One year. What a difference one year can make!

It was April of 2020. The Great Lockdown was in Phase 2, Tim was working from home, and Sarah was suddenly teaching all six kids instead of three. We had just received our first stimulus check, which, thank God, we didn’t really need since Tim still had his job. Uncertainty abounded, but we were still ok.

Then, a friend of ours offered us six pigs, three almost ready for processing and three more that would be ready in the fall.  We said yes. Just six pigs to learn with. The books and YouTube videos had shown us how to pasture pigs, and here was our chance to actually try it!

In May, we cleaned out the long-neglected, junk- and bunny-filled chicken coop. We scooped and scraped out 20-year-old bedding and manure that had turned to dust and dirt, replaced it all with clean wood shavings and cheerful little plastic feeders and waterers. We had our chick grit, heat lamps, and our bag of feed.


Then, in went fifty or so fluffy little chicks from our local farm store, marked down for quick sale. They were layers when what we really wanted was meat birds, but we had to start somewhere. This would be our proof of concept, our first experiment in pastured chickens.

We had made the leap! Well, one of them anyway. We had our animals, we had our knowledge, and now we were about to get our experience. They say on-the-job training is the best, but it can also be the hardest. For the time being, Tim was home to help with various things, school was almost over for Sarah and the kids, the weather was fantastic, and we were all quite optimistic. Living Light Farms was officially born.

As the summer went on, and Tim went back to work, we suffered our losses and setbacks (ask me about the Great Father’s Day Massacre of 2020 sometime), bought five sows and a hog (because, why not?), and eventually had FIVE chicken tractors and nearly five hundred broilers slowly moving their way across the cover crops behind our house. We also had 35 hens happily eating bugs and laying eggs in the back yard.

Then came the reality of having school, during harvest, with several hundred animals to take care of every day, with Tim only available before and after work. The stress built until we were sure we would crack. We made notes about the timing of things for the following year, put our heads down, and did our best to push through. We were thoroughly tired. Tired of the pandemic. Tired of the uncertainty. Tired of the learning curve.

Then one day, we looked around. We had made it to December! Harvest was done, broilers were tucked into the freezers, pigs were cozy for the winter, and we had an exit strategy for Tim’s day job. We had bought 50 more piglets over the previous few months, and they were all doing well. We took a breath.

snowy yard

And contracted the dreaded ‘Rona. For Christmas. From December 23rd to January 20th, we quarantined while five of our family of eight came down with covid. On New Year’s Day, we had our first sow farrow. Three more followed suit over the next 3 days. Talk about on the job training. Those cute little babies were a serious morale boost for us! But that was still one of the hardest months in any of our memories.

February and March ground by in a fog of cold, snow, frozen hoses, and yes, tears. Hogs were processed and sold or put in freezers, piglets were weaned, other hogs were moved to a paddock encompassing part of our hedgerow, and all our thoughts bent to April 15th. Tim’s last day of work. We could make it!

Then the day finally came. Tim came home and from his very last day in the office, the iconic cardboard box of personal items cleaned out of his desk, and we had made another leap. The ties were cut, and we were on our own to sink or swim in this business of tending the animals, regenerating the land, and making a better life for ourselves and our children.

One year. What a difference one year can make!

Sarah and Tim


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