I am also very glad that 2019 is in the rear view mirror too! 2020 has been filled with anxiety, hardships, sickness, and loss for so many people. I haven’t talked about it much but the last few years have been pretty tough as I have been recovering from Neurological Lyme disease. In addition to dealing with illness we have been dealing with the fallout of challenges that COVID-19 created on our small farm and business. Neurological Lyme disease and/or Chronic Lyme is an unfortunate condition that happens when you are not aware that you were ever bitten by a tick. This is what happened to me. I never knew I had been bitten by a tick. I never had the telltale sign of a “bullseye” rash that most people get. This gave the bacterial infection time to take hold of my body. I think I had the infection for several years before being treated at the end of 2019. Most of my symptoms were in my brain. Symptoms like severe brain fog, trouble concentrating, depression, anxiety, blurry vision, word retrieval issues, and profound crippling fatigue.
Check yourself for ticks especially if you are outdoors a lot! Most of the time if you find the tick and treat yourself right away with antibiotics the infection will not turn into a chronic one.
Please keep reading as this story has a happy ending! I received multiple misdiagnoses (too many to list here). When I was finally tested with the IGENEX test (the best test for lyme) for lyme disease and received a positive test my doctor knew lyme was to blame for my issues. It all made so much sense. I spent most days in long grass rotationally grazing animals and outside on my farm. The treatment was brutal to kill the long standing infection that I had. I could barely get out of bed for most of last winter, almost 4 months. The only time I really got up was to drag myself to my weekly doctor appointments. I could barely walk up the stairs of my house and my thinking was so fuzzy. I was scared and worried, not only for my health, but how would I be able to farm? Mama goats had already been bred and spring babies were on the way whether I had the physical strength or not. The farm was not about to stop moving just because I was sick. I was terrified for the financial future of our business. As I began to recover slightly in March, news of COVID-19 hit. Our busiest time on the farm is typically the end of March through June. So much of our on the farm tourism activities had to be canceled. Farmer’s Markets were up in air. We didn’t know if we could withstand another hit. We started coming up with a Plan B to sell animals and equipment and then eventually the farm. My heart and spirit were broken.
It all seems like a bad dream now. My health continued to slowly improve. My eye sight was no longer blurry and I had some improved energy. I was able to help more with the chores and be up with the mama goats and assist with kidding like I do every season. Friends and customers donated to the farm. Our online store doubled in sales from previous years with more folks shopping from home. Where there was lack of income from markets, our wholesale accounts helped to make up for the losses. As things began to open up again and people felt safe to venture out we introduced goat hiking on the farm as a new agritourism activity. Goat hikes were a big hit with our customers as most sold out. The goats loved it too being able to forage for all sorts of new and tasty treats in the woods. The hikes helped to connect people with animals and nature at a time they needed it most and helped us to bring in some income for the farm to replace some of our other activities. As my health continued to improve, I was able to start running again (slowly) which really improved my energy and spirit. I started to remember why I farm and why I love farming so much. I started remembering some of those original goals that got buried in sickness, sadness, and frustration. I even started laughing everyday again like my old self! Laughing at myself, the crazy antics of all the animals, and just laughing at the sheer joy that we were making it through some crazy years. I feel like myself again. And with this return to self, I am overcome with immense gratitude. I am filled with gratitude to still be here and making our living from farming on this land. I am filled with gratitude for my health, friends, family and all of you who make up our farm family. Even more so now I want to give back. One of the goals when moving and expanding the farm in 2013 was to offer educational programming to students on the farm with visual impairments and blindness. My background is in blind rehabilitation and education. Eric and I both volunteered and taught at a blindness organization in Romania right before we started the farm. We would like to support Light Into Europe, an organization that delivers essential services to children and adults who are blind across Romania. We believe in their mission and I have a connection to the area as my dad was born in a rural village in now northern Romania. The goal of donating proceeds of sales has proved to be a lofty one. Especially, with all of the costs of starting a farm from scratch in a new rural location, and growing and learning about how to run a dairy. What we have found is where we lack cash, we more than make up with ever increasing energy and cute fuzzy animal experiences! This got me thinking! We can donate ticket sales from some of our future goat hikes this spring! I will let you know on our website and social media which hikes are slated to be donated. Before this blog gets any longer here are the three groups will be donating to in 2021 and hopefully beyond.
- Light Into Europe
- Frontera Farmer Foundation
- Global Lyme Alliance
The Frontera Farmer Foundation is an amazing organization that supports so many Sustainable Chicagoland Farmers. The Frontera Foundation catapulted our business years ahead with their support of us building our farmstead creamery on our farm. Chef Rick Bayless is a huge supporter of local food and farmers. Visit www.rickbayless.com/foundation/ for more information
The Global Lyme Alliance is dedicated to conquering Lyme disease and other tick-borne illness through research, education, awareness, and patient services. Visit www.globallymealliance.org for more information
We hope to start hosting school groups again when it is safe. Our focus will be to host children with special needs and refugee children.
In closing we would like to thank our amazing farm volunteers Tera and Jill. We could not have made it through 2020 without their support, kindness, and smiling faces (under mask, of course!) And to Ann our amazing beekeeper mentor and friend. Thanks to all our amazing customers. We would not still be here farming if it were not for you. Keep believing everyone in a brighter future! We got this!