Often times, farm life is romanticized. In fact yesterday I wrote a post dealing with this exact subject.
I can’t tell you the number of friends I know who have come to our farm and have been inspired to start a garden or get a flock of chickens. Often the romance lasts a few years and then they get over it…they find a new hobby, they don’t build the fence that’s required to keep goats, They get tired of cleaning their chicken coops, the kids have summer activities and the garden doesn’t get weeded.
And it fizzles. Which is fine. There is no judgment from me. To live the homesteading life…to really jump in, you have to love it. You have to have passion. And it’s wonderful that we live in a time where we have the luxury of choosing this lifestyle. It’s not for everyone, it doesn’t have to be anymore and with good reason. It’s a lot of work.
By no means am I discouraging ANYONE from being inspired to start a homestead. Quite the opposite really. I think that everyone should at least try homesteading. I think that you will learn a LOT about hard work, learn what you’re made of and learn to appreciate what goes into the food we eat, and the products that come from the earth.
But you have to love the work.
I think to be truly happy in homesteading you have to love the work of it all. You can’t just love the product. The basket of eggs, the canned jellies, the finished cheeses. You have to love the process too.
You have to find an element of joy in even the grossest most mundane tasks. And you have to be able to laugh. Laugh at the life of it all.
There is the “idea” of the farm. This is what we all fall in love with right? The romance…the art…the bucolic imaginings of gathering eggs into a chicken shaped wire basket each morning as the dew dries on the grass with the rising of the sun. Not only is this the stuff of poetry, but it happens…it really happens when you have a homestead!
But there are also days when a rotten egg breaks open in some unknown corner of the barn and the stench is enough to take your breath away. And you have to find a pitchfork and search out the stench and hold your shirt over your nose while you battle with a grocery bag and wiggling maggots while you tie it up without getting any goo on you.
There are those days too.
You have to accept death.
Death happens on farms. Animals get sick, animals that you love, ones that you sit out all night in urine soaked straw trying to get them to eat or drink. Animals that you spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars on medical treatments. Those die too. And sometimes, the hardest of them all is when an animal requires mercy. And you bless them with an end to their suffering. And you have to go out and dig a “goat size” hole and bury them. And if they die in the winter you have to wrap them in a tarp, let them freeze and set them in a corner of your barn until the ground thaws. And every time you go in that corner, you know they’re there. And you know they have to be buried in the spring. And it’s hard. It’s really hard.
And there is joy in birth
There’s the egg-y animal smell of wet feathers and blood that comes from a freshly opened incubator. As you lift that first damp chick out and glare into its glossy eyes.
Or the spring kid that’s born too early in winter’s cold. You wrap in your winter coat soaked in the fluids of birth and bring into your home to get warm and to feed it its first bottle. You see that baby cough and shake its ears and an exhausted smile comes to your lips.
You have to love the work
Or there’s haying. Where the sun beats down on your sweat-soaked head as you hoist 60-pound bales onto a wagon. Every inch of your body is stuck with dusty, dry, itchy, fragments. You will blow your nose that night and it will be brown with dust. Your arms sting with hay rash, tiny cuts on the tender part of your forearm where the sharp stalks of hay stick in.
But you have to love the work
And equipment breaks. And what was supposed to be an easy day of tilling the field ends up with you lying under a tractor with black grease under your nails and driveway gravel stuck to your back.
But you have to love the work
And there’s the week-long rainy spell, where the weeds completely take over your crop or garden. And you end up spending the next week digging out your intended plants, yanking and pulling the wild foliage until your hands are blistered.
There is a passion in homesteading that takes some of us over. A calling that speaks to our soul. A sleeping desire that has been pressed down by civilization and the movement away from the land.
The call comes in the satisfaction of work. It’s the good pain you feel in your muscles at the end of the day. The heat that radiates off a sunburn after the moon rises for the night, the scaly skin from having your hands in the dirt, in the earth, in the land. It’s proof that you lived. And that’s why we love the work.