Monday, April 13, 2009

The Family Farm


I have often fantasized about living "off the land." I have read many books about this, have browsed real estate listings to see whether it would be feasible, and even almost convinced Ben to move to the country when we moved back to Virginia. The other day, my friend Carolyn and I realized that we both shared the dream of living in farm communes-- only she has actually spent some time living in intentional community, whereas for me it's just another pipedream. However, as we talked about our vision of having a farm in the country where young and old, able and disabled could live together and support one another through farming, we realized that at heart, we are both just city people without any real agricultural experience. Our hopes for the future overshadow our actual experience (or lack there of) with the difficulties of farm life. I mean, there's a reason why suburbs were created, and I'm sure some of it had to do with the fact that farming is hard work.

Several months after moving back to Virginia (to a small towny suburb, not the country), I am praising the lord that we're not on a farm. First of all, I have realized that as the mother of a young child, it's priceless to have friends that live in your neighborhood-- within a short walk. Second, it's amazing to be close enough to family to actually be able to mooch. And I like a lot of "city stuff." Some highlights of our week are almost always going to see Mr. Skip play guitar and sing at Stacey's Coffeehouse, or going to the library for a book reading, or going to the playground for playgroup. I love going for walks on the small roads of Falls Church, and love looking at what people have planted in their gardens, or meeting new people who are working on their houses.

But, I must admit, that somewhere beneath my joy at being here, I am still curious what it would be like to live on a farm. I stumbled upon Amy's Humble Musings a little while back, and occasionally will check in to see what she's writing about, and I loved her recent post entitled Observations on Our First Months of Farm Living. To be totally honest, I don't know all the details, but apparently she and her family moved to the country and are trying their hand at sustenance farming. Here are some highlights of her post:

  • Children have lots of things to do when you're living on a farm (I imagine this would be most true for older toddler and kids) . "The children roam, romp, and play outside, and I don’t have to watch for speeding cars and pedophiles. In this way, it’s easier. I’m sure the kids have moaned that they were bored, but they never actually have been bored. There are creeks to dam up, eggs to find, roosters to tease, dogs to train, a baby calf to walk on a leash, hay bales to jump, traps to set, trees to climb, nuts to crack, cow milk to squirt at the cats, wild daffodils to pick, forts to build, and berries to pick."
  • When you're living on a farm, in order to survive you should be realistic about what you can do yourself. Example: Amy's family buys stuff from Walmart regularly, including yogurt (even though they have a milk cow) and occasionally meat (even though they raise their own beef). "I’ve seen where people say that they “made their own laundry detergent”. (This is not a smack down, just an observation. I love ladies who make laundry detergent. You are my best girls.) What they really mean, however, is that they bought the ingredients from Wal-Mart and assembled laundry detergent. There is a huge difference. Without Wal-Mart, you’re sunk."
It's so interesting to get a glimpse into what living on a farm might be like, and it's also nice to realize that while it's a fulfilling existence, it's not the utopia that I think I often make it out to be. I think that just as before being a parent, I totally idealized what it would be like to have a child (it is amazing, but there are the sleepless nights, grumpy babies, and poopy diapers), I also tend to gloss over what some of the struggles of farm life might be. Let's just say that for now I'm happy to read my farm books, my farm blogs, and tend to my teeny tiny garden here in the burbs.

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