Right now, I am sweaty, probably smelly (although I’m not sure I smell myself yet), and gross. Chicken coop gross. . . and I feel wonderful.
I just cleaned up the pine shavings in the coop, scrubbed the waterers and gave the gals and Xander fresh water, and handed them a huge stack of the spent green bean plants. They’ll be happy all day.
One thing that farming with animals has taught me is that there are lots of gross jobs, jobs that – honestly – I’d rather not do – flinging giant piles of puppy poo, scraping boards free of chicken poo, giving the goats worming medicine (although we’re going to try some natural methods for worming from here on), weeding – oh blessed weeding that never ends.
But every one of those gross jobs is necessary, life-giving and life-saving in the most fundamental ways. Chickens can get very sick and die from aspirating their own droppings. Puppies and goats don’t do well walking and laying in their own excrement. And goats get worms all the time and can die from that, too. To keep these precious creatures alive and well, I have to do gross things, jobs I don’t really enjoy.
That is, until they are done. When these jobs are finished – when the coop smells like a lumber yard and the grass in the upper pasture is clean and “land mine” free again, when the rainbow stems of the swiss chart glow in the fresh sunlight, I feel alive in a way that few things beyond writing, great art, and time with people I love make me feel. Farming – even the gross parts – is life-giving for me, too.
As a society, we have done a lot of things to get rid of the “gross parts.” We’ve mechanized, specialized, and removed much of the things that are necessary to keep ourselves – human animals – alive and well. Most of us don’t grow our own food. Almost none of us know what happens to our “business” when we flush it. The near omnipresence of Jiffy Lube says we don’t even change the oil in the cars we buy from a lot after they are shipped from a factory that we will never see.
I’m not judging that. I like to flush, too. But I do wonder what we have lost by handing off our less desirable jobs. I wonder what we might do differently if we really had to make do with only the things we could do for ourselves. I’m not sure that would be beautiful either, but I do think it might teach us to appreciate hard work and “product” more and to throw away less.
I think about all these things as we move – every day – a step closer to our timber frame home, the one we will design and build. I think about a kitchen big enough for me to prep all our food from scratch, and I dream of the possibility of a composting toilet and a tankless water heater. I imagine how much weight I will lose when tending the animals requires a walk down the hill and then back up again to my desk. I picture all these things, and I get giddy with anticipation.
I know that’s weird to many of you, but then, I’m reveling in the joy of cleaning up chicken poo so . . .
If you could be self-sufficient in a couple of key areas in your life, what would you do? Why those things?
By the way, if you want to see more images of the farm, be sure to like our Facebook page. We try to post a pic or two every day. 😉