Ashley is a homesteader/farmer living on a small farm in rural Nova Scotia, Canada with her husband, Daniel and their two children Ellie and Anderson. On the farm side they breed Wagyu/Angus cattle and forest raised pigs, on the homestead side Ash has her Dairy cow, Janet and their laying hens. She loves cooking and exploring in the kitchen and teaches online live sourdough classes for people to tune into from anywhere in the world.
We moved into a house on a hill in rural Nova Scotia in 2017, we had two dogs, two children
and two small acres of land. I bought myself a chicken coop and four chickens that summer and planted some vegetable seeds in hopes to be a bit more self sustainable. I romanticized having a dairy cow in my backyard but dismissed the dream as simply that and onward we went.
Fast forward three and a half years and we are full on farming, it is hard and fulfilling and a lifestyle I know will be ours for the rest of our lives. I have my dairy cow in the backyard, and make everything from butter to yogurt to cheese with her daily bounty – I am exhausted and deeply content, and a life I once romanticized, I am now living.
The days are physically demanding, and sometimes takes time away from our children when emergencies pop up and animals need immediate care. That’s the thing about this lifestyle, though, it is not built for those who want life to be easy – on the contrary, it is built for those who want life to be worth it. And it is, every single day, 365 days a year, it is hard and simple and worth it.
I take comfort on the hardest days knowing that I am not alone on this journey, that I am not the only person with a child at my side, milking my cow in a snowstorm, or cradling a dying animal or celebrating a birth, or consoling a 7 year old who lost her favourite bottle lamb. I am not the only mother explaining death to her 5 year old when we lose a beloved animal, or cradling their grief in my hands when they say goodbye to their farm dog. I do not guard their hearts though, they get to feel all of it, and experience all of it, and they get to watch us feel it, too. That’s important on a family farm, it makes the hard days easier when we all get to go through them together.
It brings comfort that I know there are hundreds of other mothers building their own self sustainability alongside their own partners and children – we are all doing this together, and in turn in this together. I don’t say this to cast a shadow on this way of life even a little bit, it is the most abundant way to live and raise children, free from the bustle and demands of society and where they can run wild and free on their own schedule. A place where they get to choose who they are going to become – they are not ever forced to love the farm and I know each of them enjoy parts of it differently.
This life is a beautiful dance between chaos and simplicity and we – the mothers – are the ones at the very core of it holding it all together. We get to choose with direct and intentional purpose how we create and expand and grow – it looks different for each of us if you really get down to the fine details.
Our family rhythm currently looks similar most days. We get up and eat breakfast as a family and then we all head out to do chores – for the most part the kids play in the forest or in the yard while Daniel and I get everyone fed and watered – we have around 60 forest pigs and our beef cattle, as well as Janet our jersey cow and flock of laying hens.
Obviously this chore routine shifts as the seasons do, and for that I am grateful. We typically spend the rest of the morning at the kitchen table doing school and then in the afternoon it is mostly free time and play while I prepare dinner. Evening chores is the same except we also have to milk the cow – this is a chore our youngest son loves to participate in and takes pride in his confidence to milk such a large animal alongside me.
We always eat supper as a family, and in the winter evenings there are many board games and cards played by the four of us before bed – and often continued by Daniel and I long after the kids have gone to sleep. Winter is slow, and we relish in its simplicity.
Chores are not always smooth, I share this not to portray a romantic experience each day. There are often tears, and boredom during chores, and tantrums from littles who aren’t feeling like they’re being given enough attention at this time.
Winter can be hard and cold for little people, but they are present as much as they can be and know that summer paints a much warmer and enjoyable picture for chore time. They can do it, they are capable of responsibility and of hard things too, this life builds character even in the most subtle of ways and hardest of days. Again, this is not easy work, but always worth it.
In our family, we live on purpose and with intention, and in return life is full – full of immense joy and fulfillment, but also sometimes full of loss or defeat. We experience the extremes, but in life we will always get what we expect. If we expect this life to be simple, we find simplicity tucked int he shadows of even the most chaotic of days, but if we expect it to be exhausting and depleting, so it is to which we sew. I purposefully choose the former.