Last week I was in a rush to get my farm in order so I could travel to Southern California for four days. Spring is an insanely busy season with a myriad of tasks to do but my daughter-n-law was presenting her dissertation to receive a hard earned doctorate at USC. We were adamant that we were going to be there so; there was nothing else to do but get things in the best order we could before we left.
It isn’t easy to leave 28 ducks, 24 chickens, 8 goats, a rabbit, a cat and a farm dog in someone else’s care. No matter how much you plan, organize and prepare it isn’t enough. You can make lists and try to imagine every scenario but eventually you have to set those work gloves down and go. Leaving really isn’t the hardest part for me, it is setting aside the cares to really be present and enjoy the moment. It has been my goal to slow down, be aware and conscience of the lessons to be found in my daily tasks and endeavors.
The day before we left I still had a long list of to do’s, which in the past might have been the cause of an emotional breakdown. Since I didn’t have the luxury of a good cry I chose to put on a smile, pull on my boots and set out to overcome my mountain of chores. It was when I was unloading hay bales from the back of my pick-up truck, the realization of being a legitimate farmer hit me. Hay hooks in hand I lifted each bale out and placed it in a nice stack with the same simple joy my children had with their building blocks when they were young. I was a enveloped in a moment of complete happiness.
We live in a world obsessed with labels, brands and titles that define and give us value. We can allow others to choose what we are called and how we should feel about ourselves. At least that is what I used to do when I stumbled along in search of a validated identity. I know now I am a farmer, I always have been in my heart. I am a planter of seeds and a guardian of the herd. It no longer matters to me if anyone agrees with me or the fact there are others who have done it longer and have more experience, for that is not the point. I am a farmer, I am also a wife, mother, friend, artist and so much more. We do not need to define ourselves, we are, who we are. I do what I do because I love it and sharing it with others is fulfilling.
I left for my trip with a new found assurance and a peace which enabled me to relax and enjoy my time away. I think farmers understand that there are too many factors out of one’s control to ever fully prepare for. You should work hard to do what you are able to and then take the time to enjoy what and who you love. Life is an adventure to embrace and experience fully without being afraid of what could happen or the opinions of others.
While we were away we did lose a chicken and a goat got her head stuck in a feeder but I gained so much more by learning to give each moment the full attention it deserves.
It’s May! Yay! Those April showers certainly have brought the flowers and with them the blackberry bushes. I have a love/hate relationship with those vines. Yes, they do provide the most wonderful berries in which I will gather and devour along my morning walk in the next few weeks. Those same vines are viciously cruel, leaving me looking as if I was dropped into a pit of wet and angry feral cats. It does not matter how careful you are, those beastly thorns will find the most vulnerable unprotected patch of skin to torture.
When we purchased our property two years ago it was wildly overgrown, there are still areas on our five acres that we have yet to set foot on. It’s been a battle with hedge clippers and a lawn mower but I am gaining ground. I am using all the tools I possess to claim my land and my future. Along with the multitude of scratches, cuts, and painful thorns embedded in my tender flesh are the lovely hidden surprises uncovered as I subdue my little plot of earth. Yesterday my prize was a tiny purple flower standing defiantly lovely in contrast to it’s prickly confinement. This kind of beauty is what compels me forward despite the pain I might endure.
Farmlife, as in all life is, is full of these moments where joy and pain walk hand in hand. Last month we watched as one egg out of twenty miraculously hatched after 46 days of not so patient watching on my behalf. I had finally given up and decided to discard the last two eggs from the nest when I heard peeping coming from one of the eggs. I rushed to replace the egg to the nest before it’s mama returned and the next morning I was rewarded with the smallest little fluff of yellow I had ever seen. Joy! My hope fulfilled! I made the decision to leave the duckling and entrust it to the faithful duck who had set there so long for this little lone survivor to hatch. I returned to find it’s tiny form cold and lifeless on the ground, it appeared to unsuccessfully follow it’s mother outside the shelter. Death and loss is always painful, even a tiny duckling not fully one day old can have an impact on one’s heart. Life can be brutal as well as beautiful.
It wasn’t even a full week later that another lone survivor duckling hatched , this time from our incubator. We had started with ten eggs but only four started developing. I had begun to lose hope when a mistake on our sensor placement caused the temperature to rise higher than it should. Against the odds, this little one made it and the joy of this triumph was made just a little sweeter in contrast to the dismay I felt earlier in the week. Trials, pain, disappointments and such are the black lines in a painting that define and enhance the colors of our life. Hope and patience to wait for beauty in the midst of pain and loss is the intrinsic nature of a farmer. It takes faith to place those costly, diligently thought out seeds in the ground and wait for the fruit of their labor. So many factors are out of our control and yet there is no victory in life without taking risk and doing the hard work. Our labor may be painful and the risk come with a cost but we will not gain anything of true value without it.
I may be tenderly typing this entry with sore, berry bush thrashed hands but; I do have a renewed passion and gratitude for my life and that my friends is worth it.