The western United States doesn’t have the huge farmstay-tourism industry you might think it would. And that’s something that I hope will change in the coming years, as the ideas behind the farm-to-table movement become more mainstream. I lucked out in my search when I discovered the Leaping Lamb Farm, which is nestled in a valley of the Coast Range in Oregon. You book online, you go, you stay in their beautiful guest cabin, and the Jones family—who are hospitable, wonderful people—take you along with them on all their morning and afternoon chores, showing kids how to feed and take care of the chickens, turkeys, sheep and horses. This includes hurling discs of hay to a good 40 bleating sheep, collecting eggs right from under the bodies of the hens, and mucking out the horse stalls…with the horses still in there.
The Coast Ranges have their own microclimate. It’s a rainy, muddy area in the winter, but never extremely cold. A farmstay visit in the summer would have included berry picking and other fresh items from the garden. But the lesson this weekend was that farms don’t have to be just a summertime or harvest season experience.
The boys spent a lot of time observing bird behavior: tom turkeys drumming (puffing up their glorious feathers for mating season), chickens enacting their pecking order with one another, and a (literally) silly goose who liked to tug at the shiny zippers of their jackets. Oh, and the farm’s peacock, a gorgeous bird who was loud as hell and who liked to roost on the front porch of our cabin.
We hiked the trails around the farm, which led up hills to forest lands. More than anything else, we felt the quiet. A day here means chores, but they are not all day. There’s a lot of down time. A person who is used to a scheduled life—one with school bells, bus stops, club commitments, and that familiar “get in the car or we’ll be late!” voice—will find a quiet weekend stay on a farm rather confusing: What am I supposed to be doing now? What’s next?
Just being here…that’s what’s next. Opening up our senses and taking in this beautiful place.
By the end of our stay we had gotten more used to just being here. Just being by the creek, poking a stick in the water. Just taking in the scenery, the sounds, and the din of our heads that continued to whir even though we were a hundred miles from home. The din continued as we hiked, as we talked about how different it would be to live rurally and have to take care of animals and crops.
Should I lie, and say we could have lived there?
Or should I tell the truth, that it was a cool experience, one that we’d like to have again in the summer, but that we’re actually happy in town?
This is why the farmstay industry ought to be larger. More families ought to experience rural America as it works. Get their hands dirty. Experience the producers of eggs, turkey and chicken in their feathered, bah-GAWK! state. I came away realizing that our supermarket-dependent lives are a bit painful to reflect upon, because we are truly divorced from the land. But time spent on a farm also lets us think about the things in town that we enjoy, and why we look forward to getting back to them.