Self-sufficiency isn’t for sissies. Unless you are independently wealthy or have an off-farm job that pays extremely well and you can hire hands, the work is on your shoulders. If you have children, you may have a few ‘foot soldiers’ to help, but as for our farm, we are an Army of Two, with Randy being an Army of One when it comes to most of the heavier chores. It is physically hard work and can be mentally challenging. Some days you feel like you are a balancing act on a high wire. And on a rare occasion, you can sit back and just enjoy the spoils of war. But not yesterday. And not today, either. And probably not for the foreseeable future…

Yesterday, we spent the largest part of our waking hours at a neighbor’s. He had a 60’ oak tree that split, and half of it fell across his garden. Perfect for firewood. Johnny offered the tree to Randy, and since we only have wood-fired heat in our house, he jumped on the chance. We set off early yesterday morning and began the work.

We are blessed with great neighbors. Kevin, another friend and neighbor, offered to come help. Between the two of them, they got the majority of the tree blocked up. While they were wielding chain saws, I stood at the splitter and reduced the smaller of the blocks into logs, then tossed them in a trailer. In the early part of the day, we were in shade, which made it much cooler to work. By 3:00 in the afternoon, we felt every degree of the 100 degrees the sun had to offer. We were drenched and exhausted. Kevin left around 2:00, and Randy and I split a few more of the larger blocks before packing it in. At home, we still had to unload the trailer load of wood and stack it in racks, and get geared up for going back in the morning to finish the job.

Being self-sufficient means that you have to be willing to work every day, regardless of the weather. Summer means garden, hay and mowing grass. Randy has spent 14 days straight in the hay field on a tractor. When the firewood job is completed, he will be back on the tractor, trying to get as much hay as possible from at least three more fields. Some of that hay will be stored to feed ours and Danny’s cows this winter. Some of it will be sold to provide income for our farm. (In fact, 54 rolls have already been sold, and the man wants at least that many more.)

Summer mornings you will find me in the garden, hoeing, tilling and weeding. Summer afternoons you will find me either in the kitchen preserving the harvest, or outside mowing the grass, tending to animals or other chores.

There are days when the weather is 20 degrees and filled with rain and sleet. It’s usually those days when the cows break out of the pasture or decide to give birth at midnight, and we are shivering our way through repairing fence lines or carrying soaking wet calves into a dry and warmer barn. In the winter, hay has to be put into four different rings, which means four trips on the tractor. It also means equipment maintenance, barn cleaning, processing pigs or deer and running the smoke house. It’s those really cold days that we relish the idea of having to stay inside to put up sausage or meat. Even if it means we are up until after midnight, we still are inside out of the nasty weather.

Regardless of the time of year, we still have to feed chickens twice a day and cows once. Eggs are gathered daily, and the chicken coop needs to be cleaned out at least twice a month, if not three times. With the exception of two months out of the year, the cow has to be milked, and something has to be done with that milk. And in addition to all the on farm work, we have to maintain off-farm jobs to bring in enough money to help us offset all the expenses of maintaining the self-sufficiency craziness.

Regardless of the work load and the inclement weather, there is a certain pride in knowing that, at the end of the day, you have ‘earned your keep’ on a farm. This winter, when I am sitting by a warm fire with a good book, I will be able to appreciate all the hard work we did in cutting up the tree in Johnny’s yard. When I sit down to a meal of thick hearty stew and a loaf of homemade bread, I can honestly thank God for the harvest He provided, because much of what goes into that meal was grown by us in our garden. When I open my freezer and see rows of creamy yellow butter, I realize that all those bruises from Bossy’s Ninja-kicks were well worth the efforts. And when I see happy calves, leaping and playing in the pastures, my heart is warmed, making me forget a little bit about how cold the rescue that saved its life was.

Hard work really does have its own rewards. You may not see it as clearly when you are in the heat (or frost) of battle, but in time, you will reap the benefits of your efforts. Which will make today a little easier, when I am standing outside listening to the drone of a log splitter and hearing the wood split into and the thud of another log hitting the trailer.

And to think that we get to do this all over again next year. Johnny has two more 60-foot + oak trees that are needing to come down, and he has offered one of them to us. I think I am going to hope he fells them in early spring – I am ready to do that ‘sit back and enjoy the spoils’ part for a day!