Rediscovering the old world at Lightning Tree Farm

  • 2013-10-31
  • By Mike Parr

WATCHFUL EYES: The dogs not only guard the operations, but also enjoy lives in the fresh air of the countryside.

ALUKSNE - I finally realized my dream last year when I moved to a farm in northeast Latvia and started a life of self-sufficiency, away from cities, people and everyday stress. Lightning Tree Farm had lain unused for nearly twenty years and, as a result, nature had reclaimed the place.
I became interested in the idea of self-sufficiency back in the 1970s when I was given ‘The complete book of self-sufficiency,’ by John Seymour as a birthday present. This book is considered THE bible by many people wanting to escape from the rat race and live a more relaxed and fulfilling lifestyle. From the first page I was hooked; it’s just a pity that it has taken nearly forty years for my goal to become reality.

It was love at first sight when I visited the farm for the first time. Sure, the house needs work; there is no running water, the interior electrical wiring was in dangerous condition, the toilet non-existent and the kitchen was primitive, but it had beauty. Just looking out over the land, with the wild flowers and grasses growing, the forest with its pathways created by deer, the sound of nature, I knew that this was the right place for me.

Cooking on a wood-burning range was a challenge I was looking forward to; the heating system was also wood-burning and with around fifteen hectares of woodland I certainly had more than enough fuel. Although I have a stream running at the rear of the house and a river that forms part of the boundary, I collect my drinking water from a local spring. As for the toilet, well, let’s say that two tractor tires stacked on top of each other did the job... enough said.

I live here with my two dogs: Barney, a Collie cross, who I found abandoned in the depths of winter about four years ago, and Ellie, a four-year-old German Shepherd cross that I collected from the local dog shelter just over a month ago. Whereas Barney is a dainty ‘ballerina,’ Ellie is about as delicate as a bull in a china shop, and I have the bruises to prove it.

In addition to my dogs I also look after five goats: Big Mamma (the Boss – with a capital B), 2ic (second in command), the two Moaning Minnies (two yearling sisters), and Lenny (the Billy goat); there are seven rabbits and now (due to a predator problem) three chickens and a rooster. This year I plan to expand my menagerie to include sheep and a couple of pigs.
While not at present providing me with milk or meat, my livestock are my laborers. Due to no maintenance being carried out on it, the woodland has become unruly with plenty of saplings, bushes and vines growing; my goats are doing a great job of helping clear large sections, opening the soil to sunlight, and my rewards are that the fruits have returned: wild strawberries, billberries and raspberries to mention but a few. Once you taste wild fruit, you realize that you will never return to the shop-bought variety.

Living out here I have become more attuned to the seasons and changes in weather. It doesn’t rain; it waters the crops instead. Snow gives the place a magical feel, and summer... well, what can you say about summer? Especially as you see the seedlings start to sprout and the fruit bushes come to life.
Growing my own food has reawakened my taste buds. Tomatoes that are so packed full of flavor that they are screaming out for me to bake fresh foccacia bread for them; peas that never make it to the kitchen; baby carrots that are so packed full of flavor – I never knew that I liked raw carrot, but just popping one of these into my mouth, the taste explosion is enough to get me hooked. Even the humble potato has a flavor that excites when eaten.

I have rediscovered the old world, a lifestyle that many wish for, but don’t get the opportunity to have. My larder is full of the freshest, tastiest food I could ever dream of eating. And every month nature adds to this with its natural bounty around me. I am fortunate. My day-to-day jobs aren’t considered work, they are fun, my year-long holiday. I grow my own food; I sit in the forest while my goats wander around filling their stomachs and preparing themselves for when they will give me kids next spring. My dogs are free to chase new and exciting smells and I’ve not even mentioned the home-brewed beer....ah yes, but that is another story.