Buying The Farm

Lucas

The MacAuley & Stone Gang searched for their quarry high and low, throughout the northern lower peninsula, and throughout the upper peninsula of Michigan. (For non-Michiganders, the two peninsulas are connected by a magical portal called the Mackinac Bridge (Mack-ih-naw). Everyone north of the bridge is a U.P.er, or a Yooper. Everyone south of the bridge is a troll. Everyone in the southern half of the lower peninsula is a flatlander, because those north of them have delusions of mountains. The mountains are actually all in the U.P.)

The Gang investigated beautiful, isolated farms and properties in the Upper Peninsula, where the growing season is short, but the opportunities for farming goliath mosquitoes abound.

They carefully examined farms in the lower peninsula that were within budget, finding a disturbingly high number of properties containing mostly swamp, or located directly behind lumber mills. Properties were searched on both peninsulas where the top soil was a foot above bedrock, properties that were perfect except for the owner’s unwillingness to sell under land contract, beautiful places that had no access to them other than by helicopter, properties that had been denuded by paper companies.

One day, we drove onto a property in Harrisville, a little tourist town on the shores of Lake Huron, the county seat of Alcona County. 40 acres of undeveloped, wooded land. Most of it was a former white pine tree plantation (a very common sight in Michigan).

It wasn’t perfect. There was no water on the property. No wells, creeks, ponds, or puddles.

It was mostly flour sand, which makes water retention a serious issue ( a big concern when there’s no well and you have to bucket water to your garden and field).

The soil would be extremely acidic due to the over-abundance of pine trees.

However… there were gorgeous, fully mature oaks, maples, spruce, hemlocks, and beeches.

We’d have so much work to do, but we could do it step by step, tailoring the property to our goals.┬áIt was pushing budgetary constraints, but after almost a year of real estate hunting, it was the first one that came close to meeting our requirements, that would we could actually (just barely) afford.

So, after a calm round of negotiating, we bought 40 acres on land contract from a very nice local couple. The property had been inherited by the woman from her father. She has a sentimental attachment to it. Fortunately, our goal of responsible stewardship, along with our organic and eventually sustainable practices are exactly what they were hoping for, so everyone is happy.

Now that the target had been acquired, it was on to Phase Two:

BUILDING A FARM

In The Beginning

Last year's field.

In the beginning, there was the word. That word was “marriage”. The marriage in question took place between Dawn (nic Bullock) and Brian MacAuley.

Brian was an escapee of Dogpatch, Michigan, via the Navy. Dawn had resided in Michigan for a few years as a child, then moved on to greener (and more expensive) pastures of Massachusetts. She later became a grease monkey, before “settling down” with Brian to raise monkeys (children) of their own.

Dawn and Brian begat Shanna, Justin, and Colleen, who thus far have begat nobody.

A mostly successful social experiment in child-rearing led to Justin relocating to the city, and Shanna and Colleen residing steadfastly in the country. (Not without some exploring and experimenting with the world at large, first.) Shanna imported an Iwegian MacGyver by the name of Greg Stone.

Now the secret master plan of the MacAuley Clan could be implemented. Namely, the creation of a family farm, after years of practicing with various hobby farms.

The MacAuleys had years of plotting and practicing and farmhand work, and The Stone had years of actual farm management, as well as the necessary skills of welding, animal husbandry, mechanical skill, the ability to fashion a bomb out of a paperclip and a gum wrapper, and the physical strength and demeanor of a Celt warrior.

The newly formed MacAuley & Stone Cabal began a round of finalizing and clarifying plotting, honing their plans to the razor sharp edge of a really fine spork.

Clutching their spork in excited hands, they embarked upon Stage One of their Plan.

BUYING THE FARM

 

MacAuley & Stone Family Farm

Our field during one of the early spring thaws this year.

Greetings from MacAuley & Stone Family Farm!

We are a small farm in the sandy soils of northern Michigan. We are in the process of seeking out organic certification. In our second year, we are still focusing on establishing ourselves, and expanding. As of right now, we have 4 acres of field crops and produce being planted, and we own one recently acquired sort-of trained horse, Trick, two hogs, two sheep, a whole bunch of Buff Orpington chickens, several mutt ducks, and about a dozen meat rabbits. We have a side business, Huron Feeder Supply, that mainly involves breeding rodents and insects and selling them to pet stores and owners of exotic pets, such as snakes and lizards.

The property we acquired for the farm was 40 acres of undeveloped, mostly wooded hunting property in Harrisville, Michigan. Plans for this summer include finally getting a well drilled (we’ve bucketed water for the last year and a half) and getting solar electricity on the farm. We are living in temporary homes (translation: tiny, bare-bones, “gently” used housing structures) until construction can begin on our “real” homes.

Our goals with the farm are to tend the earth, tend ourselves and our animals, make some sort of profit, and have fun. All but the profit part have worked out wonderfully so far. If we can avoid a drought this year, the profit part should follow.

 

 

Cast of Characters:

Dawn MacAuley

One of the financial backers of MacAuley & Stone Family Farm, along with her husband, Brian. Additional farm labour when possible. Gardener extraordinaire, fibre enthusiast, and, along with Brian, responsible for instilling a love of nature, animals, and back-to-basics philosophy in their children. Retired child-raiser and hobby farmer. Dreamer.

 

Brian MacAuley

One of the financial backers of the farm. Physician’s Assistant, carpentry expert, counselor. Retired Navy. Additional farm labour when possible. Experience with farms from when he was a teenager, and hobby farms as an adult. Smart-ass.

 

Shanna Stone

Eldest child of Brian and Dawn MacAuley. Along with her husband, Greg, responsible for the labour and sales portion of the farm. Experience in marketing and sales, farm-hand work on smaller crop farms and ranches, and human wrangling. Plotter.

 

Greg Stone

Imported from farm country, Iowa. MacGyver incarnate. Experience with small and large commercial farms, livestock and animal husbandry of all sorts. As Gail Carriger says in her book Soulless, “He was the type of good farming stock that, when the oxen collapsed from exhaustion, picked up the plow, strapped himself to it, and finished tilling the fields by hand.” Smart-ass.

 

Colleen Stone

Youngest child of Dawn and Brian MacAuley. Experience as a farm-hand on a local farm, and growing up with a hobby farm. Newest member of the farm team, she is The Farm Hand.

 

Justin MacAuley

Second-oldest child of Brian and Dawn. Living in Grand Rapids, Michigan, he is enjoying city life, and very deliberately not farming.

 

 

-Shanna