The Joy of Progress



In this instantaneous world, we want what we want when we want it and how we want it. Period. Using a microwave, we can have a meal in minutes. With cell phones, we can get all our calls now. And if we have a question, we can access the internet and have more answers than we can handle before we even walk out the door to start the car to go to the library. With all these instant results, we seem to have somehow lost the ability to wait – and enjoy that wait.

On the farm, there is very little that applies to the ‘I want it NOW’ syndrome. It takes at least 21 days to hatch a chicken, and then another six months before you can hope for them to start laying. A cow’s gestation period is nine months, and then you are looking at another eighteen months, minimum, before it can either breed or be used for beef. From seed to tomato, you are looking at no less than 90 days. There is a lot of ‘hurry up and wait’ going on around here.

And that’s only if disaster doesn’t strike. Chickens are susceptible to respiratory and other fatal diseases. Predators are a threat to all of the animals. With cows, you are always watching for signs of bloat, mineral deficiencies, foot rot and other ailments. The garden will quickly show signs of aphids, tomato hornworms and other pests, as well as lack of water and nutrients, or being choked out by weeds. Bees are subject to Colony Collapse Disorder, predators, swarming and lack of food.

The Country Boy and I have had no choice but to learn how to wait, and how to do it well. On day one, we will load the incubator with eggs to be hatched. Over the next 21 days, we will ‘feed’ the incubator with water to keep the humidity level up, and check the temperature to make sure it stays as close to 99 degrees as possible. About a week before the due date, we spend time setting up the brooder, making sure the temp will stay consistent. From day 19 and on, we check daily for signs of hatching. Once a chick is out of its shell, we quickly scoop it up and place it in the brooder. We then fill water and feed containers, even though the chick won’t start eating and drinking for up to 24 hours after birth. As the other eggs hatch, we move the new chicks in, and begin the regiment of ‘teaching’ the chicks where their meals are by dipping each beak into the water, and then into the feed, several times a day until they figure it out. From there, it’s just a matter of keeping them warm and fed until they can be integrated with the other chickens.

We consider the rest of our ‘wait’ time an opportunity for maintenance. We feed, we mow, we weed, we hoe. We check, we feed, we fix, we weed some more. We fertilize, we water, we grab a bucket and pluck off those hornworms, and offer them to the chickens as treats. And it is in that waiting period that we can see progress. We may not put an egg in the incubator today, and gather eggs for an omelet from that chicken the next day, but we still know and see progress in action.

And watching progress in action is where joy is. To know we have been patient while watching a cow in labor, to wait for an egg to hatch, to tie up the tomato plants during a growth spurt, we can feel the joy increasing in our hearts that one day, we’ll be loving on a baby calf, feeling the soft fuzz of a chick against our cheek and sitting down to a delicious salad made from fresh produce from our garden.

To receive any of this instantly means we miss out on the incubation period of joy. Each day we work hard towards a goal. Each moment of waiting gives joy a little time to incubate. Each check, each weed plucked out, each chicken treat, each feeding, we are given precious time to reflect, enjoy the journey and dream of the final outcome.

Don’t miss out on all the joy progress brings by demanding instant results. Instead, enjoy the journey. Allow the joy to incubate, to grow, to build a strong heart that can hold all that wonder, until it builds strong enough to pour out of you with smiles, leaps of happiness and lots of laughter. There is not a microwave meal in the world that can beat it.

Julie Murphree is a blogger, newspaper columnist, and speaker on all things ‘Living a Simple Life on the Farm’. She is the author of \'The Farm Wife – Living a Simple Life on the Farm. She and her husband have 60 acres in NW Louisiana where they actively work on living as sustainable as possible.

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