36 Hours on My Sister’s Farm

Aug 26, 2015

Many of you know that I grew up in rural Maine in a town of 600 people. Life there could not be more different than my current one in the DC suburbs.

It’s pretty hard to get back up to the homeland, but when my father turned 70 two weeks ago, I took my 5-year-old to my sister’s organic dairy farm to celebrate with various Heyck and Merlin cousins, aunts, and the like. While my sister and I may LOOK alike (if only I had waist-length hair!), we lead VERY different lifestyles.

She, her partner, and two kids under the age of 3 own a 200-cow dairy farm north of Bangor. They don’t go to any grocery stores because they grow or kill everything themselves, don’t own a television, and participate in a heavy bartering community (in fact, the bacon we ate for breakfast was bartered). My sister can take a tree and turn it into a canoe, weave beautiful pack baskets, and tap her own maple trees for syrup. Someday she may start a blog called Farm Frau. I would be completely all over reading that, wouldn’t you?

And there I went with my laptop, iPad, Kindle and iPhone. Whoops.

Even still, we had a wonderful weekend full of lake swimming, horseback riding, and homemade mead drinking. In fact, we even kept a To-Do list. Here it is:  Ambitious and delicious!


My sister made éclairs from SCRATCH. I told you she was talented. Turns out I’m not so good with the pastry bag. Oh, well, I’d like to think I have other talents.

One may imagine farm life as loosey-goosey and all over the place, but in fact, it was teeming with evidence of Togetherness. After all, my sister is running a business with employees; keeping Together is absolutely essential.  Hanging in her Command Center were all sorts of goodies!

Exhibit 1: A Comprehensive Calendar. Full of dentist appointments and calf sales. You know, regular life stuff.

Exhibit 2: Barn Schedule. This shows who is milking the cows each day of the week, for both the morning and afternoon shifts. Note: It even includes “Updated as of ______” to prevent version control!

Exhibit 3: Thought Catcher. Here is the place where my sister and her partner can capture items for discussion or purchase.

Exhibit 4: Meeting Notes. Or said in a different way, a call log placed by the phone. The farm receives a lot of inquiries from vendors, suppliers, and employees. While my sister’s partner does carry a not-smart cell phone, they also use their landline a lot. This binder holds the log of every single phone call. It is frequently referenced.

Some may romanticize running away to New England and living off the land. But let me tell you this is very hard work. Non-stop. I mean, the cows need milking twice per day, and there were sick calves to be tended to, hay to be baled, and vegetable gardens to be weeded. I don’t think I saw my sister sit down once.

And just for fun, here are a few more pictures from the weekend. My 5-year-old rode a horse entirely by herself for the first time, and I managed to not get myself thrown off, too!