For some strange reason this post
got under my skin. I mean *really* got under – like a mosquito bite or something. So, I spent a bit of time thinking about it and realized – it’s no different from my friends who go on and on about how they’d love a farm (instead of their day job). Now these are friends I do try to be patient with because they know not of what they speak, but have this really romantic view of what it is to farm, even on the smallest scale. And it’s not just one, in this day of oil prices it feels like we have a resurgence of “back to the land” ideals starting. Perhaps we do but I do wonder if we’re different in how we’re doing it this time around. Now we have lots of mainstream publications speaking about it and people talking about it, but are people doing it? I don’t think they are the way they did in the 70s – but maybe that’s me romanticizing that era!
Was it in the Elizabethan age when the nobles would take their entourages out to the “farm” for a vacation and play at pastoral life? Me thinks I may have some small semblance of what the farmers of that day would have felt but not really – they lived and died by their farm. Should I lose all of my flock to some tragedy (and it would be tragic) I would take time off, grieve and get back to work because I have that option. My kids wouldn’t starve because of it. In a sense, I suppose am playing at farming – I have a full time, professional job to pay the bills, I have benefits and a vacation bank so am I really farming/crofting? Not really. Although the reality of Canada is that even for most “working” farms there’s usually one off farm person paying the bills.
I do know of one Icelandic sheep farm (in Canada) where they’re making it – the farm pays all of the expense. One of the shepherds does some work off farm but that’s to cover the extras, it’s not required (anymore) to keep things going. I can see getting there but I’m not sure I want to. I like the security of my day job, I’ve decided. I do need to do it a bit less but there’s something to be said for benefits, a regular wage and something else to do that makes me not take the farm stuff for granted!
I don’t have any romantic notions – last week I could have sold – or given away – all of it because I was just that exhausted. I worked too much (about 80 hours) and had fencing to do in the heat – as well as internal parasites to deal with. Not to mention trying to figure out whether or not to take this great ewe that’s been offered to me as well when I go to pick up my ram. She’s not free and even if she was, as I feed hay, she’s not even free once she’s paid for. I’m paying – every month- for these guys to eat. When I think about the outlay of cash, well…. I just try not to. I could easily have bought a new car and paid it off since getting the sheep. Easily. Or flown somewhere really cool and exotic.
I say that as if I would trade them. Sigh. The fact is, I just wouldn’t. I watch the lambs do their race to see who gets to the milk first, or watching Lafi at the hay feeder, his face pushed in as deep as he can reach, or even better, have him come over for some love or watch the girls trying to figure out their escape routes, or watch one of my ewes with her head resting on the Pyr and I think -nah… this is the right place to be.
But back to the initial purpose for this post. It’s not easy – and it wouldn’t be easier if I could make a totally on farm income. It just wouldn’t be working outside of home – but there’s a lot more insecurity, actual work (that right now I trade for cash- like buying hay) and hardship that goes along with it. So, I guess that’s where my frustration comes from. It’s not easy – although some times are harder than others. And it’s not cheap. I’m not saving money at this stage of the game. I am, in fact, hemorrhaging money and while I love them and know that they are giving something to me, there’s not really anything to romanticize about it. You have to make the leap and do it because you love it.