Usually when I sit down to write I have a ton of ideas about different livestock topics, gardening, cooking, and other farm related activities. This past week has been a little different for us here on the farm though. So for a change of pace, this time we’ll talk family, farm and why we do what we do. Last Wednesday, we had a very special delivery arrive. Cierra Leann arrived at lunch time that day weighing 9 lbs. 14 oz!
Cierra and I both made a quick recovery from what was a pretty easy and uneventful birth, despite her size. Friday evening we all came home to spend our first night together as a family of five. Saturday morning was a bright, clear, warm day. Though we had a huge list of things to get done, nobody really felt like doing much. Cierra had her days and nights mixed up horribly, and I think the only one of us that managed to get much sleep that weekend was the dog! Still, life on a farm means working even when you don’t feel like it.
The next few days and nights brought more of the same. Sleepless nights and days full of farm chores. The kids were thrilled when the baby and I took short walks outside. They would follow us from place to place telling the baby all about the animals, what they were, what sounds they made, and what they were used for. William took my spot as “potato picker” with Daddy and helped gather up 3 rows of sweet potatoes before the rains came. Such a big job for a 4 yr. old! Macey stepped up to help feed animals and gather eggs. Neither complained when lunch was a simple sandwich and dinner was late. My fear that they would quickly resent the baby hasn’t come to pass yet, and they both seem thrilled to have a new addition to the family.
Andrew and I are now used to taking shifts through the night. Things are calming down and a new routine is being established. We are now past that rough first week and I must say things are going pretty well.
I take the second nightly baby shift, which has me up alone with Cierra between 2am and 7am. We usually have a good three hours of “girl time” where Little Bit wants to party. Her favorite early morning activity seems to be bouncing with me on an exercise ball in front of the living room windows watching the sunrise. Now I know babies don’t have incredibly good eyesight, but that child’s eyes are glued to the colors in the sky during this time. It is a very peaceful, quiet time, which I have come to enjoy quit a bit.
It was during one of these sunrise sessions when a realization occurred to me. This is why we do it. For the last few years we have had so many people ask us this one thing: “Why?” This one word may appear short, but it has so many different meanings. Why do we want to live so far away from civilization? Why do we want to farm? Why do we need all those animals? Why work so hard at home instead of being out having fun with friends? Why do we choose to home school when it’s easier to send our children to public school? Why would I “waste” a college degree to sit at home?
You may call it sleep deprivation, or maybe divine inspiration, but however you want to phrase it I finally figured out the simplest answer for all of these questions. For our children. As the baby sat watching the sunrise, I sat watching her and pondered this new thought. All of those times I have tried to explain our actions, our move, and at times defend our sanity, when I could have just summed it all up with one short sentence.
My mother used to tell me when I was young that when you are doing what you are meant to be doing with your life, you will know it. And now I finally know what she meant by that. A peace has come into our lives since moving here that we have never had before. Even on the toughest days, we are thankful for our farm and our family and know that we are where we were meant to be. As a teen I had lofty goals of what I would be and where I was going. I started college in high school, and graduated with a Bachelors in Agriculture a year early being just a few credits shy of a double major. My goal had always been to become a veterinarian. My junior year of college Andrew and I got married. At the time I was working as a Veterinary technician for a local animal hospital. During my five years there, I saw just how hard it was for our Vets to have a stable family life and carry their work load. That wasn’t how I envisioned my future any longer. Andrew and I wanted children, and I was simply not willing to put myself in a situation where my career and my family could not happily co-exist. However, I wasn’t quit certain what my future held at that point. I had carried this dream for so long, it was hard to now imagine a different one. Andrew asked me after graduation what I wanted to do now with my life. My response was “be a farmer and a writer.” Now I imagine that this didn’t seem quit as lofty or satisfying of a career choice as being a veterinarian! Luckily instead of laughing at me Andrew just shook his head and said “Alright, what are we going to raise?”
Those next few years brought several moves, a few different jobs, two babies, and a lot of discussions about how to acquire a farm and what we wanted to do with it. We knew that we wanted to raise our children in a safe place where they could learn lessons not taught in schools. Andrew and I agreed that home-schooling was best for our family. And we wanted to do this on a farm where we could grow our own produce, raise our own meat, and teach the kids about responsibility and where things come from. Besides benefiting our family with healthy and nutritious food, we also wanted to find a niche market where we could cater to others desiring farm fresh, natural products while bringing in a second income for our family. So we chose to invest in katahdin sheep, poultry, and most recently hogs to raise in a non-commercial natural environment. While we mainly grass feed, we do supplement with grain crops when needed but none of our animals are given growth hormones, antibiotics, or other chemicals to “enhance” them.
So now here we are. Celebrating the arrival of our third child, closing in on our one year anniversary on the farm, and writing weekly blog updates to share with our friends. As I sat watching the sunrise that morning, I realized that as crazy as my life may seem to others, I really would have it no other way. I have my dream. Sure life on the farm is much more difficult than living on a lot in the city. Sometimes it rains or snows, you get wet and cold, or bake in the summer heat. Instead of sitting next to a pool we’re chasing a bull or worming sheep. We haven’t had a vacation in years. Our children are home with me all day every day instead of in a public school. There are days when they fight constantly, and these times are frustrating. Then there are times when they amaze me with their kindness towards each other, and do things that simply melt your heart. Our lives are not perfect, but they are rich and full.
Recently I received a phone call from a family friend. He was my neighbor for nearly 25 years, had watched me grow up, and has farmed all his life. He asked how farm life was treating me. I replied honestly that we have never worked so hard, been so tired, and had so many things to do in our lives. No matter how much we get done, at the end of the day it seems our list is longer and not shorter. There is always something that needs repair, and never enough money in the bank to accomplish it all. He sounded concerned at first, and told me he was sorry to hear that. He asked if there was anything he could do to help and if we needed anything. I told him, “No, we’re doing just fine!” I then told him about how much the kids loved helping with farm chores, how we had saved our sick lamb we were sure was going to die, what joy we received this year in growing our own beef and veggies. Then we talked about the fruit trees and berry bushes we planted this year, how fast our pigs are growing out, and how excited we all were about the new baby coming. We talked about how fast kids grow, and what wonderful lessons they are learning from their experiences here. It felt good sharing these things with someone who I knew would understand. In our entire conversation, he never asked why. He didn’t have to, he already knew. That’s the thing about farming. Once you live it, you no longer ask why. Every farmer knows the reason is love. Love for your family, for the land, for growing or harvesting that which you raised by your own hand. When Andrew and I sit down at the dinner table each night, we look around and smile. Our "why" is sitting there with us, we do this for our children.