I consider buying a farm and getting Maria to marry me among my two most significant and beneficial decisions. I love Maria, obviously, and I love the farm as well.
Neither one is simple or without complexity.
(Photo by Mike Conklin.)
Living on a farm is different than I expected, both better and worse.
Farms with animals are a graduate course in life and death; they challenged me to grow up and face the world’s reality. Mercy is not always fighting for life; quite often, it is letting go of life—a lesson for me to remember.
It also has taught me more about acceptance than I had learned in the previous decades.
A farm is a living, breathing, organic thing. This morning, Mike Conklin cleaned our two wood stove chimneys. This is essential for wood stoves; the interiors can catch fire if not cleaned and watched.
Mike said our decision to dry our firewood for two years had paid off. The picture is of the living room chimney from the inside out; it is clean and clear.
There is hardly a day when something on the farm does not need maintenance. One day, we have mice, then rats. The cheap donkeys chew on the barn wood in the winter, and we need to cover every bit of it with chicken wire.
The sills on the big barn are rotting and need replacement.
Bud is digging holes to get out of the dog yard and go after Amish carts and frogs, among other things. We have to build a fence that goes deeper. When the Amish move in across the street, Bud will go nuts and tear up the ground to get to them and their animals.
Our roof was rotted through this summer; we had to spend $4,000 to repair it. The Pole Barn gate is chewed through; we need to replace it. We paid $500 to dump gravel in the Pole Barn; the ground was as hard as cement and threatened the barn’s foundation.
Bud is a terrier. He never gives up.
A dozen slate pieces on the big barn had broken; they needed to be replaced. Two gates to the pastures and one to the backyard had tilted and sunk and wouldn’t open. They needed to be fixed. A flock of pigeons invaded the upper floors of the barn, breaking through the windows and leaving behind all kinds of droppings.
By October, the grass and weeds have grown too high, and the whole farm needs to be brush-hogged.
One door in the farmhouse needs replacement, and three windows have cracks that need repairing. I think that covers half of it, and I’m not even a real framer, which means there is three times as much to do.
That’s about half of it.
Real farmers joke with me about this. They say one rule is never to buy anything retail, only used, and then to keep everything you buy forever. All those tractors are repaired, not replaced.
I don’t write this to complain, only explain. Part of what makes a farm so wonderful is that is alive, and demands so much. It is a reflection of life itself.
I love the farm; our lives here are rich, stimulating, and beautiful. But there is hardly a day when we don’t come across something that needs fixing. Apart from nature, beautiful things are rarely free.