I love owning and toiling over the farm. Though sometimes frustrating, I derive a measurable satisfaction from the work.
But have you met my wife?
Julie is loving. Supportive. Encouraging. But not physically strong.
Much of the work in the early stages of our farm requires strength and plenty of it. Lift this, load that, lug it over there. Stack wood, carry feed sacks, load up scrap metal, stack hay, wrestle this piglet. It feels great to be so physically exhausted. I can fall asleep almost instantly…anywhere (sorry pastor Mark!).
She doesn’t love that. She loves me but she doesn’t love all of the work.
So I try to accommodate her needs. Some of today’s post is exaggerated to make the point but some of it is very real. Please don’t comment that I’m a jerk. I can be a jerk at times. But most of the time I’m a pretty normal guy. You know…a jerk.
Julie recently made a list of her top 15 things that are free and her top 15 things that cost money. Stop reading now and go make that list. Really. Stop. Write down 15 things that you treasure that are free. Now write down 15 that cost money.
Done? Good. Post some of your 15’s in comments. Come on. Hundreds of people will read this. SOMEBODY can share a few things they enjoy. May as well be you.
My top 15 include piglets. Her top 15 (of both categories somehow) include chocolate. I love cutting firewood and watching the forest transition from thorny weed trees to dominant, climax hardwoods. She likes the warm fireplace in the winter. I enjoy watching the cows graze and stomp the pasture as we manage toward fertility and diversity. She likes to hold hands as we walk through the pasture. I want to make the chickens happy. She wants to talk to the egg customers.
Our goals are not mutually exclusive but they are not entirely aligned either. They are complimentary. Well, some of the time. Other times?
I want a clean house, well-behaved children, a weed-free garden and no toys on the floor. She does too. It’s unanimous so why doesn’t it get done? What does she do all day? I get up early, care for the critters, solve computer puzzles all day and come home to play farmer some more. What does she do all day? Why aren’t the dishes done? She has four helpers! It only takes a few minutes to wash the dishes! I know, I DO A LOT OF DISHES!
These aren’t productive thoughts to verbalize in
argument conversation with your wife.
Julie shared her top 15(s) with me this past weekend after yet another …um…discussion(?) about the milk cows that resulted in me selling the cows. (Fast forward a few days, we haven’t sold the cows. I found a willing buyer within 3 minutes but cooler heads prevailed. For now.) You know what is NOT in Julie’s top 15? Milking the cows.
How can she feel that way? I mean, what is her problem!?!? Milking the cows is totally in my top 15.
No. She wants to hold hands as we walk in the pasture and eat chocolate and buy art supplies and journal her thoughts and …I don’t know…do some other girl stuff. I want to hold a rusty bit of baling wire in my teeth as I save the world once again with a miraculous repair like my super-hero dad. Hold hands? I guess but, “Hold hands? In the pasture?! Baby, we don’t have to go to the pasture to hold hands. Anyway, I gotta collect the eggs. Maybe you can hold my hand while I walk down to the birdies. But can you wear your purple rubber boots? I need to cross the creek and count the cows. I should probably build a little fence while I am down there. And I need to move the water trough too.” And just like that we are no longer holding hands as we stroll through the pasture to collect a basket full of eggs. We are working. Like workey-work. Baling wire in your teeth, cow manure on your jeans, broken fingernail, grunt and smell and save the world kind of work. The kind of work that adds to the already massive pile dirty laundry when you come in from doing chores and have to take a shower because the dog is the only one who likes your smell. And, by the way, the dirty laundry has to be put away when it is cleaned. You know, that chore that isn’t getting done as is evidenced by the baskets full of clean laundry sitting on the bed so we have to deal with them before going to sleep but we actually just carry the baskets to the living room every night because we are so tired from gathering eggs, building fence, moving water troughs and holding hands.
Well, something like that anyway.
So she doesn’t want to milk the cows. It’s not on her list.
So I am milking the cows. It is on my list. And it frees up time in her day to accomplish more of the stuff she wants to do.
And it is important that she have time in her day to explore things she is passionate about…and that I support her in those things. So the dishes don’t get washed after every meal. So there is clean laundry on the bed. So sometimes I stop working and just hold her hand in the pasture. Sometimes we all pile in the car and go to the library. Or to visit family. I separate the jobs that I want to do from the jobs I need to do, we do what we have to and leave the rest for later so we can all play a board game together. Same reason the house isn’t completely spotless sometimes. She had more important stuff to do. Same reason there isn’t a new blog post every day.
Sometimes it is important to her that she help me stack firewood. Sometimes it is important to me that we hold hands in the pasture while eating a chocolate bar and doing nothing else. I have to meet her where she is…to invest in her. To put a deposit in her love account.
All of this seems like common sense…and it is. But you forget that when it’s hot and the garden is submerged under a sea of weeds and the cows are out and the kids are grouchy and you can’t see the kitchen counter and things, generally, could be going better. But that’s life…the life we share. She loves me and likes the farm. I should probably adopt her style of thinking.
This is real life. I’m not here to pick at scabs for an audience. I’m also not here to tell you that farming is easy and the best way to make the world a better place is to buy a $250 American Guinea Hog that you butcher at 60 pounds after 6 months and harvest 30 pounds of meat for $10/pound. I keep it real. This is where I am today. Julie and I are fine. Farming is hard. Marriage is hard. Getting older is hard. But I rather enjoy farming and getting older with my best friend. It isn’t always easy but we’ll tough it out. And I hope you will too.
Wow, Every word of that is true on my place, but one thing, my wife wont go outside to hold hands. But like you, we are struggling through. I grew up on a dairy farm where there were not excuses, because if not you then who, if not now, when. It’s hard in todays world to teach principles like that. but its the only way I know.
1Watching my kids interact with the animals
2Just listening when one of my children wants to talk
3My children’s laughter
4Twilight in a pasture
7Dew on the ground
8The smell of spring
9Eating food I produced
10Working with my boys
12Making new portable milking equipment
14Listening to the birds
15The sense of accomplishment
Thanks for the exercise.
I don’t have any money so I will forego the other 15.
Take the time to hold hands, eat chocolate and play board games. I recently lost my wife and best friend for 28 years. We have a small dairy farm with 3 now grown children and I as well work off the farm. So yes cows to milk and take care of 7 days a week, days off never mind vacations. were few and far between. We finally reached a point where we could afford to travel and now all my travels will be alone. Do some of it now.
I’m so sorry for your loss, Tom. Rachel and I both send our love to you and your family.
Tom, I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for writing this! What you wrote is exactly what I feel the author is missing. Hopefully, other guys will listen to you.
You just summed up all the reasons why I am joyously and happily single and will remain so until the day I fall off the perch. When I was farming, I was the one doing all the grunt work in all weathers, whether I liked it or not, while spouse was losing jobs and spending a lot of time on computer games.
Top thing on my list that doesn’t require money: Writing.
Top thing on my list that does require money: Having my own home.
At this point, the writing pays for the home and nobody is crabbing because I spend a lot of time writing (despite the fact that it brings in more money than my day job). Peace in our time.
Actually, the top thing on my list that does and doesn’t require money is living in peace. Hooyah!
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