I desired to create a barrier free farm where we all lived in harmony; the chickens free range and eat the bugs, the dogs protect the birds, the turkeys entertain everybody and the geese keep me company. But Utopia wasn’t happening. The chickens destroyed the garden, dogs chased the birds, turkeys pooped all over the porch and geese knocked on the doors all day for attention. People were scared of the geese (for the most part they were more noise than anything, but some of my friends are rather dramatic…) and our male turkey, Popeye, started camping at the door in order to intimidate and exact revenge on the little dog Sammy who had attacked him a few months ago. They would wage war with a glass door between them and the noise of gobbling and barking was mind numbing. (Sammy is a terrier and a terrible dog to have on a poultry farm as they are natural born killers- but my daughter has mothered him for eleven years and she would never allow me to see my future grandkids if I got rid of him. Abigail can hold a grudge like that.) We couldn’t even let Sammy out to pee, else vengeful Popeye came charging at him. The bird of course would not win that fight, so in order to protect our kamikaze turkey, Sammy was put under house arrest. That led to stepping into puddles of dog pee in random places.
Along with the pee was the constant washing of our breezeway and porch of poultry poop. We were all weary of the constant cleaning (and I was weary of the constant whining and complaining about the constant cleaning).
Then there were the silly little fences I tried to build over the herb beds to protect them from little miss turkey (Olive Oyl of course) scratching them all up in order to dust bathe. They kept getting knocked over by naughty dogs who were busy chasing birds. The final straw was finding every last bulb plucked out of my perennial flower bed and the baby lemon tree completely stripped bare of leaves. I’m guessing a couple of geese were having fun that day. I didn’t have a free range farm- it was a zoo.
Clearly we needed some boundaries, but I was in angst trying to figure out where. We had tried to put the geese with the chickens when they were babies, but they wanted to be with us and I rather enjoyed their presence. Heck- I named my farm after those silly creatures! Scott built a fence around the orchard and garden last fall after the birds destroyed it, but the chaos and destruction had continued elsewhere. This wasn’t working. Bottom line, it was time for more fences. For their sake and ours.
After agonizing over this decision for a couple of months, a brilliant idea popped into my head one day while weeding (they always said weed made you more creative.) We could fence them alongside the house- that way they are visible and able to interact with us and guests can enjoy them, yet they stay safe and can’t make messes. Scott added this project onto his already too long honey-do list and within forty-eight hours we had a 1.5 acre poultry pasture. And peace.
This experience has given me a new appreciation for fences. Not only on my farm, but in my life. Peace and freedom require boundaries. This is true for a nation, a family and individuals.
In my own life the challenge has been deciding how to create boundaries with things that bring me joy, such as my geese. As much as I enjoy my bird brained babies, their complete freedom was creating too much chaos. I have always loved my career as a nurse, but when my children were young I limited hours at work and turned down opportunities for advancement in order to focus on my family. It was often difficult to figure out the balance, and what worked for my peers didn’t necessarily work for me. I had friends who beautifully balanced full time careers and children- some even went back to school while doing it! I am in a different phase of life now, but still finding I need to curtail career opportunity in order to invest in other things God has asked me to steward, such as this farm and all the people who wander here.
And then there are relationships. We all know that those often require fine fencemanship! Some people belong on only certain parts of the property- they cause too much damage when allowed to “free range”.
Just as developing a farm requires well planned fencing, so does life in general. Our hearts require careful guarding in order to stay open and free. This sounds contradictory, but it isn’t. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23
I still don’t like the mantra “good fences make good neighbors” as I desire to have an open home and heart, but I also have a gate at the driveway to keep the dog inside (and to protect walkers from a surprise attack.) And I greatly appreciate all the effort my neighbors put into fixing fences in order to keep cows and horses on their own property. Fences have their rightful place. But here’s my fencing addendum; if you’re going to build a fence, grow something pretty or edible on it:)