A letter from Minnesota

I hope you’ll forgive me for breaking Celi’s “rule” about keeping current with one’s blog photos.  It’s winter in Minnesota, which is blindingly white at best, boring and bare at worst.  But it’s making me happy to see these photos from last summer and the summer before that, so let’s just enjoy the greenery for a while.1


I live on seventy acres in east-central Minnesota — what most people (even other Minnesotans) would consider “up north”, but half the state is still above us!  Our land is a mix of fields and forest, with some disused pastures and a lot of hay field.  Our neighbors have horses and beef cattle, so we’re happy to have them cut our hay for themselves.  It keeps the fields in good shape, and they get an extra two or three dozen big bales to keep them going through the winter.

Right now, I’m sticking to small critters.  I’ve got two chihuahuas, three cats, a selection of rodents, and my small flock of chickens.  And two daughters!  M is three years old now, and F is just eight months.3

There are pros and cons to raising children in a rural area (our nearest town, six miles away, boasts a population of around 1800).  The cons are about what you’d expect — very few activities geared toward little kids, hard to meet new people, etc.  But it feels like the pros outweigh that.  I realized last autumn that M has no concept of a “yard”.  We were at a friend’s house in the suburbs, and when we went out to their backyard, M made a beeline for the swing set a couple of houses over.  I mean, she’s used to stepping outside and feeling like the whole world is her playground!  I love being able to sit in one spot and keep an eye on her as she runs around, not worrying about how noisy she’s being or whether she might run into the road.4


It’s also a real privilege to raise kids surrounded by nature.  (Even though, I’ll admit, it often feels like that nature is out to bite or sting us a lot of the time!  Ticks, deer flies, and mosquitoes, I’m looking at you.)  I have a garden, and we love watching veggies grow all summer long.  And then there are the chickens.


We got our first chicks in May of 2015 — M was a year and a half old at the time.  She’s a sucker for cute things (I have NO idea where she gets that), and we loved having our little peeps in the house for the first several weeks.  Eventually, they moved out to the small coop my dad and I built that summer, although now they live in a much bigger coop we built inside the pole barn.  M has always adored the chickens and has quite a way with them.  The more skittish of the hens won’t let me get near them, but M can just lie in the grass, chatting away, while they all lounge with her.


Over the past year, we’ve had multiple chicken births and deaths.  I added a rooster, Mister Chicken, to the flock at the very end of 2015, and when my hens, being Buff Orpgintons, a breed prone to broodiness, decided they wanted to hatch some eggs this summer, I let them.  Rita hatched two little fluffs in May, and Aster hatched another two chicks — plus six adopted guinea fowl for our neighbors — in July.


All of Aster’s babies went back to the neighbors’ house when they were old enough.  (Would you believe that all four of the chicks hatched this year were roosters?  Luckily the neighbors have a huge flock and were happy to take the extra two.)  One of Rita’s boys went “missing” after a night out when he was still youngish, and the other has grown up into quite a handsome rooster.  Which was a stroke of luck, as brave Mister Chicken was killed by a hawk one evening, several months ago.  And more recently, we had to say goodbye to my favorite hen, Laverne, who became very ill very quickly and had to be euthanized.  So M is learning all about life and death quite early on.

I also love that she’s got a better connection to her food than she’d have if we lived elsewhere.  We’re vegetarians, but we love our scrambled eggs!  They’re even the baby’s favorite food — or one of them, anyway.  Chicken care in the winter is to-the-point and usually done by just me, but when the weather is nice, we all like to go out to collect eggs and bring the chickens our leftovers.  So M definitely knows where eggs come from, and it’s not a carton or the supermarket!


I often daydream about the future and what it might bring in terms of using our land.  The pasture needs to be re-fenced — not an easy or cheap job — but it has a small pond in it (we also have a larger wildlife pond behind our house) and a spigot nearby.  I think we all enjoy hearing about Celi’s piggies’ goings on, and sometimes I think a couple of pigs to turn the fields would be fun.  And our neighbors told me they have friends who raise Dexter cattle, and a small dairy cow would be perfect for my small family.  But I’m not quite ready to commit to a new species yet!  I’d be happy to just garden more, for the time being, at least until my girls are a little more self-sufficient!

Anna has been blogging for sixteen years and can be found at Twelve22.org

29 Comments on “A letter from Minnesota

  1. Dear Anna…thank you for the wonderful account of your life in Minnesota…I am green with envy as it must be like living in paradise. How lucky little M is to have such a wonderful free childhood and the freedom to run….oh just thinking about it makes me drool!  Thank you for the lovely photos..now I can actually see what paradise looks like…..love to you all  

    Sent: Monday, February 13, 2017 at 1:30 PM

  2. Thank you, Anna, for letting us glimpse your beautiful patch of “Up North”. What I know of Minnesota, never having been there, is from reading Sigurd Olson’s wonderful books of the Boundary Canoe Wilderness area, Mary Tyler Moore’s Minneapolis, & from Garrison Keillor & good old Lake Woebegone, (where of course All the children are Above Average). How delightful to actually see some Minnesota hay fields, trees, garden & ponds. I’m signing on for your blog & as an artist, I hope for some beautiful snow scenes sometime–like the one with the deer & slanting snow I saw when looking through some of your recent posts. I love to paint snow scenes & we almost never have enough snow here in Asheville. Thank you for sharing your charming life with us today.

