insects that invade the garden while leaving behind valuable nutrients for the soil.
  • Goats – I have always wanted Narcoleptic Goats and some day I will. Goats are great for clearing over brush & weeds, fertilizing and aerating the soil.
  • Pigs – only a couple to have for meat and help clean up the waste from the garden while also fertilizing our soil.
  • Geese – geese love to eat snails which love to eat my garden. Geese also help to maintain PH levels in the pond and fertilize the soil. Who knows, one or 2 may even get invited to Christmas dinner.

You’re Never Too Old to Dream

In 2020 I turned 50 years old. This is when our dream finally started to come alive. I’m not going to lie, it’s a lot of work for a couple old farts, but we love it!! Eventually, Bob will quit his full-time job and work on the farm, and I will let go of my clients to dedicate all my time to the dream. It’s been quite the journey so far. We have learned a lot and continue to learn. The support we have had from the community, family and friends has been incredible. We have so many people to thank for this and we try to do that everyday!

This has been a family project from the get-go. The kids come in the spring to help plant. They have helped build the greenhouse, and anything else that needs to be done around here. We really couldn’t do any of this without them. Hopefully, we will have a thriving farm that we can leave to them for many more generations!

If you have a dream – please do not give up!! It can & will become a reality if you continue to believe in it! If I can help in anyway, please let me know!!!

A Family that dreams together, stays together.
A family that dreams together, stays together.
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