This is the post I started yesterday, then completely scrapped just now. Starting over. Same topic. Different words.

Blame the dog park.

You see like the modern urban pet owner, we take our dogs to the dog park. I’ve rambled about it before. It makes “the dogs” happy. It does, but it also makes US happy. It is not just our happiness at seeing the pups bound through the tall prairie grasses and flowers, though I think that sparked a bit of what happened next, it is that WE are happier mucking through the mud, watching the seasons change, wandering where the only path is one designated by the dogs. We like sitting by the pond. We like cutting through the back brush. We like the dog park. 44-acres of puppy/people fun. The dogs come home content. We come home content.

We come home to a dense neighborhood. We come home to a house suited to our basic needs here in Chicagoland and even a house that screams US. We come home to a house that isn’t really what we will need post-young children at home. And we daydream and escape all of it. We’ve long daydreamed. Once upon it was of 5 kids and us together in a home. Then we daydreamed of a slightly better home of our own. We didn’t buy though. Nothing was quite right. Ok, we sort of still think about that house by the airport in Gainesville, that had an indoor pool and a warehouse. (What a great skate park! Place for the big kids to hang out and play their instruments! A big yard! A POOL.) Then since moving to Chicago and knowing before we even moved here that it wasn’t a place that would enfold us as “home,” daydreams of moving south again. Way south.

Not Gainesville. Not Charleston. Not Anderson or Atlanta. Not Charlotte or Asheville. Somewhere different. It got narrowed down to the area on the coast around the Florida/Georgia line. At first there was a lot of Amelia Island and the surrounding area. There are some great, fairly reasonably priced houses. Of course, with a beach house, we need an elevator. No getting Mama up and down long flights of stairs on a regular basis, not to mention the fact that knees are failing here, and none of us is getting younger. A Peter Pan house won’t work for a forever home.

So, we started to winnow into rather interesting but fairly suburban/small town/medium town types of houses. Then the dog park happened. Our search widened again. No longer just price points (below 200K), bedrooms (at least 3), bathrooms (at least 2). It changed from no horrible granite kitchen or bad electricity. Suddenly we were looking at homes with LAND. Yes, land. “For the puppies” Yes, we do daydream about being able to open the door and have the pups bound off and have their tails disappear into the tall grass.

Of course, when looking at houses with land…they often come with other structures. A pole barn. A pump house. A pond. Pasture. Fields. This of course sets my heart to thumping. You see, since I was a youngling, I’ve always wanted a “farm.” My grandfather had one. My mother’s family had tales of them. I lived in Wisconsin and fell in love with cows, gardening, and canning.
Soon the daydream of forever home started to include fruiting trees, bushes, and a big garden. But a stable or barn means…animals. So there prances along my family cow…the Jersey girl I’ve wanted for 20 + years. Then Denise has wanted chickens for a long time. I’m amenable to goats. (mmm fresh goat cheeese!) Ava suggests sheep. RJ suggests pigs. (She’s vegan? What am I going to do with a pig? Besides Denise is NOT of the mind that we will slaughter our critters. Erm…I haven’t told her the hard truths about chickens yet. Or male calves.)

Today I ended up on The Livestock Conservancy site. There I learned of Florida Cracker Cows and Florida Cracker Sheep, which led me to learn about Florida Cracker Horses and Pineywoods Cattle. These are all farm animals that will do well with novices living in a scrubby, hot, wet place. Hmm…the daydreams continue. Yes, we might have priced the Florida Cracker Cows.

Now, Ava asked when she heard of the cow plans, just how long I would like it–a week? And Denise keeps saying we will have to get Christopher to move back in with us to be our farm hand–because we have jobs. I tried to tell her that most farmers do. She pointed out that they weren’t me.

But still we daydream of the perfect house that meets our requirements, has some wild yard for the dogs to bound, room for my garden and for Denise’s fussy 5 flower gardens.

Here is where I talk of escapism. You see, not only is this an escape from loud neighbors or grumpy ones who don’t appreciate the dogs alerting them to the presence of raccoons and skunks, it is a mental escape. Denise can play with her phone and watch the properties on Zillow. She can look up ag land exemptions and ponder just what that is in that picture. I can plot the dream homestead–smaller than The Idyll. I can think of waking up to go milk the cows and let them out to pasture. Skeeter will run beside me and help herd. She’s good at that. We can take a sunset stroll around the property with the dogs. I can milk and tend while Denise washes up the dishes. Dinners will be home baked bread, vegetables we grew and I canned, fruits I preserved, perhaps some meat from our livestock from time to time. I will have some retro joy in this life. And I escape. I escape now to this “simpler world” and I will escape then I think. I block out the work, the illnesses, the fact that even in the south where everyone has an Aunt who lives with her friend from childhood, and they are called “the girls” that we as outsiders will be strange. Goodness knows, we are strange anywhere.

But in the fairy tale land of escape today, it is all good. I will be far away from war, from police killing people for the color of their skin, from violence against transgendered people, from rape, from suicide, from death, from ignorance and hate, from hate toward refugee children, the mentally ill, women, gays, and all the things that ache my heart. Instead my brain is plotting what needs to go in the ground, what needs to be transplanted, how we will build a chicken coop and chicken tractor, whether to have honeybees, how we will tend the goats, sheep, cows. Just a Cracker pony to round up the cattle? Or should we get a pony for the grandchildren?

Yes, a fantasy life to escape the realities. I know it is fantasy. It isn’t as huge of a fantasy as The Idyll. It is more do-able. That makes it an easy way to slip away from obsessing about the pain and sadness in the world. Not for long enough, not enough to obliterate the worry for my family, my friends, for people I have never met and for people I have not yet met. And worst of all, people I can never meet. But in the meantime, I can slip into the escape of a sweet daydream with puppies bounding, cows lowing, and maybe even some sheep baa-ing.

And I won’t think too hard on the fact that my father dreamed of and finally escaped from the farm for many of the same reasons that I want to escape to one.


  1. What the hell is a chicken tractor? Chickens don’t drive tractors (have you not read Don’t Let Pigeon Drive the Bus?)

  2. I am wondering the same thing as Denise. What is a chicken tractor?

  3. Elizabeth and Denise–It is a portable “chicken coop” without a floor so that you can move your chickens around and keep them safe.

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