There are few things that get me more excited than seeing people excel at something they love. Even better? When that person or thing doesn’t necessarily fit in the box you’d expect to put it in. Such is the case with my friend Allyson. We went to high school together (and were co-editors-in-chief of our news magazine!), and if you had told me at graduation that a few years down the road she would own her own farm in our hometown and be a full time farmer, I would have told you you were crazy (and maybe she would have, too – she started out going to school for a journalism degree, if I remember correctly!). But that’s exactly what she’s doing, and it’s amazing. And from the looks of it, she and her husband are raising two very lucky kiddos at the same time. There are so many sweet thoughts and wise words in her interview that really resonated with me – I hope you enjoy it!
Name: Allyson Angelini
Who do you live with? Introduce us! My husband, Keith, and I met about six years ago while working on a farm together. We share a passion for good food, laughter, and a love of family, which forms the foundation for our relationship together. But aside from that, we couldn’t be more different! He loves pop culture and baseball and I love doing projects and working outside. We work really well together and constantly help each other to become the people we want to be.
Our son, Henry, is 19 months and pure happiness. He’s been making me smile since the day he was born. I learn something new about him each day, but right now he is passionate about music, trucks, helping me with projects, and the color yellow. And we are expecting a daughter in January! [Updated to add: their daughter, Cora, has arrived, and is adorable!!]
Outside of our home – on our six acre farm – lives our cat Leonard, eight piglets, and several hundred chickens.
What does a day in the life look like for you? As a work-at-home mom running a diverse farm business, my days are never the same, and that’s what I love most about our lifestyle. Our mornings start whenever our son wakes up. I used to love waking up early and getting tons done before breakfast, but becoming a mother has made my fondness for sleep even stronger.
Most mornings we eat a big breakfast together: eggs from our chickens, bacon or sausage from our pigs, and potatoes and other veggies from the garden. It’s our favorite meal of the day (so much so that we served breakfast for dinner for our wedding!) and it’s a nice time to review our schedule and goals for the day before we rush off. As soon as we’re finished eating we head outside to farm chores – which go much faster when we work together. After all of our animals are moved to fresh pasture and are fed and watered, my husband takes our son inside to play while he gets ready for work and I continue working on my list of projects for the morning. When Henry joins me to work again we usually do projects together, or I set up an activity for him to do alongside the work that I am doing.
Running a farm can be a life-consuming job, especially for someone like me who loves to work! But setting a realistic schedule of tasks and accomplishing them on time is a skill like any other that requires practice and diligence. After almost ten years working on different farms and now running my own, I’ve gotten pretty good at estimating how long it takes to do each project and I schedule my week to maximize the time that I have. That way when it’s 11 o’clock and time for a break I’ve usually accomplished what I hoped to for the morning and can enjoy a leisurely lunch playing with Henry and puttering around the house. It’s not always easy, but without that home/work balance I’m not happy, and neither is my family.
After lunch Henry takes a nap and I work on projects that aren’t toddler-friendly – tractor work, hand-weeding the carrots, and anything that I didn’t finish in the morning. Mondays and Fridays are our busiest days, when we harvest produce to feed the 70 families of our MemberShare program. Each week for six months they come to the farm to pick up the ingredients they need to make a meal (all grown by us): chicken, pork, veggies, herbs, eggs, berries, etc. Those are also my favorite afternoons of the week, getting to see all of our families and friends when they come to pick up their farm share.
Evening chores on the farm usually take less time. I try and prep dinner at lunchtime so that we are ready to eat when my husband arrives home from work around 5:30. After dinner we do an activity as a family (take a walk, do puzzles, play trucks) and then tag-team cleaning up the house and preparing for the following day while getting Henry ready for bed. Story time is at 7:30 and bedtime for Henry follows. After that my husband and I finish up projects and usually check emails and do computer work on the couch next to each other until we are ready to sleep. Our days are full, but that’s how I like them.
What do you eat for lunch? Dinner? Lunch is almost always leftovers or something thrown together quickly when we come inside ravenous after a morning of working on the farm. Dinners are often more planned, so that I have an idea of what I need to prepare at lunchtime based on our schedule for the day. Unlike many families who follow a menu plan, I opt for keeping a well-stocked pantry and freezers so we pretty much always have whatever meal we would like on hand. Our weekly grocery list basically includes dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese, sour cream, etc) and starches (crackers, pasta, rice, etc), and the rest of our food is grown on the farm. I despise doing dishes, so one-pot meals are my favorite.
