We love our life in our pasture. And we appreciate our jobs in the city that pay for this beloved pasture. But I’ve gotta tell you, it’s not easy to balance the two.
I don’t know exactly when the idea to have some land actually took hold. When we got married over eleven years ago, we had no thoughts or plans to own acreage and raise livestock. We started growing a few vegetables and herbs in raised beds and containers in our tiny backyard with a very short growing season in Colorado. It was there that we learned how to make our first jelly and jam. And I can distinctly see myself sitting in our living room in Colorado, reading John Seymour’s The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It for the first time.
My grandparents on both sides had farming/ranching roots. My paternal grandfather was a cattle rancher his whole life. My maternal grandfather always lived in the country and raised animals, fruits and vegetables, and canned jams. My husband’s grandparents on his dad’s side always had land and farmed. And his dad raised hogs for a short time when my husband was very young. My husband and I have always gardened, but when we moved back home to Texas in 2010, we started exploring the idea of living on some acreage and raising as much of our own food as possible.
We have always tried to be somewhat self-efficient. We’re crafty – enjoying making our Christmas gifts rather than buying them. Back in Colorado, we bought a table saw when we put in our own laminate flooring. And we, especially my hubby, learned to build many more things from there. We did our own landscape makeover in Colorado and our yard was the star of the block. Living on our land now, we've learned to build fences (lots and lots of fences!), chicken coops, cattle shelters and decks. We did all our own plumbing on our land in preparation for our modular house arriving – including planning for future water uses such as the chickens, gardens, and other livestock.
Something I read in John Seymour’s book really stuck in my brain, and more importantly in my heart. “Self-sufficiency does not mean ‘going back’ to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living; for food that is fresh and organically grown and good; for the good life in pleasant surroundings; for the health of body and peace of mind that come with hard, varied work in the open air; and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully.”
This whole notion of homesteading or self-sufficiency is certainly not for the timid or faint of heart. It’s not easy. Especially when you’re starting from complete scratch like we did, and it’s just the two of you (with some occasional help from some amazing neighbors). And that’s where the struggle for balance comes in. We are not off-grid and we are not self-sufficient to the point where we don’t need our jobs in the city. With a long commute and a standard work day, it gets hard to fit it all in. Seems we’re always short of two things: time and money.
Upon returning from work each day, there are always animals to be fed. We currently have dogs, cats, chickens, and cows. In the winter, you come home and do that in the dark. And in the summertime, there are the additional tasks of gardens to water and harvest. Sometimes you come home to find a sick animal, or a missing one. Or something critical that is broken. No matter what plans you had, that situation takes immediate priority. Something that seems to come far down the list of priorities each day is spending time writing for my blog and work on my first children’s book.
• Finding the bull over at property next door.
• The washing machine dying.
• A tree falling on house.
• Discovering evidence that someone came over our locked gate.
• The property owner next door starting a brush fire on the fence line.
• Finding a snake in the chicken coop.
• Just before bed, discovering a skunk in the backyard and the dogs getting "misted".
• Having to redo a gate when we realized the hay equipment couldn't get through … and they were on the way to cut hay.
• Discovering a nest of fire ants in the fiberglass "fin" on the back door to our minivan.
• Hurt or sick chickens.
• Hurt or sick dogs.
• Finding a tree has fallen on the fence.
• Discovering a vagrant stole eggs from us.
• Rescuing our cows from swiftly moving and rapidly rising flood waters.
• Repairing downed fence.
• Directing traffic on state highway for over an hour at a bad accident scene.
And like many people, we are working hard to be healthier and lose weight. You would think that with everything we have to do around here, it would be enough to keep us fit and slim. But alas, it is not. So that means finding time to exercise. And then hopefully, we get to finally have a healthy meal. But often it’s not before 8:00 p.m. Only to have to go to bed soon after and get up early to start it all over again.
Often when I regale people at work with tales from the pasture, I get one of two responses: “I don’t know how you get all that done” or “You need a vacation.” Try as I may, it’s really hard to get them to understand how we’re building a life we don’t need/want a vacation from. I don’t know whether we’ve both always been homebodies at heart – but we certainly are now. And then there is the complication of finding someone to care for a house full of dogs and cats and a coop full of chickens. The cows at least, are pretty self-sufficient. Even if you found boarding or someone to care for the dogs and cats, it would be hard to find someone willing to let the chickens out at first light and secure them before dark. And bring them cool treats in the evening when the day is at its hottest. (Why, yes our animals are spoiled, thank you.) And if you did find such a person, it would probably cost about the same as the vacation itself!
Are there places I’d like to visit? Sure. But the world seems to be a very crazy, scary place these days. Leave me in our pasture any day. I’m completely and utterly content, and never, ever run out of things to do or find myself bored!
Our big picture plan is to build this place in preparation for retirement. It seems that for every project we complete and get to cross off the list, twelve more have replaced it. But that’s okay. We enjoy the challenges. We are very proud of how much we have accomplished in less than five years. And we’re equally excited to see how much more we’ll accomplish in the next five. So in the meantime, we will continue to work on that delicate balance between our dream life and reality. Because for us, nothing beats this life in the pasture.
Beautiful sunset recently in the pasture: