Romantic Ideas on farming. . .

It is interesting when I talk to folks who grew up and farmed from necessity during the 20's, 30's and 40's. . .Especially those from rural areas where life was particularly hard, but that is not to say that farm life
during those times or even now is ever easy.

You know, when I have talked to these people,
 they often discourage endeavors into raising animals for your own milk, 
meat and into growing your own produce. 
The discussions are filled with warnings and woe.

I begs me to wonder at length what do we, those dabbling in farming, not know?

A lot, would be my first guess.

Is it that we, because we have so many options for fulfillment in our lives
and never have wholly depend on farming to sustain us,
look at a life of it as a pastime, a novelty or as entertainment?

Do we, those of us who fall into the category homesteader or small farmer
 just have too much time on our hands?

Those advising us remember a time where
it was the only way to survive and see no fun or living in scraping by, that is for sure.

They seem to have few fond memories of winters on a farm, milking in bitter cold or butchering
for meat. My experience has shown them to view people like us
as more than just a bit addle brained.

During such a time where large animal vets, medications, feeds and sanitation were not understood, available or even in existence. . would any of us have really wished a life of farming on ourselves?

I suppose the men and women who lived and farmed during the early twentieth century cannot get past the
hard life it was then and could hardly wish that existence on anyone.

I know there were a few times that life in rural Appalachia in the 20's was brought up with my father, who died in 2009, and not one of those times did he miss shaking his head and explaining how very hard life was, how he could not imagine how they even made it on their little homestead in Lincoln County, WV.

Only just tonight, when I brought up our Jersey cow, Stella, my grandmother, asked why I would ever want to try to milk a cow considering how difficult it was in the winter, how hard it was to keep clean, how difficult it would be keep the cow healthy in milk and proclaimed how glad she was to have been stuck with that chore rarely as a young girl in a family of 14.

Sometimes I wonder what we should even call this adventure or misadventure here. Hobby farm carries a connotation of little work and all play. That is certainly not what happens here. Small Farming brings to mind the growth of most of our food, and that is not us, yet. Homesteading makes me think of the lives of my father and grandmother, and I know we aren't there and will probably never be. . .What is this mess, then?

We live some romanticized notion of the life of a homesteader where we have a well insulated home, heating and cooling, internet, restaurants, grocery stores, large animal vets that come out during all weather and all hours, trucks, paved roads and chains of feed stores.

I really think our animals would have no idea how to survive the lives their forefathers did. Lord knows,
we do not have it in us.

The moral I hear so often is something like this:

"Why tie yourself to a farm and be unable to have a real life",
but here I sit thinking of how to untie myself to life so I can really farm, or
at least farm as much as a most modern people are able. 

What is a real life, anyway?

Does it just boil down to the grass always being greener?

We want to farm because we are denied the chance in society, 
and so few can succeed with it. It has become something mythical, almost, hasn't it?

They, those early farmers, wanted freedom from being tied to toil on the farm
because it was all they thought they could ever aspire to, possibly?

Are we and those like us just totally mad, as my grandmother suspects?

As I sit here on the internet, enjoying facebook. . .
knowing I enjoy eating out, trips to Target,
gasoline powered vehicles, and I wonder would I be able to 
enjoy the late evening milking in the cold,
the feeding, watering in the snow, the 
expense and labor in the mud
if I did not have those other
parts of life to dabble in?

Are those of us who have a foot in both worlds
even fit to be calls farmers, homesteaders or even hobby farmers?

But when I've spent hours in the middle of winter in a drafty,
unheated barn with temperatures in the teens trying to help a doe give birth only to lose
her and the goat kids, when I've wrestled to train
a doe to milk for days on end to finally be rewarded with
her standing still through most of milking and then kicking it over, when I've hatched
200 plus chicks inside during the spring, when I've wrestled a cow
by myself into a horse trailer for AI, when I've been dragged through
knee deep mud to see even our goat bucks have trimmed hooves. . .
Surely there is at least a bit of farmer in me and a bit of madness, too, 
when I love it so. 


  1. Very nice!! I have to say I must be mad too! In my dream world I would never have to leave my farm.. I could spend all my time outside getting filthy and doing what I love... the ties I have to this modern world are hated ones! Although a much harder life... its a more satisfying life! Im with you... I will stay mad and keep at this!

  2. My father grew up on a dairy farm in upstate NY. It was a very difficult life with few, if any, luxuries. There was no eating out, not after-school activities; just work. Day in, day out. A hard scrabble existence. He left the farm at 18 and never looked back. For some reason, I loved to be there, and at my aunts dairy farm.
    I too am unsure what category we fit into. I suppose we are what we are; just farmers. No modifier needed. Like your elders, my father think my farm dream is just crazy. I try to explain why we have the type animals we have and why we want to be organic. Monkey business, he says! Maybe I'm a monkey business farmer. The grass IS always greener...especially when it's not trampled by cows, pigs, chickens and goats. ;)
    ~Mark @ Brooks Mountain Farm


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