We moved onto Blackberry Run Homestead on the last day of June a few decades ago. The only animals we had at the time were a dog and a cat. It was a very exciting time for our family. We bought our place from a young couple who raised Bluetick Coonhounds and had a Jack donkey and a brood mare. The owner Scott had dreams of raising mules. He also did taxidermy on the side and the house was filled with examples of his work. Seeing the walls covered by his hunting trophies was probably one of the things that sold us, at least me, on this place. It gave the interior a woodsy cabin feel and I felt right at home as soon as I walked in.
After settlement, the old owners asked if they could leave their horse and donkey here for a month or two while they built a barn at their new place. I was only too happy to help out. We moved in and had animals to care for right away. How silly our young selves can be. After a month or so, Scott came and carted off the equines leaving us with empty pastures for the first time. This situation was not to last.
I started combing through the newspaper looking for farm animals for sale. I found a lady selling goats who lived on a farm very close to ours. We ended up with an Alpine wether and a doe. She also gave us our very first chicken, a little bantam mixed breed hen. These three little animals were the start of the homesteading empire that Blackberry Run has become.
I'm sure my kids gave the goats and chicken names, but I don't remember them now. I do remember the name of our next big acquisition, Brownie. Brownie was a small, wait for it, brown pony. That I could get my children a pony when I never had any pets growing up was a very big deal for me. They loved riding around the homestead on that little horse.
A few more goats followed Brownie along with more chickens. I still hadn't discovered the local livestock auction house at this time, which was probably a good thing. We had the beginnings of a nice petting zoo and we really weren't focused on getting any production going for meat, milk or eggs. That would come in the near future.
One day I was in the run-in shed that was our only out building and served as our barn, when I saw our dog Huxley running full steam across the pasture in my direction. It was a strange scene because it looked as though he was chasing something. It was then I noticed a small dot in front of him and moving very fast a few feet above the ground. That dot turned out to be our little bantam hen flying with all her might away from Huxley. She flew into the barn missing my head by inches and landed on a stall partition. Huxley charged in right on her tail. Being raised in the city, I had no idea chickens could fly especially as fast as our little hen was. I will never forget that sight.
We became friends with the lady from whom we bought those first goats. We often lent each other bucks for breeding our respective does. A few years later, the farm where she lived was sold. As she was renting, she had to move into the small city nearby. It broke her heart to leave that very nice place. We never heard from her again.
After acquiring the pony, I had to find someplace to buy hay. I found a farm selling hay in the neighborhood. The farmer and I began a 25 year friendship that recently ended with his passing at age 92. He was still downhill skiing in Snowmass Colorado. Farmers are a hardy lot.
Moving onto the homestead created many opportunities for establishing new friendships. Many of those friends have since moved away to other states or back to city life. A few have passed on. Some just drifted away as people often do. The livestock have also come and gone. Some sold off, as Brownie the pony was. Some lived a long happy life amidst the pastures and wood lots. Many were harvested to maintain the human occupants. Even though I have been raising meat for many years, I still have mixed feelings about it.
Yet I do it and will continue as long as I can. The first rule of nature is life eats life. There is no way around it. Homestead life is sometimes a mass of contradictions, but it's the only way I have lived that suits me. Of course I have yet to try my hand at the one thing I really want to do. I would do it, but I don't think there is much call for cowboys of my age, though one never knows what the future holds in store. Perhaps some day I will be able to saddle up and ride off into the sunset for the last roundup.