July 08, 2013


I think that I should add a considerable post script to my last blog post about the gardening and such.  I think that maybe I may have unintentionally caused some misconceptions or inspired some unrealistic expectations of self in others, especially lately.  So let me just say …

I have a stubborn streak that has been known to leave a path of destruction like a category 5 hurricane.  I am the first one up at 6:30 am every day in the summer months--5:30 am during the school year--and usually not in bed before 10 pm.  I am never not doing something. (I don't even drink my coffee in the morning without knitting, reading, or multi-tasking something.)  If my whole body is not in motion, then at least my hands are, broken or not.  I am usually so left-brained and in need of total order and organization that some days I make people with severe OCD look like amateurs.  And I have no inborn patient streak whatsoever.  None. Zero.  Zilch.  If I ask for help, I'm only going to ask once and then I am going to give you about 30 seconds to help me before I just do it myself without you and then chastise you for not helping me like I had asked.  (My husband usually just shakes his head and smiles when I get like that.)  I'm 5'6" and a size 4 dress-sized woman.  I am the type of woman who will choose not to train because I have knitting to do and then run a 10k for kicks (or the t-shirt) on a whim.

Here's what I'm getting at … The gardening/farming things that I may write about in this blog are not intended to inspire anyone to do what I am doing.  (I don't know what the purpose is other than a record of my life, I guess.) Nobody that I know does what I do to the extent that I do it.  Nobody I know gets up at 6:30 am to work her tail off in the mud for five or six hours 5 out of 7 days a week because it's a self-satisfying endeavor.  It's great to flip through the pages of a hobby farm magazine and say "Wow!  That's how I want to live my life!", but it's a totally different thing to actually get into the dirt and do it.  I've been in the dirt before.  This isn't my first rodeo.  I've been working up to a 50 x 100 garden for nearly seven years, and I'm still not working a garden that size.  I've been secretly planning and waiting to own my own farm since I was a very little kid in my grandma's garden.  I'm 41.

Farming is gross.  It's smelly.  It's nauseating.  It's sweaty. It's dehydrating.  It's full of the worst insect bites you've ever gotten (pirate bugs suck!) because country bugs don't blink an eye at bug spray.  It's sunburns (and wacky farmer's tans) and headaches and sore muscles each and every day.  It's you with chicken poop under your fingernails, in a place where there are no acrylic add-ons allowed. It's you with a broken finger hoeing the entire garden back into raised rows because a week of monsoon rain washed your dirt into the field. (Mother Nature does NOT have your back, by the way.) It's ZERO days off and no vacation in sight because who's going to feed all of those animals while you are gone?  It's 5 hours of hoeing and weeding and fertilizing and composting and watering and fixing the fence that the deer plowed through BEFORE you have to go in to make everyone lunch and do laundry, wash dishes, and do all that housework that has been patiently waiting for you because no one else is going to step up and do it for you, and then bake something or can something, and then make dinner.  It's a business that you are 100% committed to at all costs--and there are going to be ALL KINDS of costs that you didn't expect and couldn't foresee--all 24 hours of the day.  And if that's not enough to add a little reality to the idyllic picture in the magazine, then let me just go out on a limb and say that you don't see highly overweight people with health issues bending in half over 7-inch high rows, pulling weeds and pruning tomato stalks across an acre of land or even posing for the picture wearing work gloves and muck boots.  There's a physical reason for this.

Did I mention that you can't go into this without knowing how to operate power tools?  Or thinking that you'll just learn as you go because everybody makes mistakes?  The learning curve is steep, so watch your step.  Take, for instance, my chicken poop fertilizer plan.  Every other day I clean out the coop.  I've been putting the poop in a black plastic barrel, no lid.  I was thinking that it would be a quick way to get the poop into a compost tea form if I left off the lid and just let the barrel also collect rain water.  Yesterday morning I went back there and my light-weight barrel, which was half full, had magically become heavier than my entire body weight.  I lugged it into the wagon, drove it over to the garden, stuck a shovel in, and discovered that my plan had resulted in 100+ pounds of maggots and other assorted insect larvae. (Think barrel full of GIANT meal worms.)  It was enough to make a person vomit, and that's not even accounting for the smell.  So I had to lug it over to the compost bin, dump it out, cover it with Seven and straw, and hope that those suckers die before my house and garden become plagued by flies.  This could turn out to be a gigantic mistake.  I'll let you know in a day or two.

Anyway, if you are not already in I-could-run-a-10K-marathon-tomorrow physical shape, ladies, then maybe your dream needs to involve thinking about how much it's going to cost to buy the farm equipment and to hire a few farm hands to do the work for you because it's no dream worth trying to live if you have a massive heart attack on the second day while you were trying to put in a garden, old school.  Although this may hurt some feelings, I have to say that the man with one leg was right; it's A LOT of physical labor just to plant a garden that will supplement your family's grocery needs and most people are not cut out for it.  Did I say A LOT?  I meant MORE PHYSICAL EXERTION than you have ever experience in your ENTIRE LIFE. If the most exercise you get in a week is the exertion of cleaning the shower or carrying the groceries into the house, and that leaves you winded, then you shouldn't rush into doing anything old school on a farm, especially if your dream farm is a place that "just needs a little work".  There is no such thing as "just a little work".

Go out into the back yard and dig 16 post holes by yourself in the dry Georgia clay with a manual post-hole digger and no breaks for water or anything else (because there's going to be no time for lolly-gagging on the farm) in the July heat and then ask yourself "Can I get up and do this EVERY day for the rest of my life by myself?" because even if you have a partner in crime, one of you is going to outlive the other and what if you are stuck on the farm by yourself after having sunk your life savings into the place?  You'll be stuck on the farm alone.  I am a little bit crazier and a whole lot more willing to take that risk than every other 40-something and older woman that I know, and this place kicks my butt every day.  EVERY day. Dream big, but live in the real world.

I love my husband and eternally grateful for all of the hard work (and money) that he puts in around here to make this more-mine-than-his dream our permanent reality, but the future is uncertain.  I make sure that I learn how to operate the farm equipment in case I have to do it myself.  What if he goes out of town?  What if he breaks a leg?  What if he dies?  Somebody is going to have to drive the tractor and repair the barbed wire fence.  See what I'm saying?  If you are not the most independent woman that you know, maybe the full-blown farm plan should be something that you ease into slowly and deliberately with a plan B that involves several people who are willing to pitch in and help.  Start with getting a dog, then ramp it up to two, then three. Then maybe a couple of chickens the next year. I'm serious.

I am the most independent woman that I know. I love this new direction my life has taken, but it's my life and not a one-size-fits-all kind of life, either. I intend to live to be 126.  (Not pounds, years.)  I might even make it to 127.  I have it all planned out.

And that's my Dear Abbey farming advice addendum.


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