  3. I’m glad you opted against the Minnesota winter photos. I would have gotten cold just looking at them. These warmed me up nicely. Beautiful imagery. Summer on the screen.

  4. Hello again Anna, and congratulations and welcome to baby F 🙂 I used to follow you and somehow got disconnected, so welcomed the chance to catch up on you all again. Hey we never see snow here so I love all the white winterland pictures. Your property looks wonderful place to raise the two girls. Laura

  5. I love seeing the memories and promise of summer while trudging through winter in Illinois! Thank you for sharing.

  6. Anna, your farm is amazing. I can appreciate the downside of not the opportunity to have a lot of friends though. We here in NE Georgia (and now 19 chapters) by having monthly get togethers of Ladies Homestead Gathering begun by our farming/homesteading founder Cyndi Ball of LazyBFarms in Statham, Ga. Check it out because it’s the model for a wonderful gathering of like-minded women who do what you (and I do). Our group helps others form with an easy to replicate system. http://www.ladieshomesteadgathering.org/membership I’ve been a member from the original group which eventually became the home of our national group. What wonderful friends I have made, and how much I have learned and been able to teach. We do so much better when we have a community – even if it’s spread out over a larger area.

  7. Hello Anna, I live in Minneapolis but grew up in the country, and you have just give me both a case of home sickness and spring fever in one jolt. I love it !

  8. Beautiful summer photos, thank you. A reminder that there really will be that season ahead of us, something to look forward to. And sounds like you have a lovely family and way of life. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Your photos are perfect for all of us needing a respite from snow and howling winds ! Thanks for sharing stories about your family! Chers!

  10. Beautiful farm and family. What a treat to be raising your girls in this amazing place. Thank you for sharing Anna 🙂

  11. What a peaceful place to raise your children. It reminds me a little bit of my village in Germany where I was raised.

  12. You’re farm looks idyllic, and what a perfect place to bring up children. Lovely photos.

  13. Super nice to see your lovely place! And the summer photos reassure me that spring is on it’s way!!! 🙂

  14. My ‘birth’ family lives in Fergus Falls MN…. I met my birth mother at age 33 and traveled up to meet her family in 2010. Grandma was 96 at the time. I finally saw where my FAIR skin came from. Absolutely LOVED the MN area, but of course it was JUNE! Being a Texas girl – you can keep the cold.

    Your post is beautiful and I love that your kiddo’s are living free and outside the concrete jungle. Stay warm and keep counting to spring – the thaw will be here before you know it.

  15. Oh how I enjoyed your life–and am green as your grass. Love the photo of the cat on the hay–and would have loved to see your two little dogs too. The chicks are darling–especially the one “in hand.” You are a most independent person–very much like Cecilia…a can-do woman. Congratulations on a life well-lived. And thank-you for sharing such an idyllic spot.

  16. This is such a lovely post and so kind of you to fill in for Miss C. With a 3 year old and an 8 mo old, I’m surprised you have time to blog with all the other chores required to take care of lots of property. I agree with you about waiting for cattle until the kids need less constant care and are on their own more. You have a beautiful piece of property there.

  17. J&D: This was so lovely to read! It’s lovely to see folk slowly falling in with the ways of the land, of nature, and their lives shifting and shaping into the self-reliant, neighbourly, farming life!

  18. Lovely to travel from the formal historic cityscape of Milan to the beautiful lush summer greenery of Minnesota . . . . methinks you’ll raise two very grounded and happy children to gradually face the world, the vagaries of which will grow atop the nature in which they now live. Love that first photo: should be framed 🙂 !

  19. I really enjoyed your post, Anna. Thanks for sharing a bit of your life with us. I look forward to reading more updates on your blog. I admire your strength and courage — even without animals, ranch/farm life is a lot of hard work.

  20. Bravo to you for raising your children on all of those lovely acres! They’ll remember nature, animals – both wild and domestic, and the freedom of running loose all of their lives. In the sixteen years my mother-in-law has been allowing her hens to have chicks, only ONE hatched was a hen. The others have all been roosters.

  21. You have a beautiful piece of land. Your first photo easily shows why you love living here. One day your girls will thank you for raising them on a farm.

  22. GREAT POST AND GREAT PHOTOS! I lived in St. Paul for a year and thought winter would never end! Quite a change for a country boy from Mid-Missouri! One thing I will say, though. I had AWESOME flower beds!!!

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