What was one of the best things you did to prepare for having kids? Probably not get too prepared! Getting pregnant right after getting married meant that we didn’t have much time to settle into a lifestyle WITHOUT kids. We didn’t read parenting books or decide on how we would raise our children – conversation usually just wandered to all of the wonderful things we were excited to experience as parents. While pregnant we encountered too many people that made newborns seem terribly exhausting, expensive, and life altering in a negative sense; we did our best to avoid them and their advice and to keep things as simple as possible.
What is something related to kids you were not at all prepared for? Prior to having kids, I lived a very independent life. My husband and I lived together for less than a year before our son arrived, so I was very used to spending nearly all of my day happily in solitude. Several people warned me about how much I would miss alone time once children arrived. But for me, the opposite was true. Now that all of my hours are filled with companionship and a love I didn’t know was possible, I feel a deep loneliness whenever my son and I are apart. Even when he is sleeping in the room right next door or happily playing with my husband while I work on a project, I miss him. I never could have expected that.
What is your parenting philosophy? I have no idea. And my guess is that even if I could articulate it well enough to manifest itself as a true philosophy, it would change as quickly as our toddler’s food preferences. That being said, I believe in the importance of scheduling and routine, and the importance of flexibility and spontaneity. I believe in healthy, farm-fresh food, as well as warm cookies. I believe in always having clean clothes, and constantly engaging in messy activities. I believe in spending as much time as possible with my children in order to inspire independence. I believe in laughter and giggles and always taking time to listen. I believe in constant love.
Where do you go for parenting advice? Most often I go to my own mom. She gives me the confidence to do whatever I think is best, which is really the best parenting advice that you can receive.
Best tip for a new parent: Be mindful of how your own mood constantly affects the mood of your children. There are certainly days when consistent calm, patience, and happiness can be a struggle to maintain, but it’s clearly reflected in how your children will act. Mindfulness will make your life much easier. Having children will make you a better person. Or, if you’re looking for something a bit more tangible, invest in a baby carrier. I still wear Henry often and find it’s the best way to maintain a happy kid while still doing what I need to do. And use cloth diapers! They are adorable, affordable, and so much easier than disposables.
Tell us about a few of your favorite family traditions. Perhaps breakfast occurs too frequently to be considered a family tradition, but it’s almost always my favorite part of the day. We are all full of energy in the morning and so excited to start our day. Plus, we grow delicious breakfast food :) We are fortunate enough to live in a town and be a part of a community with a ton of seasonal traditions (like watching Santa arrive on a tugboat and going caroling at Christmas time). We also live close enough to our extended families that we are able to continue a number of our traditions from childhood, which feels really special.
One thing that has fallen by the wayside since having kids and one thing you’ll never compromise on: I love a meticulously clean house and well-groomed yard, but during the busy farming season those things are no longer top priorities. I’m still learning to not let dusty floors and an overgrown garden not drive me crazy, but as long as things are tidy I’m content enough to fall asleep each night. I don’t ever compromise on cooking delicious food or making sure all of the laundry is clean and folded. We use cloth diapers and spend a lot of time outdoors getting dirty so we make a LOT of laundry, but I always make sure we have a clean start to the day.
Favorite book(s) to read with or to your kids: I certainly don’t have one favorite, but I really adore reading children’s books. Our son would be content reading the same tractor book over and over for hours each day, so I am mindful about constantly cycling through the books we own so that they always feel new and exciting. We purposely don’t own many books because I love to go to the library each week for new reading material.
What is your favorite part about having children? Aside from the constant love and laughter and obvious joys of parenthood? Once I became pregnant with Henry I felt instantly welcomed into the world of motherhood and a community of other mothers. I’m still so often touched at the kindness that comes from sharing a common experience with so many other people. While farming can be a relatively isolating profession, being a mother makes me instantly connected to people that I hardly even know.
One thing you are doing the same as your parents and one thing you are doing differently: Like my own parents, I give my son the space and materials he needs to explore and create. I get so much pleasure out of watching that process. Unlike my parents, I’m raising my children on a farm. That environment affects nearly every aspect of our lifestyle and I hope that one day they can appreciate how we choose to live.