Blame it on Charlotte's Web: How a Preppy Girl Ended Up with a Farm
What a wonderful world I discovered when I read E. B. White's Charlotte's Web for the first time. I checked it out of my tiny school library in the first grade. The librarian did not think it was appropriate reading material for my age, so she made me read the first page aloud to her. After that, I could check it out as often as I liked, and I did so frequently. It was also one of the first books I purchased when I became a mother, and I eagerly anticipated the day when I could read it to each of my children. It awoke within me a yearning for a simpler, natural, pastoral life.
I spent many adult years living in suburbia, far removed from the idyllic farm life that Fern, Wilbur, Charlotte, and Templeton lived. Mine was a life filled with shopping, numerous activities and social gatherings, entertaining, and spending a lot of money on goods and services. It had its good parts and was fun at times too, but every time we traveled through Appalachia and viewed the valleys filled with picturesque farms, that same yearning would stir within me again.
When we finally moved back to the Allegheny Mountains, the opportunity arose to buy this century-old farmhouse on the side of a mountain with a few acres. As soon as I stepped foot on the property, I knew it was home. After having our eighth child and living here for several years, I agreed to my husband's desire to start a small farm. We started with chicks. A few months later, we had a pair of rabbits. Then I felt we needed some dairy goats because a farm just did not feel complete without milk producers. Shortly after came the sheep, which my husband wanted for the wool. However, I think they were really meant to keep a couple of acres of grass "mowed." Finally, there was a wary approval of the addition of two piglets that would be a 4-H project for our teenage son. There were also some stray cats who had kittens, hundreds of fish for the aquaponics project, and a beagle puppy that reminded me of the one I used to push around in a carriage when I was a toddler.
Before I knew it, we were overwhelmed with farm animals. All our resources were being poured into the farm, and there was little of the preppy left at all. I needed balance, so we gradually reduced the number of species living on our farm, and we limited the total number within each species as well. It is still a farm, but one that is a bit more manageable, I think. There are times when I consider doing away with it all so we can travel again, spend more time on decorating or remodeling projects, or host some elegant dinner parties. However, I know if we did that, it would simply take reading one chapter of Charlotte's Web to our six year old daughter, and I would be yearning to have a Wilbur in our barnyard once more.