Sometimes I want to downplay what we’re doing here on the farm as “lesser,” to diminish our dreams and hard work because we aren’t moving hundreds of free range animals to new pasture each day or because we aren’t planting crops and harvesting them with draft horses. Those are the ideas of farming that come to mind for me, no doubt shaped by trips through Lancaster County, PA and my father’s own appreciation for the beauty of farmland.
But mostly, I know that what we are doing is just right, hard work, and lots of beauty.
So here are the 10 things I’ve learned about farming so far:
1. It is futile to get yourself or your farmhouse floor clean if your expectation is for it to stay that way. I have never vacuumed so much or showered so little. 🙂
2. A proper order of activities is imperative. Clean coop, feed puppies, clean out litter boxes, pet goats, weed garden first. Shower second, if showering seems important. (See #1)
3. Have a pair of farm shoes at every door. I now leave my shoes off most of the time when inside (See #1), but I need shoes close by in case I hear the guineas sound their alert or if Boone lets out his raspy bellow of a bark when he seems something amiss.
4. Own waterproof shoes. I have these great rubber shoes that I use in the mornings because the grass is always wet with dew and because, well, poop. (See #1)
5. A routine is beautiful. I get up each morning between 6 and 6:30, 7 days a week, and head out to feed the crew. Sometimes, the chickens are sleepy, so I just open doors and plan to return. Then, I feed the dogs, then the goats, then the kittens, and then Meander. (The indoor cats eat at night). This routine pushes me into the day at just the right speed and with the burst of joy that comes when animals who love you see you coming.
6. Physical tiredness is a gift. I spend most of my days at this computer – 10, maybe 12 hours. So my mind is exhausted, but my body often isn’t. But with animals, a garden, and still much work to do on the land, my body is often worked, too, if for only a bit in the evenings. This feels healthy – all round – to have my mental energy and my physical energy meet.
7. Rest is important. Philip and I can push pretty hard from first light to last light. (He is especially hard-working. I like So You Think You Can Dance.) But we are learning that we can’t go that hard all the time, that we need rest, and resting time together.
8. Watching Brings Joy. I can honestly stand in the chicken run and watch those birds peck for hours. They’re quirky movements, their social hierarchy – it’s all amazing to me. And then when the goats and puppies run, I’m watching something so naturally beautiful and powerful that it almost steals my breath.
9. Quiet is never overrated. Our farm sits just up the mountain from a rural highway, so the noise of traffic is fairly constant at the farmhouse. But if you walk up the hill into the woods just a few feet, that noise drops away, the temperature falls, and it’s like gift has descended from the trees.
10. Farming is for everyone. While not everyone is called to do what we do, or to have a full farm, it is possible for many people to grow their own food, to support a local farmer with their purchases, to visit farms and learn about the work required to produce food, to spend time with animals on farm to appreciate the way animals bring us joy. Not everyone may like to deal with chicken poop (okay, I don’t really know anyone who LIKES that), but the beauty of the farm is available to anyone – here, and I expect at many healthy farms around the world. We just have to want to see it.
So farmers, what have you learned in your experience? Potential farmers or farm lovers, any questions I can try to answer in upcoming posts?
Don’t forget to check out our farm store for ways you can support our work here and to get tickets for upcoming concerts.