Monday, March 11, 2013

Sometimes I forget

Thor, our two-year-old steer, has been jumping the fence lately (we patched it this morning). During our potluck dinner last week, for example, someone looked out the window and said, "A cow is out." Without any ado, Don and the girls and I donned our mud boots, grabbed our push poles, and herded him back where he was supposed to be.

"Do you need any help?" asked one of our neighbors as we set out.

"Nah, we have this down to a science," I replied. In less than five minutes, we were seated at the table again.

Sometimes I forget that herding recalcitrant cattle isn't an everyday occurrence for everyone.

Younger Daughter and I were walking to the mailboxes the other day (a three-mile round-trip). Spring has been hitting north Idaho, and the sun was shining, the temperatures were mild, and the meadowlarks and robins were singing. "My English penpal never believes me when I tell her I have to log off to go herd cows," Younger Daughter commented.

"Aren't there farms in England?" I asked.

"Yes, but not in London, where she lives," Younger Daughter replies. "That's why I'm never sure if she believes me, or just thinks I'm making a weird excuse to get offline."

Sometimes I forget that not everyone lives on a farm.

Older Daughter and I were talking about New York City recently. I visited there once, just an overnight trip, back in 1987 or so, and that's it. "I wish I could spend an entire month in New York City just to see the sights," I commented. "I wonder what it would be like to live in a place like that?"

"Yet people in New York City probably wonder what it's like to live on the prairie with the nearest neighbor a quarter-mile away," Older Daughter replied.

Sometimes I forget that not everyone doesn't live in an area of twenty people per square mile.

With spring upon us, I've been bitten by the gardening bug. It's far too early to plant anything -- harsh experience has taught me that putting anything in the ground prior to June 1 is a mistake -- but I've been trundling wheelbarrows full of compost onto the garden in order to refresh the raised beds. The compost area is a pen about twenty by thirty feet in size, adjacent to the barn. On the other side of the fence is where we feed the cows. Though it was past noon, several cows lingered over their breakfast. Chickens rooted around the barn until the moment I started forking compost into the wheelbarrow, when the entire flock comically rushed from the barn toward me in order to scratch around for worms.

And then it hit me. For some reason, it just hit me that this scene was unusual. Cows at my back, chickens at my feet, a spot the footprint of a small house for compost. Sometimes I forget that not everyone lives like we do.

To us, feeding cattle or forking compost or cleaning stalls is ordinary and everyday. To someone in, say, New York City, this kind of pastoral life is probably as remote and exotic as life in NYC is to us.

Rural life used to be the rule, not the exception. Everyone understood the cycles on a farm, even if they didn't live on one, because everyone was (of necessity) far more connected to the earth.

There's nothing wrong with either location -- urban or rural -- they're just different. But now it's possible to live one's entire life without ever getting one's hands dirty or boots soiled. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not.


  1. My twin sister lives in a large city, and I love VISITING and I love coming home even more, lol! I love dodging the neighbors escape-pig while I'm driving down the winding woods road to our home, I love having people in town ask where we live and once we've explained they say "I never knew there was a house there!" And I love letting my kids out to play and my only worry being if they track in manure, or let the goats into the house (Again! Lol, the 2yo thinks this is the best game)

  2. I was raised on a farm at Eagle, Idaho but spent most of my life in Boise, Moses Lake, Portland and Salem. In town. Now, with 8 acres of Tennessee, though not nearly as remote as ya'll, I many times have the same thoughts you have expressed. We love it, don't we?

  3. Amen "sister" .... Some weeks go by before I realize I haven't even left the farm ... Gardening?... I've got a few (plants) all over the counters and spare? Spots started
    COME ON WARMTH .... I'm ready to till HaHaHa

  4. Did you see the German homeschool family being deported?! And how Obama says no one has the right to homeschool?! Saw it on Fox news. Appalling.

    1. I don't reply a whole lot. I tend to read and keep my mouth shut. However, I just viewed this on Fox news online. They haven't been deported yet, but things are getting downright scary in the country when, as the reporter stated; considerations are being made to allow millions of illegals to stay in the country, and how many were just released from jails who had committed crimes. This family is being considered for deportation because of the religous beliefs and wanting to homeschool. What's next?

    2. The real odd thing is that Germany does not allow home schooling despite EU human rights act. The family could have come to the UK and homeschooled with no problem. As Germans they have the right of free movement within the EU. We live in Wales and home schooling is quite common here as are Steiner schools. If you apply for it( we never did) you can actually get an allowance of @ £1400 per year per child for educational materials in most counties. The government allows@ £3500 per child for the school budget. Essentially a rebate on your taxes. We really didn't want to jump through their hoops to get it so we never bothered.
      Considering the USA's record for helping persecuted minorities the action against this family is quite alarming. In Europe we are used to ABC discrimination( Anything But Christian) to see it happen there as well is very disturbing.

      Love your blog by the way. And yes we have friends from London who are most alarmed by the mere appearence of livestock. One of my wife's friends ran in sheer terror from one of our pigs. I didn't have the heart to tell her that she had just had the pigs sister for lunch lol.
      Here we have a lot of land that is unfenced with cattle grids where the road crosses on to enclosed fields. The London posse were most perturbed that the sheep could wander on the road! I had to explain that's why we drive slower at night as they sheep like to sleep on the warm Tarmac. They think we are totally insane living as we do. I on the other hand have only been on the London underground once in rush hour and think the same about them!!!

