Yes, that’s a real word ... look it up.

We call our place Ottinger Oaks. “Oaks” fits with Ottinger, and I love oak trees. But then I love most trees.

Our place is just under 10 acres and has an awesome stocked pond, great views, and critters! Lots of you ask me about keeping up with things, about the chickens, goats and ducks, and about managing chores as I get older. I come from a long line of agrarians, and most of them worked the land until they died. I think it’s kind of like buying “collectibles”: It can’t be about the profit later, it has to be about the love for the item ... or land.

The chicken/goat/tool house was finished last year and this spring we started our chicken flock. There are three little silkies (two roosters named Blue-roo and Goldie-roo) and a tiny black hen named Blackie, then there are the red and black full-sized hens, totaling 15.

Ever since I was a child helping my grandparents gather eggs, I’ve been fascinated with the perfect little delicious miracle each one is. I’m thrilled to gather our beautiful eggs each day, and I thank the girls for their yield.

In addition to their eggs they have torn up every flower box to do dust baths in them; they’ve diligently scratched up all parts of the garden looking for worms and grubs, even uprooting plants I would’ve liked to keep. They poop on the porch and scratch all the mulch from the beds into the yard, and I love ‘em!

Next year there will be a fence around the garden, barriers in front of the beds and covers on the flower boxes, and on we’ll go.

The ducks were an accident. I love ducks but they usually get killed pretty soon after letting them loose. We were at the store getting chicks; there was a tub filled with fluffy little ducklings, three of which were getting trampled. I told the manager, who asked if I wanted them. I was sure I could revive them. We did, and they thrived. The first week we let them loose we lost one. After that we began driving them into the goat paddock, and we still have the two hens, Daffy and Daisy. We don’t drive them in anymore; they go on their own about dusk.

Daffy and Daisy are terrified of the pond. They swim in dishpans up by the henhouse, and they love being sprayed with the hose. They play in the rain and in mud holes, but no pond. We get two wonderful eggs from these girls everyday.

They, too, poop on the porch and play in the mulch, but we love watching and listening to their “conversation.” These winged creatures have a community, gossip, complain, brag and pick on the weak, much like humans. They make me smile, give me food for thought, and are good therapy.

Doobie, Ziggy, and Scoobie are our goats. They poop and eat, and we love them!

Of course there are the dogs, Rascal, Tori, Snickers and Murphy, and the cats, Barney and Yuma. Each life adds to the complexity and satisfaction with their dedicated loyalty — no strings attached.

Farmette life isn’t easy. It’s hot, dirty, taxing ... but it’s satisfying in a way nothing else is. Watching sunrises and sunsets while my critters busy themselves around me; finding the first tiny seedling you were hoping for, successfully moving a transplant and watching it flourish ... this is worth all the tough stuff.

I understand Maw Henry, Papaw, and ancestors I never knew, and I feel the deep connection to them and the land each time I weed, hoe, dig, plant, water, and muck out stalls. This is good ... and right.

Have you signed up for the 2019 Regenerative Agricultural Summit yet?

Registration will be taken until the actual event on Sept. 26-28, which will be held at the UT Ag Research Center, right here in Greeneville! Regenerative agriculture: improves water cycles, enhances ecosystem services, increases resilience to climate fluctuation and strengthens the health and vitality of farming/ranching communities.

Anyone who loves the land and is concerned for the soil should be attending this. Call 800-788-4709 for registration or info.

C’mon, dirtfolks!

Sherrie “The Dirt Girl” Ottinger is a dedicated ecologist, speaker, writer and lifetime Tennessean. All comments and questions should be emailed to