It’s the strangest of things.. how easy it is to fall in love with a goat, or a sheep, a little pig and some chickens. The idea gets set in your mind that it would be so much fun to have some livestock. Chickens- easy to raise, inexpensive to purchase – small fluffy little chicks chirping happily. You envision yourself collecting farm fresh eggs every day and see sheep grazing your hills- helping out with weed control and eliminating having to mow the lawn every week. It all seems so easy and sweet, your own little farm with a few pigs raised for meat.
A doctor I once worked with wanted chickens… she loved fresh eggs. She got some chickens and a coop. She realized that she was surrounded by hawks and four legged predators. So she decided to get some guard llamas for protection. Needless to say, the llamas didn’t fit the coop, so a barn was built and fencing erected to create pasture space. Hay storage was needed and acquired. She worried about having to take the llamas to the vet if they got sick so she bought a horse trailer. Her Subaru was not big enough to trailer it, so she purchased a truck. It was fascinating to watch and I jokingly but in full seriousness told her she probably had the worlds most expensive fresh eggs by that point.
But back to my vision of me happily gazing out over my little farm.. how hard can farming really be? If you don’t already live on a farm with barns, outbuildings, storage and fencing already in place the answer to that question is; Hard. Very hard. Even with all the infrastructure of a farm in place it’s still hard. But you get swept away, so while you are busy bringing the first pigs home to your new farm, your husband is equally busy trying to finish their pen and makeshift shelter- since their house wasn’t quite done being built! Building your farm around your animals as they arrive is definitely the hard way! Come to think of it, even Noah had the arch built before the animals arrived.
Farming isn’t just hard, It’s also heart ache. Last week was especially tough, we lost 3 piglets and one of our new Swedish Flower Hens. You try your hardest to keep all your animals safe and sound, but they can get sick,. We had a runt that was too weak to nurse, one got stuck under mom and sometimes it’s just life and you don’t know what happened. It was also the first time we took one of our pigs to the butcher. I did it, but had a sleepless night full of visions of her looking at me with sad eyes wondering why I left her.
Farming is sacrifice. You sacrifice your comfort, time and to an extent social life. The weather is either too hot or too cold, or too wet or too dry. On the day prior to Christmas Eve this year we prepared all the animal houses with clean bedding and had all the pens thoroughly cleaned so that we could spend Christmas doing the bare minimum while knowing the animals had Christmas too. I kept waking up Christmas Eve night because the wind was howling and the rain was pounding on the roof. I woke up to flooding and trees having fallen, unfortunately on top of our fencing. Posts were broken and fences down. Our Meishans were looking quite bewildered by having a large tree having fallen across their fence into their pen. Scott, Annika and I spent most of Christmas Day cleaning up trees, branches and debris and also working hard digging channels to drain the mud and getting now all the wet bedding out of each house and replacing it with dry nice and warm bedding. Not exactly the Christmas Day we had envisioned.
It’s hard work. Lots of hard work- hauling feed, hay, water, wood chips, dirt, manure, gravel and rocks. Fixing things and building, adding fencing, and still never having enough. Cleaning, painting, wrestling piglets and sheep, chasing chickens that refuse to go inside when you want them to.
It’s expensive. Any animal you have will cost you money if you intend to care for it the right way. Feed, fencing, housing, treats and vet bills.
Farming is also pure joy. When you see sows farrow, and sheep lamb it brings you such amazements. Seeing how they are such good mothers. Watching in amazement how a newborn piglet gets right up and walks around mom to find the siblings and a teat. Seeing a ewe clean off her baby lamb and watch how it tries to stand within minutes- it’s simply precious.
It’s moments of feeling such inner peace just standing watching happy content animals. Or sitting down in the pasture only to feel the soft muzzles of the sheep in your hair and by your face while they lean over your shoulder just to get some love. Its pulling into an empty drive way only to find yourself surrounded by running chickens; they heard you coming and come greet you in the hopes of getting some treats.
There’s nothing quite like earning the trust and love of your sheep
It’s having family and friends come visit and being able to share all these wonders with them. Seeing how it makes others happy too. Watching the faces of children while they throw corn to the piggies or chickens. Not much beats the excitement of a child. It’s just plain good for the soul!
It’s the beauty of a sunrise or of a sunset with all its colors. Because you get to be outside every day instead of sitting on the couch in front of the TV. You revel in trees being covered in ice which makes everything look like a fairy tale. It’s birds singing, it’s the sound of a fox, and it’s feeling constant gratitude to God for having created all these amazing things you love and adore. It’s walking up the path after chores are done in the dark wondering what light Scott turned on to make it so bright all of a sudden, only to realize it is the full moon coming up throwing its reflective light all over. Which of course makes you hum “I’m being followed by a moon shadow” – at least if you are my generation!
Farming is spending hours planning lay outs, finding just the right animal, doing research and finding out how to do things better- every time! It’s a bone deep feeling of contentment and satisfaction. It’s seeing hard work paying off and feeling blessed that you are able to witness the circle of life up close and personal. In spite of hard work, heart aches and sacrifices having a farm is more than worth it . As a matter of fact, it’s one of the most rewarding thing we have ever done, and more, we’re doing it together.