Saturday, January 20, 2018

Some Kind of a Farm

In a humble, modest tone, I have been known to say "our farm," and to use a hashtag "little farm"

But are we? Or, do we? Is this a farm?

We keep chickens, and have goats. The goats are more like vegetarian dogs, than draught animals, and they don't give milk. I've never slaughtered a hen. I have been tempted to pummel a rooster, or two. The garden does produce vegetables, and we have fruit trees, but our regular produce comes in a Trader Joes bag. Our best home-grown tomatoes have been whatever volunteers pop up. We might subsist if we could live on rosemary, lemons, lilikoi and lavender, with loads of apples in June. It concerns me that much of what we get in abundance is produce that is best served baked, sweetened... pies, breads, cakes, preserves, anything with eggs, butter, and sugar. And eggs have been scarce since about last October, because our hens are old.


1. an area of land and its buildings used for growing crops and rearing animals
synonyms: ranch, farmstead, plantation, estate, hobby farm

1. make one's living by growing crops or keeping livestock.

Well. I think it's safe to say we are not the verb. No one here is making a living at this. We have a noun farm. We grow crops, we have land and buildings that we have put to the purpose of growing food, and rearing animals (however coddled and useless they may be.)

And maybe "useless" is mean. The goats don't give milk only because I won't breed them. But they make us laugh, make us happy, keep us amused, and engaged, and moving. The chickens have laid dozens and dozens and dozens of eggs, and every time I see a hen run across the lawn to greet me, I feel light, encouraged, humble. Those are almost intangible gains, I know, but they are not useless. I think I am just exploring these thoughts and feelings, because sometimes keeping nine old hens, and building up flower beds, again, seems frivolous, and makes me feel sheepish.

I admit, I am loathe to say hobby farm. It sounds like I am Marie Antoinette playing at living a provincial life, and... I may as well add, I don't want to be be Marie Antoinette, playing at a provincial life, because I am more inclined to fancy myself Elizabeth Bennet, at Longbourn... geese in the courtyard, white linens flapping in a breeze and dappled sunlight. Hardships aside, I cannot help fancying the cottage, in Devonshire, where Elinor and Marianne wove reed hats, and set off on long walks, read poetry, did needlework. True, they could not afford to keep horses, or eat meat regularly, but they did have Betsy, the maid and cook, and Thomas, the handyman.

There is a meme I added to my "This is Me" Pinterest Board... Princess Aurora, looking gorgeous, but fraught, declares "Sheesh... after talking to the birds all morning, all I want to do is go home, do a little sewing, and take a nap!"

It's true... I am not a busy bee.

For the longest time, especially when the children were smaller, younger, I would have those same Jane Austen scenarios playing in my head, and I would despair at how far removed I was from the romantic pictures, the pastoral scenes with women in long gowns and clean aprons, hand-sewing, while reciting French poetry, and a nicely laid table for dinner. Even their chickens looked productive, yet well-rested, never molting, of course. It wasn't until recently, when I popped in the Pride and Prejudice disc to play while folding heaps of laundry, that a very obvious detail became clear to me... maids, cooks, gardeners, butlers, field hands! We are lucky enough to get some help with jobs around here, and that's lovely, for sure. But all those years when I felt small and incompetent for not having three meals cooked, and a garden tended, hand-sewn clothes on the children, knitting on needles, a pie cooling in the window, white linens flapping in a breeze and dappled sunlight, it turns out I was not incompetent... I was understaffed!

Starting this post, it wasn't my intention to confess that I harbor romantic ideals about housekeeping and farming, and yet am quite disinclined to labor tirelessly. Our goats are silly, and so am I. Our hens may not lay another egg, and neither... oh, never mind.

There is a heap of clean laundry obscuring the sofa. I'm about to play a Jane Austen movie, and delight in the wit and beauty of an idealized time and place, while my chickens scratch and peck around our little farm, and then I may get to the bottom of that laundry. This is not a hard life. It is complicated, and has its challenges, but it has an abundance of goodness, too... choices, views, opportunities, birds we can talk to, and time for naps.


Adaliza said...

Sounds like 'The Good Life' - did you ever see that UK TV series from the late 70's? It relates the joys and miseries of Tom and his wife Barbara when they attempt to escape modern commercial living by "becoming totally self-sufficient" in their home in Surbiton. It was hilarious though these days might seem a bit dated, I suspect - a very gentle type of humour. I think farming as a source of income for a family, is very hard these days - certainly over here, with commercialisation and the need to diversify on top of the daily agenda. I've put stocks on my list of seeds! Ax

Adaliza said...

Ahhh - I replied with a longer comment but it then disappeared - drat! Anyway, what a lovely post and I've put Stocks on my list of seeds!

Natalie, the Chickenblogger said...

I'm glad I found both of your comments.
There would be such great material for humor in that theme! I realize we could do more, if our lives depended on it... but I know that we are very comfortable in our modern habits and customs. God bless real farmers! Our stocks are looking so lush and appealing, and I am thankful the squirrels and chickens haven't dug them up. What other seeds are on your list?

Adaliza said...

Sunflowers, runner beans, night-scented stock, radishes and lambs lettuce, cosmos, nigella and whatever else has a pretty picture on the front of the seed packet and tempts me!

Natalie, the Chickenblogger said...

Sounds fantastic! Going by the pretty pictures, I always get in over my head! I spread two packets of wildflower seeds, and I am hoping we get cosmos popping up!