Farm names are tough. To hang an identity on a name is a big decision. It needs to be something people remember, is pleasurable to say and hear, is original, and most importantly, expresses the personality of the enterprise it represents.
We were kicking a bunch of lackluster names around, never quite settling on one. It was indeed a carousel of options to settle with. I continued dropping carrots seeds, slashing the burdocks down, cleaning the sugar bush-to-be out with the chainsaw and splitting axe...a name will come, I told myself.
And one day it settled down on Kay like a bee upon a dandelion. Something Wild Farm. Perfect. It was the long unknown name for what we had already been building for two years. Our farm merely told us its name. She's not even sure where it came from. Like most muses, they arrive when the time's just right.
Things have been slow-going for creating the vision I've had for this land. I am doing it by hand, one task at a time, and with the money and time I have available to me at the moment. Over the few years we've been here I've truly learned to respect the seemingly un-tameable beast that our backyard is. I've referred to my work these years as un-farming the property. Previous owners of the property put up ramshackle outbuildings, fencing, abandoned orchards, let the garden nemeses get out of hand, then left the entire property to the whims of Mother Nature. You can imagine what the house looked like when we moved in!
I've come up with a solution. I'm a fan of permaculture, a fan of systems thinking, a fan of regenerative agriculture, a fan of stoicism. I like also/and solutions. Either/or is a false paradigm. I also buy fully into the aphorism that the obstacle is the way. The plug-and-play, perfectly-square market gardens with straight rows and hoophouses full of salad mix are just not going to happen for a while here. Neither will the permaculture daydream of excavators and farm ponds and swales. No, I must plug a manageable farm right into the mess and build it as I go.
There ain't a 90° angle on the property. I'm not even sure I trust the old L Square. I think I like it that way just fine. The land is rich with resources. The organic matter is spectacular. There are edible/medicinal perennials growing everywhere. And you know what lots of weeds means: no one was using pesticides. The pastures are hilly and chock full of huge boulders and old pine stumps. No row crops going down up here! But livestock? A learning curve for me, but nothing I can't figure out. And any old nook or cranny will welcome a patch of amaranth or a few apple trees.
The woodlot is filled with sugar maples, fir, pine, poplar, beech. There's a lot of old trash out there too, par for the course on old homesteads, I'm sure. There's a camper completely grown in with birch saplings. And a white pine branch crashed down upon it for good measure. I find old compost piles in random places. A zucchini the size of a basketball welcomed me to its corner of the woods our first fall. The same pile produced pounds of garlic mustard for me in the spring. Dandelions and elderberry and trilliums and rogue sedums sprout at every step. Deer, foxes, bobcats, short-tailed weasels, barn owls, American robins, woodpeckers, we've seen everything just steps from the back porch.
No matter how much I try to control my patch of land, I never will have dominion. And that's the way I'll like it. There will always be something wild growing here.
That is the way I want to live my life as well. There is a time and a place for civilized society, but humans have deeper needs. We just aren't human without it. We need to be outdoors, we need to be in wild places. We need to eat wild foods, and drink from rushing waters. We need to go outside in the dark and be a little scared. We need to swat at mosquitoes now and then, and get a good old farmer's tan. I want all of these things in my backyard. I also want some nice lettuce and carrots. I'll just need to pick through some of the purslane to get to them. Toss some of that in the bowl as well.
And so forevermore we shall call our land Something Wild Farm. We will take the best we can take from the worlds of market gardening, permaculture, and regenerative agriculture to put the land to work in a way it can grow back stronger and healthier, while producing good food and whatever else we can come up with.
For fun, I'll list some of the farm name outtakes we've had. We had plenty of safe-sounding names like Woodbine Farm, Stone Wall Farm, 1860 Homestead. Rocky Acres was a suggestion. But we knew we wanted something that hit all the feels. Here were some of the better ones....
Mending Wall Farm: This was our favorite. Robert Burns is held in high regards in this house. He even had ties to the area (Whiteface Intervale, specifically). One of the first books I read after moving here was about building and restoring stone walls (oof, hard work!). The author, of course, quoted Frost's classic poem, referring to the "balls and loaves" New England stones tend to be. Terrible builders! Hence the classic "farmer's wall" style which lines the woods all over the state. Chuck 'em and forget 'em. And mending walls was a nice way of looking at our lifelong project here on the farm, to restore and revive the forgotten farm. Anyway, we were settled until we learned there was already a farm by this name not too far from us in Massachusetts. It seems well-established and successful, and no one wants to trample on others' good ideas.
Back Door Farm: I got this one from listening to CCR's "Looking Out My Back Door." A favorite on our speakers, someone is usually singing "Doo Doo Doo," while getting things done around here. This farm name is also taken, and by a farm only a few towns over. Good taste!
Hodge Podge Farm: I still dig this one out when I'm cleaning up some mess I discover. The old animal barn is patched together with whatever wood was available. The structure was not maintained in a manner which any self-respecting farmer would want animals to live in or people to work in. Moisture problems, lack of ventilation, and lack of cleaning up after the critters, etc. It's the setting for an E.B. White novel, if Stephen King wrote it. Enter if you dare. You could say, it's a hodge podge job. The name is tongue-in-cheek and kept me motivated. I have since named it Hodge Podge Barn in order to keep that chip on my shoulder.
Hugger Mugger Farm: Another Frost reference, a hugger mugger farmer is someone who is running around with a lamp at midnight trying to get the garden watered and weeded and animals fed, etc. Just an inside joke around here.... though it's not uncommon for me to be out there with a headlamp on into the late hours.
Baille an Càrnach: "Farm of the stony ground" in Scottish Gaelic. A fun one, but a little too obscure. We are both very Irish, and Kay has visited Scotland and it holds a special place in her heart. But boy were we high on the idea of Highland cattle and an army of goats to take the woodbine and burdocks to town. I still can't pronounce this correctly.
Masta Homestead: This is the name we used to sell our first batch of maple syrup. A good old batch-boiled, dark and gritty, smoky and feisty syrup. We mostly sold/gave it to family and friends. It's just more fun with a label.
Birch Swinger Farm: Oh, we combed all the Frost books: New Hampshire, North Of Boston, Mountain Intervale.... His poem Birches imagines that the birch trees are bent from a little boy hanging from them, in order to climb to heaven. I got the idea because the little fire pond on the property is surrounded by bent-over birches, creating a nice little scene, uglied only by the red pipe sticking out of the corner, in case the fire department needs to come save the day. The name seemed nice for a little while, but ultimately, it just felt clunky. And, uh, the word swinger isn't the greatest word!
Well! We're glad that name thing worked out! Time to get back to work.