Happy New Year! (a little late, I know)
“Sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset, swiftly fly the years.”
This line from the wedding scene in the famous motion picture “Fiddler on the Roof” comes to my mind at the close of each year, as I reflect on and record the highlights of the previous 12 months. It is a family custom to write down the main events, a tradition which serves as a valuable exercise for introspection. To quote Socrates; “The un-reflected life is not worth living” The dawn of a new year is a good time to take stock. Where am I going? Is my life heading in the right direction? What are the missteps of the year gone by that I will attempt to avoid this year? What are the blessings I’ve received? To be able to ask these questions, honestly delving into our own activities and scrutinizing the good and the bad, is a sign of personal health and psychological integrity, which can lead to greater humility, but at the same time, confidence in the future. We all make mistakes, experience failure and hardship, but life goes on and we continue to learn and grow. That’s the deal! Spending a good chunk of time looking back over the previous year helps me put the struggles into context. Many blessings have come to me in 2023. Lots of things didn’t go the way I planned, but I’m still here and I still have potential to do better in 2024. As “Anne with an E” said “Tomorrow is a brand new day with no mistakes in it!”
2023 was a momentous year for our family with no less than 4 new babies coming to; Dave and Peggie (“Robbie” born March 17th), Drew and Olivia (“Alice” born April 15th), Ted Jr. and Leslie (Thea born Dec.9), and Mark and Emily (Elanor born Dec.22). All safely delivered and healthy – thanks be to God.
This Christmas, with two families expecting so close to the holidays, we decided not to have everyone together, but to have each family visit individually with Gran and Grampa. The crowd of children is big enough now that even with a rented hall, the noise and commotion of 37 children (16 yrs down to babies) and 15 adults can make your head spin. We will save the big gatherings for outside in the summertime.
The extended Zettel family accompanied Jonathan, our nephew, through a battle with cancer that ended in his death in September at the age of 47. The way Jon’s 8 siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles rallied around him and supported his wife Robin and their 4 children was an inspiration to me, and confirmed for me the inestimable value of belonging to a family. If you, like myself, have grown up in a big, close family, if your childhood memories are of happy, festive times with brothers, sisters and cousins, you should give thanks. As I grow older, I recognize that I have often taken this great treasure for granted. I am the recipient of immeasureable, unmerited benefits, simply by being born into the spot where I landed. Many are not so richly blessed.
The enterprise which connects you, the reader and myself (which is supposed to be the subject material of these News updates) – Zettel Family Farms – has as its primary goal the continuation of a way of life which is our heritage. Our ancestors were among the early pioneers who cleared the land about 150 years ago. Sam’s children, growing up on “the home farm” are the 6th generation of Zettels to inhabit that chunk of land. Farming has changed a lot in that time and for most of our neighbours it is a high tech volatile business opportunity. Specialization and scaling up are the order of the day, with migrant workers doing the work and farmers who spend their time managing data and technology. Fewer and fewer are the families who live on the farm and make their living from it. We have determined that, in a way, we are responsible to preserve this option for future generations – not the industrial model involving thousand of acres and specialized, intensive confinement of livestock, but a smaller scale family farm, where children can grow up working with their parents, learning to respect and care for the land and the animals. It’s an uphill battle. The labour efficiency of the mainstream model is a huge advantage that we voluntarily forgo by choosing to stay relatively small and diversified. Will we succeed? I’ll check in with you and report back at the end of 2024.