  5. One day I am deeply hoping I can live a bit like this. I'm stuck in the suburbs working my way towards a retirement. As it is, I can't just up and move so I plan.
    Right now I am planning, learning, and planning some more all while saving to get 20 acres of reasonable land in Texas. Don't know specifically what I will do with it yet (farm it? garden with cows and chicken? just chickens? none of the above? to early to tell) but I am just so sick of the city life.
    I have a dream....

    1. If you are planning for it, it is no longer only a dream, but a goal.. And eventually, a reality. :) Hoping you get there!

  6. Saturday morning when we were on our way to town, we passed one of the neighbors walking a cow up the road (she's halter-broke), to move her to the other pasture. We had the same thought - partly because the kids have an upcoming 4-H program they do for the "city-kids" where the 4-Hers bring in poultry and rabbits, and pig(lets) and goats... and many of the city-kids have never touched or even seen live farm animals before.

    This always makes me wonder how many people don't understand much of the Bible, particularly the parables, because they have no experience with growing anything (the mustard seed, the wheat and tares, etc) or raising animals (the lost lamb)...

    1. I was thinking that myself, about the Bible, if you have actually done those things, it just really strikes your heart in a deeper way! And yet I have known farmers who didn't believe. I would think but God's creation speaks to you day and night! My kids have an understanding of gleaning because Mom got the bright idea to glean the back cornfield one fall....They understand this is not easy work! , and then when we got chickens ! Wow some verses came alive then!!

    2. Excellent point. Our pastor says the same thing.

      A. McSp

  7. Patrice, we recently gave up our life on the borders of NYC to move to a more rural place. Not only does your life seem exotic and strange, but it seems, to many people, impossible. And because many of us have never seen anyone really living that way and the fact that milk comes from cows is an abstract idea, it sometimes seems a little funny and far, far removed from what is perceived as reality.

    Even though many people probably dream of a more pastoral way of living, the loss of "earthy" skills makes it very difficult for most people to achieve it. Almost anyone can move from the country to the city and be successful, but it is harder to do it the other way round. And that's what my family and I are trying to do. :) I just ordered 6 chicks. That probably seems like nothing to farm people, but if you had told me when I was a teenager that I would one day own chickens, it would have been like saying I'd be living on the moon - inconceivable.

  8. I don't usually leave links as comments, but really, this is SO worth reading, and it's right along the lines of an answer to what your last paragraph may have been asking. It's an excerpt from an old book called "The Worm Forgives the Plough" by John Stewart Collis, posted over on Herrick Kimball's blog, Agrarian Nation. I absolutely loved it. LOVED it. It's not too long. :)

    Sorry, I don't know how to post actual links, so you'll have to copy and paste if you decide to go over. I hope you get the chance to enjoy it. I hope it's okay that I left this link here. :/

  9. This could be fun, Patrice! Let's play 'fill in the blank,' shall we?

    Sometimes I forget....

    "....that most of the people who 'don't believe in guns' will never wake up to a mountain lion 30 feet from their open bedroom window."

    "...that most folks have never lived with their own water well and don't know what it means to drill or pay for one."

    ".....that many people think milk, eggs, butter, meat, produce and other basic foods come from the grocery store."



  10. O M goodness this is fun!! I built el-perfecto chicken coop WITH electricity..and found out all I really did need was something, anything, they could get into or onto!! Several of our chickens "flew the coop" and moved into an old dog house !! Karen

  11. The fact that some people can (and do) live their entire lives without getting their hands dirty is definitely NOT a good thing.

  12. OFF TOPIC, but this just in at Bloomberg:

    Scary, scary, scary -and it makes my blood boil and my heart sink.

    1. Although the women said that a nurse exaggerated her problem most mental patients will tell you that there is absolutely nothing wrong with them.

      Not saying that I agree with also denying her husband the right to have guns but there's a lot more to the story than the article gives.

    2. Whether the woman has a serious problem or not, her mental illness status cannot be determined by whether she was confined to a mental facility for 2 days! If a person tries to commit suicide or expresses a thought about doig so, they can be committed to a facility.

      The Veteran's Administration today -at the Washington Guardian if anyone gives a hoot -says they will not give up the names of vets with PTSD or other emotional disorders because of privacy concerns and for the reason it will cause them not to seek help.

      In America, how many people do you think live on Prozac or other emotion enhancing drugs or anxciety disorder drugs. ALL those people could potentially have their rights curtailed -and apparently without going before a judge to decide their competency with a bunch of police officers coming to their house at night (a provocation it itself) without a warrant to demand their guns.

      This is a slippery slope, and the fact that I saw so little reaction yesterday here or at any other site would have astounded me in times past, but the sheep just seem to keep placating themselves that there is nothing REALLY going on.

      Yes, there is more to the story, as you pointed out, but the odds are not in the favor of a free American people and a rule of law.

  13. My son-in-law from Philadelphia looked out our living room window at our 80 acres (my nearest neighbor is 2 miles east of me) and says "I have never seen so much nothing!". To me it was everything. We average 1 household per square mile in my area of the flint hills. When I go to Philadelphia, the constant roar of motors and massive herds of people make me uncomfortable. I guess we each thrive in our own environment.