I guess it seems a little weird for me to say that, writing for our farm blog that is hosted on our farm website while quite literally being on our farm. I expect much of this blog post to be just as confusing as I am also writing from a place in my head that does not always make the most sense. But that is exactly why I feel compelled to write about this today -- I am hoping for some sanity-saving clarity.
When we pulled up stakes and moved, I had one very clear idea in my head: we had to move out of the suburbs and live on the land. There were no real specifics there in the plan. We had been doing what we could where we were for several year: learning how to can our own food, figuring out the ends and outs of composting, raising rabbits, growing fruits and vegetables in our flower gardens. At the time we were striving to learn valuable skills and become a little more self-sufficient so that in the event of a major catastrophe (such as the one we had already lived through), we would stand a better chance at survival.
That's what we had been doing before the sudden decision to move. It is not that that mindset was not at all involved in making the move, it just is that it was not the primary reason at the time. Instead, my determination was based on a growing sense that my children (as they also grew) were not living life fully. I wanted them to see meadows and play in streams, learn bird songs, and experience nature as an everyday reality rather than an occasional trip to the park.
As a homeschool mother, I was primary educator and curriculum advisor. And I had come to the realization that something very important was missing from the curriculum: real life.
I mean real life as opposed to the inherent artificiality of our modern lives. I mean sunrises and sunsets rather than incandescent or halogen bulbs. I mean taking the rocky path through the underbrush rather than staying on the sidewalk. I mean where things get dirty and stay dirty and a little rust adds charm. I mean the entire cycle of life from birth to death - played out day after day before our eyes without filters or apologies. Where respect for nature would come naturally - while at the same time stripping away any desire to worship it as some mysterious god. This often-idolized false god that they could learn to see for what it really is - only a fellow creature, but one worthy of our care and attention because there is an order to things... (an order which, out here, we have to learn to live with each and every day as our ancestors had done) and, ultimately, that there is a True God who made it that way.
Being human, I often lose sight of the goal. Especially after two years of Dave having to live away from us for his job while we simply worked to hold things together, I lost direction. If we were totally self-sufficient by now, Dave would not have to work away from home. Nevermind that that sort of self-sufficiency was never our goal... we had only wanted to learn and pass on skills that would make us less dependent on modern technology in the event that we did not have access to it at some point. We were not going off-grid. If you could make some real money at this, this will never happen again. Nevermind that we never intended to make money at this. Making it into a business enterprise would put our entire endeavor in danger of becoming artificial. If you could just increase production and advertise you could make a good profit. Nevermind that increased production would mean throwing out all of our kinder, gentler methods of raising animals. Nevermind that increased production would displace me from my full time job as mother and teacher. Direction lost.
These thoughts have carried on since then, very often disturbing our peace. Even after over a year of Dave being home with us again, I find myself in a panic... losing direction. The struggle is real. It's really really real because I am not a farmer. I am a housewife and a homeschooling mother of five with a modest educational background in biology, an intense love of nature, and a degree in political philosophy. I am good at what I do, but what I do is not actually farming. I do not produce anything for profit. Whatever is produced is really a lovely by-product of the lifestyle we are cultivating... of the philosophy we are living. There is not much monetary profit in that. Or, call me a purist but, there is not supposed to be.
During all of these interior struggles I have scoured the internet and books and ebooks trying to find someone to mentor me. Trying to find someone who could prove to me that it was possible to firmly plant both feet on the homestead and make money doing it so that my husband would never have to be away from us again.
I know that there are those who would argue that what I am describing is out there. I respect that. But I did not find it. What I found were those who either had become full-time large-scale production farmers or those who, alternatively, made their money simply by selling the idea. What I mean by the latter is that there seem to be very many people out there who started out purely homesteading - but who actually make a living not by selling livestock or produce or value-added items related to those things, but by garnering a following on social media and being paid by advertisers to make videos or write e books marketed to people who are hoping to make a living by selling livestock or produce, etc.
Don't get me wrong, I do not begrudge them that. I follow quite a few of them myself and I admire the work they have done. However, it is not at all what I had in mind here.... Too much of what we had tried to leave behind in the world would begin to seep in here.. too many deadlines.. too much social pressure... too many people in the forum and not enough in the fields, if you will. It would so quickly destroy what we had set out to do in the first place... Or at least render it impotent.
So I am not a farmer. And I'm not going to be a YouTube sensation any time soon. Where does that leave me?
It leaves me here still with one foot in each world. I am a homesteader with open wifi available on our property and a husband with a full-time job in the city. I grow vegetables and then shop at the local grocery store or market when the bugs (or geese) eat them before we do. I raise lovely little animals in a way that I believe is best for them and for the humans who will care for them. I have no desire to produce animals for auction or market... I only want to share whatever bounty we do have with other families on other little farms for a reasonable price and with lots of conversation and... fellowship, if you will.
The law classifies us as a farm - as what we do here is technically agriculture. We are not just a house. We are not a retail store. And so.. we are a farm. But it is an unfortunate classification... I have great respect for farmers and the work that they do and the goods they provide for us all (all the more so now that I have more experience with the potential trials of it). We cannot do what they do here. We do not have the room.. the means... the skill. What we really are -- and what we had intended to be -- is what a home once had been... In a bygone era of a more agrarian society: Back when having chickens and a cow and a few goats was as normal as it is now to have a dishwasher and a television and a car.
With all of that said, back to the little nagging demons who keep telling me that nothing is worthwhile if there's no money in it. No sacrifices are worth making unless they will build your fortune or your retirement account. I bet you an ironic dollar that you are familiar with those ideas.... Very familiar. Perhaps they have kept you awake at night as well. It would be no surprise because the idea is so pervasive in our modern society. It was one of the bad ideas that I wanted to dispel for the kids when I decided we had to move out here. There is more to life than putting food on the table. Or at least .. there is supposed to be... and if there isn't - you are not living yet.
I would love to have a large blog-following. It would be nice to know that I am not shouting into the wind when I post. I would relish the interaction as this life can be isolating at times. But if that does not happen, I can fall back on our original plan which was to make a refuge for our family and to have a simple meal, a warm bed, and some pleasant conversation ready for world-weary visitors in need of it.
I have no idea where we will end up in a few years. I cannot be sure what exactly we will be doing or why. But I hope that we will meet people along the way... and maybe help them live a little more too. In the meantime, I will continue to remind myself not to give up on the reason we did all of this to begin with - a pearl of great price that we bought the whole field to have: a true, good, and beautiful life for us and our children.
Posted by Anita
Dreamer. Idealist. Pragmatist. Realist. It's a struggle..