“Pardon me, but my father says that it is a lie that Americans have everything. You have no sheep, no goats, no trees, no oil, no vines, no wine, not even chickens. He asks, ‘What kind of life is that?’ He says, ‘No wonder you don’t sing or dance or recite poetry very often.”

Robert Fulghum, What On Earth Have I Done?: Stories, Observations, and Affirmations

 

I have a collection of farm quotes, and each one of them has quite a bit of merit, even if spoken ‘tongue in cheek’. But some, like this one, speaks to my very soul.

I have often spoken of the fact that, as of the day I stepped foot on my farm for the first time, I finally knew what contentment really was. The calmness and peace in my heart was overwhelming. Even my mind shut down for a few moments, only able to contain the awe and beauty of our new life.

Fourteen years have passed, and I find that I am still content. But the ‘fairy tale’ side that I first viewed has dimmed somewhat. Wanda Patsche at Minnesota Farm Living (http://www.mnfarmliving.com/) says it best. “As farmers, we need to make a profit. We need to pay our bills and make repairs and upgrades. We also need to put food on our table. If we don’t make a profit, farming is not sustainable. Period.” There is a tremendous amount of work involved on a farm – from caring for animals, cleaning out their living quarters, cutting hay, growing food, cutting firewood – the list goes on and on ad nauseum. Every morning we rise early, take care of inside business while it is still dark, and as soon as we can barely make out the outline of the barn, we head outside to start working. But no matter how many ways we implement to help our farm’s bottom financial line, we still have to work in time to go to jobs off farm just to make ends meet. Rarely is there any ‘extra’ money, but somehow, there seems to be just enough. If we don’t have a crisis.

Still, the contentment and love for the farm continuing to burn brightly. In spite of the workload and hardships, there is still a reason to ‘sing and dance and recite poetry’ every day. Just being on a farm, walking outside onto one of the few open spaces left in the world is enough. But to breathe in fresh air, listen to the songs of Nature, watching the calves as they leap and run, the antics of the chickens as they play with their lettuce ball, and seeing the smiles of the dogs as they play chase in the pastures is enough to begin singing your own song.

Then it gets even better. In the evening, you finally get to come in and wash off some of that dirt, grime and sweat. You turn and sit down at your table, with a plate in front of you that is heavy with the fruits of last summer’s labor. You bow your head in prayer and thank God for a life that is full – of honest work, heavy harvests and coated in joy.

I’m more than certain that if you handed Wanda Patsche a done-deal deed to a condo in a big city and plenty of money to ‘sustain’ herself for the rest of her life, she would simply smile, shake her head, decline the offer and ask, “Can you give me a hand with this pig? She’s in labor and I want to be the first to see the babies!”

A simple life doesn’t mean an easy one. But a life free from the chains and tethers of busyness just for the sake of being busy, techie gear and abbreviated conversations that never have need for voice, waking up to and fighting traffic all day or being caged in an office just doesn’t offer the peace and joy your soul needs to thrive. Yes, you may have to spend a little time in an office or at the dining room table paying bills and wondering if there will ever be enough to do so without juggling, but the way I figure it, I’d have to do that in the city, as well. Why not do it in a setting that is about as close to Paradise as you can get? At least I can walk out and relieve my financial worries down at the pond, or take my frustrations out on weeds in the garden. And I know it won’t be long before a smile will stretch across my face as I watch the crazy calves in the pasture.

Yes, Mr. Fulgham. I know what on earth I have done. I have created a life full of song, dance, poetry and joy. I’ll keep my hard work and heartaches. Just let me have my farm.

 

For great posts on another type of farm living, visit Wanda Patsche at Minnesota Farm Living. She farms on a much grander scale than we do, but I’m willing to bet she sings louder than me!