Thursday, February 24, 2011

What's in a Name?

Living out in the country has its pros and cons. We own much more land -- acres! -- than we did back in the city. At 5,000 square feet, our home is also much bigger, and much less expensive, than the 900-square-foot bungalow the six of us used to occupy. Groceries are far less expensive, and the merchants in town actually remember not only your name but the names of your children, too. The views of the surrounding countryside are fabulous, especially since we are nestled between two state parks. We get all sorts of visitors: wild turkeys and deer, for starters, plus dozens of wild birds: bluebirds, four species of woodpeckers, goldfinches, orioles, titmice, nuthatches, grosbeaks, chickadees, hummingbirds, juncos, and many, many more. At night, the stars are glorious.

And now for the cons. It's almost 8 miles to the nearest market (another reason for having dairy goats!). In order for our older boys to arrive in time for the start of school at 8 AM, the school bus has to pick them up at 6:40 AM. And someone has to wake up the kids and make sure they're fed and have everything they need for the day. There are many more bugs out here (which will make our chickens very, very happy), and it's much more dusty, even with all the windows closed. When it snows, we're pretty much snowed in. We live on a state rural route which frequently gets plowed last, after the pull offs for the hunting areas. Just a few weeks ago, the school bus arrived, trailing about 40 feet behind a heavy-duty CAT construction vehicle with a snowplow attachment on the front, clearing the way to school for the kids. Lucky kids.

One of the biggest kinks in our country life is that, when we moved our family out here, we also moved my studio here as well. I have my own dedicated room, with its own separate entrance, its own thermostat/heating system, and its own parking lot. All of which is great... if you can find us. I tell most folks that we're this number driveways on the right from this major crossroad, which works most of the time, and usually when the light's still out. In the dead of winter, when we lose daylight at 5 PM, finding the studio (and our house) is your proverbial search for a needle in a haystack.

I contacted M, the township ordinance director, to see if there was any chance that I could put a sign up to let people know where we were. I noted that, across the road and about an eighth of a mile down, the neighbors had a sign for their business by the entrance to their driveway.

No go. Turns out that if you're an agricultural business, such as our neighbors' miniature donkey farm, you can have a sign by the road. If you're not, you're out of luck unless you're a "home occupation," like a guy who makes handmade arrows for a living. If you qualify as a home occupation, you can have a sign, as long as it's a flat sign no larger than four square feet, with no lighting, and mounted on the wall of the building where you do your home occupation.

In other words, no go. Our house isn't really visible from the road, so who would see a sign that small?

But now... now was totally different. Now we were raising chickens and, in our book, that meant we were now an agricultural business. We could have a sign! Just to make doubly sure, I headed over to the township office again and checked with M.

"Awww, you really want to have a sign?" he drawled. "Well, I can't stop you. About three square feet. Best bet is to go measure the sign just down the road from you. Maybe you can have it say 'fresh eggs' on it."

Maybe. Or maybe we could name our fledgling farm something that just coincidentally happened to match the name of the studio, so the sign might serve a dual purpose, representing both businesses. Hmmm.

J thought it was a great idea. "Sneaky, sneaky!" he commented when I explained the ordinances regarding the sign. "Why not?"

I immediately got to work. Our studio's name is FMA. I had to come up with a name for our farm that could be abbreviated to FMA. I had my legal pad out, my pencil in hand, and... I couldn't think of anything. Well, that's not quite true. I came up with several names, but none relating to agriculture. Frenzied Marketing Analysts, for example. Future Michigan Alum. Finance My Acreage.

After a day of carrying the notepad with me, I'd come up with some names that were borderline. J liked Family Managed Agriculture. I liked Farming Middle America. We both liked Freaking Moronic Amateurs, which certainly described us and which we joked about getting made into T-shirts to wear around our little farm. I promised I'd keep at it.

By the next day, I had read the entire A and F sections of the dictionary and had added a few more names to the list:

Fegetables Milk Aggs (okay, that one was a bit of a stretch, and we didn't have goats yet)
Forget Markets... Approach! (well, maybe not)
Farming Masters of America (this was our 17 year old son's suggestion)
Feathered and Milking Animals (yes, yes, I know... no goats yet)
Feathers Milk Apiary (I don't have a goat, and J doesn't have bees, but it sounded nice)
Free Mandela Again (nothing to do with agriculture, I know)

"I think Family Managed Agriculture it is," J commented upon reviewing my new list. Giving up, I tossed the notepad over by the breadbox and proceeded to make dinner. As I chopped and simmered and stirred, I kept tossing the word feathers in my mind. Not that I wanted a cutesy name, but since the chickens were going to be the mainstay of our little farm, I wanted it reflected in our name.

After dinner, I was scrubbing the counters when I came across Tractor Supply Company's magazine. The cover story described a husband and wife who had dedicated their farm to bringing back threatened heritage breeds of chickens, ducks, and turkeys. I turned the pages, mentally identifying the different hens and roosters in the photos. Suddenly, it struck me. I knew the breeds by sight because these were the same breeds we would be raising. We were raising only heritage breeds! I quickly grabbed the notepad, and within moments, I had Feathers Making Acomeback.

I know. Still a stretch, but what can you expect from Freaking Moronic Amateurs?

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