It's pretty easy to slide through life, thumb on your phone, butt in your car, on your way to work or the grocery store. That's not how Lisa McCrory lives. She and her husband Carl have created a world of their own on their farm, living on their terms and raising their children around their own values. How cool is that?
Even cooler, Lisa shares her world through her DailyUV blog, Under the Udder. To help you get to know her, here's an introduction.
It takes such determination to build a life like the one you and your husband have created. Where did your commitment to this idea come from?
I cannot think of a time when I did not crave a lifestyle like what Carl and I have created. In a way, we did not have a choice; I do not think that I could thrive with any other model - really. Both Carl and I have a strong desire and commitment to live with a piece of land from which we can build a connection...plug into the natural world, if you will.
Building a relationship with a piece of land and working with our livestock makes me always aware and appreciative of the resources in front of me and the role that I need to play in the cycle of life in order to sustain myself mentally, emotionally and physically. After spending some time in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I saw people live full lives on very little - and they were by far happier and more alive than any example that I had been exposed to in the ‘first world’ countries that I have lived in or visited.
I’m guessing it was never easy -- and occasionally really, really hard. Can you describe a time when you were particularly tested?
We live off-grid using solar power, a battery bank, and a back-up generator. Last winter, the bitter cold in late December/early January was a test. The extreme cold destroyed our generator, and the diesel truck was having a hard time starting. We use wood for heat - which also heats our water, and our water system is gravity fed, but without power, we wouldn’t have lights, a functional refrigerator, a phone and internet. Replacing the generator was a small financial burden at a time when we were not awash with cash.
Another time, which was emotionally difficult for us, was when one of our sows got very sick shortly after having a litter of piglets. We lost the sow and most of the piglets. For our kids, (they were between the ages of 3 and 10 years of age), this was a hard lesson of life and death on the farm.
Lisa and her daughter Tuilelaith.
What is it about the life you’ve created that most sustains you?
-- 80% or more of what we eat comes from our farm - within 800 feet from the plate.
-- The livestock that we raise to consume are ‘raised with dignity, slaughtered humanely on the farm.’ We focus on and take responsibility for their quality of life. Their death is quick, and they do not have to go through the stress of transport, and unfamiliar environments prior to slaughter.
-- Our lifestyle leaves a light footprint on the planet: we have a gravity fed water system, off-grid power system, wood heat, and composting toilets. We are very aware and conservative of our energy usage and needs, using about 20% of what an average household would use of similar size.
-- Being a steward of a piece of land and being responsible for the lives of our many animals (horses, cows, pigs, turkeys, chickens, dogs & cats), keeps me engaged with, aware of, and compassionate to my surroundings.
-- Staying active: I love going to bed exhausted with the knowledge that my mind and body were fully engaged. It keeps me feeling young and strong.
I love putting my hands in the soil. I love having dirt under my fingernails, and on my face after a hard days work. It often feels like the land is cultivating me more than the reverse.
-- I enjoy the company of animals. The turkeys are chatty and love to wander the yard and display to all who will witness them, the chickens are nosey, trying to get into places where they are not welcome, the pigs are enthusiastic about every new thing put in front of them, the horses are eager to say hello and offer a gentle nibble or caress with their muzzle, and the cows are content; contemplating the simple pleasures in life. Hanging out with all of these animals is a gift, as it seems they display various parts of my own personality.
-- Knowing that we are providing life skills for our children is very satisfying. They have access to high quality, home-raised food, and know how to preserve & prepare it; they have skills in construction, gardening, animal husbandry; they have opportunities to immerse themselves in the natural world each and every day. And they do.
-- When I am in my gardens I lose track of time. Surrounded by rows and rows of colorful eye-candy (our flowers) or harvesting a bounty of fresh vegetables is an experience that can’t be beat. The freshness, and flavor of the food from our gardens makes me wonder why I would ever want to go ‘out to eat’. Oh yeah… I rarely do :)
You have referenced “spiritual farming” but haven’t really written about that yet. I’m intrigued. What exactly do you mean by that?
The lifestyle that we have created for ourselves is, for me, a very spiritual experience. Living in an environment that can feed me mentally, physically and spiritually is of the utmost importance and is done with intention.
I have a number of influences in my life that have helped shape me into the person I am today, and as I blog, I hope to dive into some of those spiritually-minded thoughts when the inspiration strikes me.
My spiritual program is comprised of a combination of things that have influenced me over the years: 1) the teachings of Rudolph Steiner and Biodynamics, 2) my exposure to and use of Dowsing, 3) my Reiki practice, 4) being a student of a Course in Miracles, 5) meditation, 6) my sobriety.
When I teach my spiritual gardening class, I wrap the wisdom of all these things into a class where people can engage with the natural world while also feeding themselves (mentally, physically, spiritually) at the same time. Yes, you learn to plan your gardens, and get excited about an edible landscape, but you also get more connected to your intuition, and the living world around you. I plan to dive into some of the things in future blogs - covering it in bite-sized pieces for the DailyUV audience.
Why blog about the farm? I mean, aren’t you busy enough?!?
There is so much that I have learned over the years and I am feeling a need to package and share it and having a Blog seemed like a fun way to do that. In a synchronistic way, as I was dreaming of ways to put pen to paper, one of your colleagues approached me and asked me if I was interested in blogging for DailyUV. So I said yes, threw my hat into the ring, and was welcomed into the fold.
The meat, dairy and produce populating our food system today is, by and large, not coming from small family farms anymore. From the packaging and the pictures falsely portraying happy cows grazing, etc, one would think otherwise. The food that one finds in the large grocery store has traveled thousands of miles and often days or weeks in order to make it to our plates. So when someone wants to purchase an organic chicken or some of our organic potatoes from our farm, how is the food we raise different from the Perdue chicken or the Idaho potato that you find at Shaw's? And why does our food cost so much more? How does farm fresh raw milk, from cows grazing well managed pasture, compare to the cheap (inexpensive) milk that one purchases at the convenience store?
I hope to share stories about our farm and how it feeds us, as well as how people can share in our bounty and where they can find other farmers who are producing food the way we do. The only way we can care for our planet is to be good stewards and in order to be good stewards, we need to be supported by our patrons by getting paid a fair price for the quality product we produce at the scale that we produce it.
So yes, I am busy; but the opportunity to write (when I can) is something that I am embracing heart and soul. Thank you DailyUV, for offering me a space to do this.