May 2013
Simple Times

Crossing the Line to Rural Life

 


Heather and Eric Jackson with their children Erica Belle, 9; Lucas, 6; and Savannah, 3; and family Jersey cow Beulah Belle.

Want to know a surprising side-effect of having a predator take out a few of your chickens? It turns out that after-dinner ‘possum hunting together makes good husband and wife bonding time!"

That tongue-in-cheek recent post on Facebook by Heather Jackson exemplifies the sense of humor but determination she and her husband Eric have showcased since moving from their Hoover home to a three-acre rural homestead less than 2 years ago.

Along with children Erica Belle, 9; Lucas, 6; and Savannah, 3, the farm includes family dog Parker, an assortment of chickens, guineas, LaMancha and Saanen goats, ducks, WORMS and Beulah Belle, a placid Jersey dairy cow.

So why the move?

"There wasn’t a yard big enough for the kids to play and we just wanted a slower pace of life … and I REALLY NEEDED chickens," Heather explained.

Eric was born in Birmingham and lived several places including Demopolis and Selma. Heather is from a small town outside of Athens, Ga. Heather had goats when she was little, but had to unhappily give them up when the family moved to the suburbs to a roomier house.

 




Left, Lucas Jackson enjoys the tire swing in the pasture at his home at Green Eggs and Goats. Above, can you guess why this little goat was named Oreo?

Eric enjoyed visiting with his uncle Billy Rentz, now in his late eighties, who still farms more than 1000 acres in the Sweet Water community of South Alabama.

"He’s remarkable," Eric said.

They both knew what "traditional" farming was, but wanted more for their little family.

"I was diagnosed with type II diabetes when I was 29," Eric explained. "My uncle, my grandmother, it seemed everybody in my family eventually became diabetic. I want to raise my kids where they don’t eat the way I did for the first 29 years of my life. I want them to have every chance to NOT grow up to be diabetic."





Clockwise from top left, Erica Belle and Savannah Jackson delight in one of the farm’s many goat kids. Lucas and Savannah Jackson with one of the Saanen babies. Mama goat and her twins. The big red barn was one of the features that drew the Jacksons to their farm.
 

 

Likewise, Heather has a hyperthyroid. Since the move and her healthier eating from raw milk to organic fruits and vegetables, she has been able to lower the dosage of her medications!

(Erica Belle explained so far the family only eats the "bad roosters" on the farm, and that last one was delicious, Heather laughed.)

While all the neighbors in the Village Springs-Remlap area near the Blount-Jefferson County line have welcomed them with open arms, Heather explained it’s been a long haul explaining to some folks that "we really can grow things organically here."

 


Savannah Jackson points out different worms she has named as Erica looks at the worm bed they created.

"It’s just like a different world once you cross that county line from Jefferson County," Heather explained. "It’s a much slower pace … a much slower lifestyle. I guess the greatest surprise was just how wonderful and welcoming all the neighbors have been."

The Jacksons have found visiting and shopping at Blount Co. Farmers Co-op an important part of their new country lifestyle.

While Eric continues to manage a tire-mounting warehouse, Heather devotes her time to the farm and to homeschooling the kids. While Lucas enjoyed a private Christian school half-day kindergarten this year, he will be re-joining the ranks of his homeschooled siblings this fall.

The decision to homeschool was many-faceted.

"It’s like everything else," Eric said. "Education is just not a one-size-fits-all endeavor."

There were so many questions from their many friends about their farm and their change in lifestyle when they moved that Heather began a blog on the farm’s website (www.greeneggsandgoats.com), but the day she started the blog she lost her favorite doe so it took her a little time to want to write again.

Heather also occasionally teaches classes on what she’s learned, including a mozzarella cheese making class she recently taught at Freshfully. She is also teaching Square Foot Gardening classes at a Hoover church and other locations.

"All we had space for in Hoover was a square foot garden," Heather explained. "But it worked out so well I still utilize a lot of that in our garden here even though we have much more space."

Eric continues to study how to grow more with less water and less space as well.

"It appears the huge farms are going to implode eventually because the practices just aren’t sustainable," Eric observed. "People are starting to realize that now and how important small family local farms can be."


A special relationship exists between “a woman and her cow ....”

 
"I’ve been listening to Everett Griner on radio at Southeast AgNET and he’s been stressing the need to produce more food per acre on less water … he says we need to double our food supply in the next 30 years; but I think the answer is the small farmer, farming four to five acres intensively. There just can’t be a Roundup Ready everything …"

The farm includes a large red barn. The previous owner’s daughter was into theater so one end of the barn included a stage, which has now been converted into a milking area. A heat lamp glowed recently at the other end so frolicking goat kids could bounce inside when they needed the heat.

"When we saw the barn, the pond and the pool, we fell in love with the farm," Heather recalled. "It was like, ‘Oh yea, there’s a nice house, too.’"

Eric enjoys fishing in the pond and the shady acreage seems an Eden with human kids and goat kids enjoying the fresh air and open spaces.

The couple was building beehives for bees already ordered when this article was written. The youngsters, especially the girls, have begun a worm bed for fishing and for use in the garden, with Savannah having many of the worms personally named.

They obtained their grower’s permit in the spring and hope to sell the excess from their garden and organically-created jams and jellies at locations including possibly a small stand in front of their farm this summer.

Heather continues to spread the simply living, organic food, family-oriented message through the farm’s website and her blogging to the community as a whole, but the couple’s main goal is to simply raise their family happily, eat healthily and enjoy the peace of their Green Eggs and Goats farm!

The Jacksons can be reached through their website or their Facebook page of Green Eggs and Goats.

Suzy Lowry Geno is a freelance writer from Blount County who can be reached through her website at www.suzysfarm.com.