One Woman’s Journey to Self-Reliance
By Angela Rogalski
When Jake Keiser went from Gucci to goats it was an exercise in self-reliance. Keiser was a city girl with no adult experience of living anywhere other than in the urban world. And about ten years ago, this began to bother her.
“I lived in Tampa, Fla. and I had never touched a chicken in my life,” says Keiser. “I had my own marketing and PR firm, something as far from rural living as a person can get, and I couldn’t figure out why over the years that I lived there my own lack of self-reliance skills became a real concern for me. I had no real control over my life and no one around me did either. We all were completely at the mercy of a countless number of people from repair people, grocery stores, and any number of other factions. I didn’t even have control over the tap water chemicals I was consuming daily. And this began to really create an anxiety within me. I began to think, if something happened, I really had no skills to take care of myself. Oh, I could make money with my marketing firm, but I had no self-preservation skills that didn’t involve my career.”
Keiser says that a deep longing for a more authentic life began to grow within her, a life closer to nature where she could be more creative, peaceful and happy.
“I wanted to learn to grow things myself: herbs, vegetables, raise farm animals. I thought that one day I would retire to a farm, even though I knew nothing about farms and the farm life. But I began to feel an urgency about moving, about not waiting until retirement. So, when the opportunity came up, I quietly left Tampa, and moved to Oxford, Miss.”
Keiser lived and traveled around the world, but spent much of her youth in Mississippi and is a fourth generation Mississippian. She went to Ole Miss, and has family in Oxford, so she did have Mississippi roots, but they were far from countrified. So, when she left Fla., she admits that she didn’t even tell her clients at her marketing firm that she was leaving because she wasn’t sure if they would accept it.
“Moving from a place where there’s constant noise, lights everywhere and people, to a place where there’s no street lights, no noise, and virtually just me; to say I was skeptical if I could pull it off would be an understatement. And to add to the mix, there are coyotes, and any manner of predator that I didn’t plan for, didn’t know about; I just thought I was coming to a nice little farm to love on baby animals. Nobody told me about the dangers. But, I would just stare out my window in Tampa and dream about looking out at actual grass and not concrete.”
Keiser adds that while seeking self-reliance was the main reason for her complete 180, there were many personal and traumatic issues that she was going through that also prompted the change.
“But, those personal issues didn’t seem front and center when it came to my decision. I just felt burnt out, as if my soul was tired.” she says.
So, in November 2012, Keiser threw herself into an unfamiliar country lifestyle where she has raised any animal that seemed interesting to her, including: geese, quail, ducks and rabbits. Currently, she raises chickens, turkeys, geese and dairy goats on five acres of land in Lafayette County, land that she named Daffodil Hill, which is also the name of her debut memoir set to be published by Random House in the Spring of 2022.
“I never saw daffodils growing in Florida, and they signify new beginnings and transformation, so I thought it was fitting,” she explains. “And, after eight and a half years, I’d have to say it was the best decision that I’ve ever made.”
Raising her animals for eggs and milk and having an actual garden where she grew her own vegetables had become a necessity for Keiser, not just a dream. So she had to learn everything in a trial-by-error method.
“The first few years were very difficult,” she admits. “And I mean just to acclimate myself physically to a place where the environment was so foreign to me. No lights, just nature. It was a big culture shock. And the silence was really hard for me too. And getting to know the people in my neighborhood, I was so different, yet they were wonderful to me. And learning that time isn’t as important here as it is somewhere like Tampa.”
“As far as the animals, overtime I have figured out what I’m good at raising and which animals actually appealed to me,” she continues. “What was easier for me to deal with, because I do this by myself. And, it hasn’t been easy. I was a very ‘city’ type person and this is the land of broken nails, hard work and sweat. I didn’t like any of that stuff before. I learned to grow my own veggies, of course and I plan on getting bees very soon. I’m intimidated but excited about the bees to come.”
Keiser started her own blog “Gucci to Goats” while she was still living in Tampa.
“I really loved high-end brands, hence the name,” she says. “I was definitely into labels when I was in the city. I had no designs on moving to the country when I started my blog. I was just trying to figure out how I could be more self-reliant while living in the city. So, I started making my own lip balm and almond milk, instead of buying it. And, I began to realize that there’s a whole new world out there; if it’s in the grocery store, I can probably make it at home and usually better.”
Today, Keiser is still writing her blog and she is working on her own line of more sophisticated and sleek things for farm people who may have once been city people.
“I’m trying to marry who I was to who I am now,” she explains. “When I go shopping for farm supplies or things for my home, everything is so cutesy or for men. And that’s not what I want. Maybe there are farming folks out there who don’t think they should have to wear jeans and plaid all the time. I’m creating a new line of gardening items as well. I’m just taking everything that I’ve learned and I’m trying to help people become more self-reliant themselves. Self-reliance is self-empowerment. I had never started a fire in my life, but I had a fireplace, so I had to learn how to do it. I didn’t know that unseasoned wood is harder to keep lit, but I do now. I can now shoot a gun and not be afraid of it. You learn even small skills and you feel totally empowered.”
Keiser’s line of farm apparel, farm supplies and home décor will be available for purchase online prior to her book launch. Follow her Facebook page or Instagram (@Gucci_to_Goats) for updates. www.facebook.com/GuccitoGoats
Keiser says that since moving to her country paradise, she has found that self-reliance and that more authentic life she was looking for.
“I have become much stronger since redefining my entire future. I intend to keep growing this lifestyle that I have come to love. And, I’m happy. Other than my faith, there is nothing better than empowering one’s self and community through self-reliance.”
Jake Keiser’s memoirs “Daffodil Hill” will be available in the Spring of 2022 from Random House and will be about her city-to-country transformation and working through devastating personal issues that threatened to destroy her.