It is hard to believe that January 16th marked our two year anniversary on the farm. Two years, 6 goats, 2 Great Pyrenees rescues, 11 ducks, too many chickens to keep track of with more coming, and I do not count the Guinea Fowl ever…

chickens on the farm at sugar water manor

But the biggest thing to happen to us this year happened in December – eight months late due to Covid-19 – but, WE DID IT…We opened Sugar Water Manor!

The Birth of Sugar Water Manor

After years of traveling the world, writing about places, communities, people, food, farms and what brings them all together, I opened my very own Lodge with two lodge houses and a loft. Three independent places for people to escape and come stay on our farm.

No, we are not a commercial farm, but I do provide food for my family, guests and community. Our neighbors have large family farms that do produce at a commercial volume. But I built a farm that others could learn from and be nourished.

I did not set out on this journey. I just wanted to find a little piece of land on open water where I could have a garden. Well, we found it and with so many additional buildings, it opened up a whole world of opportunities.

on the farm buildings

I have always had a passion for connecting people to their food and providing information on farmers, food and their relationship to the land. Creating content that allows people to read about and see images of what I have learned on my journeys naturally followed.

But not everyone has the opportunity or desire to travel to learn about their food or to grow their own food. So, I wanted to find a way to use my farm to share with others. That’s how Sugar Water Manor was born!

Enter Covid On the Farm

Year two on the farm started out strong in so many ways…well, except that I did have a cast on my leg and two bottle-fed baby goats in my kitchen. Yea, that was fun. Actually, it really was! Seeding and construction on the lodge houses and loft was in full swing. We had a full staff here working to get us ready to open. And then…

Best laid plans, right? Well – in comes full stop- Covid 19 and a screeching halt to life as we knew it.

Due to Covid-related restrictions, our staff was gone and I was solo…still with a cast and my baby goats. And seeding in the garden house couldn’t wait, so I moved forward alone. It was really tough. I was so exhausted and emotionally drained. It was way too much, but we were healthy and David was still working, unlike so many others.

March brought the shut downs and both of my children and their significant others came home to the farm. It was so wonderful having additional hands on the weekends when everyone was not working.

on the farm with the family

Working… That was a whole new world. Here on the farm, we have no WiFi and no satellite. What we did have were 8 people working remotely full-time from the farm. I suddenly became mom, farmer, cook, business owner and IT pro. It was a Hot Spot world.

But honestly I was in heaven. I had everyone here and I was able to provide them meals. My world was complete. Well, at least inside the protective acres of the farm.

We all got into the swing of daily life on the farm and everyone pitched in. One person took their afternoon break and fed the goats treats, while others helped walking the inside dogs, and everyone helped plant, tend to the gardens and harvest.

The Lodge houses and loft slowly were completed. We wanted to help the community by moving construction along, but we only had one vendor on property at a time. This allowed for super safe social distancing. 

the farmhouse at sugar water manor

Inner Challenges On the Farm

The summer brought new inner challenges. Black Lives Matter hit hard with the uncomfortable realization that I did not have a full understanding of the issues. I dove into reading, listening and learning. Then, I moved into action.

I realized that all my volunteering is for a purpose and that yes, I can be silent and be working hard in the background while sharing my journey. I was torn apart for not using my platforms enough and praised for sharing and volunteering. I learned I needed to feel I was doing all I could for my community and beyond. The process started with inner reflection and then, acting.

Covid got worse and I got even more scared, especially with the elections in site. I felt I had to do even more and once again, my days were even more consumed with volunteering. What I needed were more hours in the day, what I settled for was a pivot.

My son and his girlfriend had to head back to Chicago at the end of the summer due to medical school. Although by heart broke as I wanted everyone here on the farm during this time, we got it. While my daughter and her boyfriend were settling in for the long haul, they moved into one of the lodge houses, which by October, were all finished.

Then, Zoe had to have surgery, double front elbow surgery. With her being deaf, having high anxiety when not with her brother and not being able to be with her brother, my year ended as it started. I was sleeping downstairs, but this time with an 80 pound fluff ball who liked to party at 3AM.

dana and zoe on the farm

By this time, being 18 months late on the kitchen renovation, we were quickly loosing a functioning kitchen. Literally, appliances and pipes were breaking in front of our eyes. 

What the Farm Taught Me in Year Two 

The year over all was weird for everyone around the world and I cannot complain one bit. Yes, I was worried, stressed, and had high anxiety. Yes, I had to pivot in my businesses and opening our new business. Yes, I missed family and friends like crazy. But I was able to grow food for my family and community. I worked had to help our country and I cried a lot as did everyone.

Our second year on the farm was a challenge for different reasons than year one. I had to learn to balance all factors of my life and work even better. I had to always be adaptable to handle whatever curve ball life was going to throw me – which it did – and I had to do all I could to help our community.

While many around the country find it hard to see the bigger picture beyond their world for various reasons, I needed to find a way to make up for them. People tell me all the time that I cannot control nor worry about the choices that others make. But, this year I learned that not only do I need to worry about them, but I need to do something about them. So, I did all I could.

The farm taught me in year two that it is bigger than these near 70 acres; that you can always do more and you always need to see further and act bigger to make up for those who cannot. The farm taught me that working beyond these 70 acres helps these 70 acres grow even more. But the farm also taught me to take time to sit by an open fire, take in the sunset, and just breathe.

sugar water manor view of water

2021 – Let’s do more.