Years ago, as a kindergarten teacher, I took a classroom to a farm for a field trip and fell in love with the lifestyle that couple had. It was the middle of the week and both husband and wife were home, working together and enjoying the thrill of the combination of kids and animals. That day planted a seed in my soul, a seed that came to fruition 20 years later.
Bill and I have been hobby farming for quite a while, always with a garden, and slowly adding more animals to the barn. When we moved from the city to the country, I was amazed the difference those 18 miles made. There was nothing about our schedule that was the same, except for having coffee in the morning. Chores are a twice a day task. Animals require food to give us food. The expenses could carry us away if we aren't diligent with how we store and grow food ourselves for them.
Caring for animals, discovering a calf in the back pasture that we didn't know we were expecting, and the daily hunt for eggs, goat kids bouncing through the barn...it's all a beautiful. Then there are days we help our goats birth the kids, find rotten eggs, have to mercifully put an animal down. Those are not as beautiful, but an adventuresome part of the whole picture.
There is a hidden joy in farming: it's a whole new way of living. There is no internet and no cable where we live. We have propane heat and a view that makes it all worth it. Our days are governed by the needs of the family, the animals, and at the mercy of the weather. We can and freeze the produce for the winter. I haven't yet mastered the art of fermenting, but there is still time. The 'simple' life of farming is far from simple and I am never bored.
The joys are found in the lack of straight rows in my garden. I just can't seem to master that skill! The weeds are an every present challenge, I watch the weather like a soap opera, and when we head down to do chores, the chickens race to greet us when we enter the barn pasture. We buried an entire litter of kittens over the last few days and we lost a duck to some hungry animal. (Update: it was a fox and our total loss came to three ducks and 13 chickens. Definitely a challenge!) Even in those more difficult moments, my husband remains calm. Just a few months ago, a barn my husband and his brother are building for hay storage was blown over during a wind storm. Bill simply noted the collapse, sighed, and continued with chores. I admire his level attitude and try follow in his example.
Farming and gardening, and doing it for an income has raised my awareness of the blessings we have. I walked into this thinking that good days would be sunny, warm, and filled with baby animals in the barn. It's so much more than that. The good days are when the jobs are completed and we do them together; when friends and family come over to enjoy the property, and when I can provide food for the local food pantry. The good days are when we are exhausted from baling and storing hay in the barn and no one was injured. Good days also have sweet rains and mild breezes. But the forces of Mother Nature are very real and the wind does gust and carry away tarps and blow over my portable hoop house frames. The late freezes shrivel up the peach blossoms unless we set small fires throughout the orchard and manage them all night. We are tied to the property because of the animals, but those ties don't feel like chains, but links to what we love to do.
I think often of that couple who hosted my kindergarten class and I would love to thank them for inspiring me to follow in their footsteps. I hope that Bill and I can do the same for someone; someone who knows there is more to life than simply driving to and from work and streaming shows and movies to pass the time. There is a life in the country, a life filled with blessings and adventure, but a life that is so worth the challenge!