HOMEGROWN Life: A Barnyard is the Best Classroom
We’re pleased to introduce Dyan Redick of Bittersweet Heritage Farm as a new regular contributor to HOMEGROWN Life. Welcome Dyan! We’re looking forward to reading your stories and getting to know you and your menagerie of farm critters.
Dyan Redick, Bittersweet Heritage Farm
I describe myself as an accidental farmer with a purpose. My farm, located on the St. George peninsula of Maine is a certiﬁed Maine State Dairy. I offer cheeses made with milk from my registered Saanen goat herd, a seasonal farm stand full of wool from my Romney cross ﬂock, goats milk soaps, lavender, woolens and whatever else strikes my fancy. Bittersweet Heritage Farm is an extension of my belief that we should all gain a better understanding of our food source, our connection to where we live and to the animals with whom we share the earth.
My days are full of remarkable reminders of my place in this tiny world of mine called Bittersweet Heritage Farm. Nestled along the byway on the St. George Peninsula in Midcoast Maine, I’m blessed to start my days kissed by the foggy dew lifting off of the harbor and to lie down at night as the blazing orange sun sets over the river.
I came to this place by accident, moved in by design, and stay because it feeds my soul. It has been a short three-year journey so far in establishing a homestead for myself—and now a herd of goats, a ﬂock of sheep, and a variety of fowl, including heritage breed turkeys, chickens, and ducks. As a registered Maine state dairy, I produce fresh and some aged cheeses with the milk from my registered Saanen herd, girls who come from long lines of solid Maine stock. Wool from my Romney-mix girls, creamy soaps made with goat’s milk, and a variety of hand-knit woolens ﬁll my on-site farm stand.
Each morning, the day starts with gathering hay and grain to be distributed to the various living creatures who dot the landscape with their ﬂuffs of feathers, tufts of wool, and silky white coats. Yesterday morning, after milking the lovely lady goats, I turned my attention to a Buff Orphington chicken who was lingering in the barn. I crouched down near the small cage where she had taken up residence to catch her breath and enjoy some extra treats. Frannie, my locksmith goat, wandered over to the far end of the stall where I was huddled close to the chicken girl. Frannie slowly pushed her head through the stall slats as she does each morning on the other end, near the milking stand. There, I usually scratch her nose and give her a chin tickle while I’m still sitting on my little wooden milking stool. I love to lay my forehead on Frannie’s, and we exchange moments of girl-to-girl thoughts on how our day might go.
On this particular morning, Frannie was curious about the barn visitor and so she leaned out to sniff the golden mane on the chicken girl’s neck. Satisﬁed, she rested her head on my back, then took the bottom of my shirt in her mouth, like a paciﬁer, and stood completely content while I tended to the chicken.
There is no explaining the connection we have with the animal world. Maybe that’s the way it should be. What we don’t know about it far exceeds what we do, but we have amazing examples of it worldwide.
I met Jane Goodall years ago and was struck by the diminutive stature of this wonderful woman who so gently entered the Chimpanzee world and went on to teach the rest of us about the value of animal relationships. Others too, continue to guide us toward a better understanding of all creatures: for example, Buck Brannigan, the amazing man who impressed Robert Redford with his Zen-like approach to working with the equine population. Buck shows us how being gentle with an animal will gain you a lifelong, multidimensional relationship with yourself and the animal—one so rich, you can’t even wrap your mind around it. And Temple Grandin who, through her autistic world, teaches the corporate giants of the American food system that there is a better way to treat all creatures, even those on their way to our tables.
My animals are teaching me to be kind and gentle and loving toward them and toward my fellow human beings. I think it’s a lesson one might learn best in a barn, or a barnyard, or a pasture: watching and learning what’s important through the animals’ very nature. The most important lessons I’m learning in my life are not coming from a classroom or a text. Frannie holding onto my shirttail is the most complete encyclopedia I’ve ever read. I’m looking forward to soaking up the library that’s being gifted to me through these two- and four-legged creatures for a long time to come.