not so simple.

IMG_6698Sometimes when I tell folks, especially city-dwellers engaged in the fast-paced 9 to 5 ditty, that my husband and I live on a farm in the middle of nowhere and try to live sustainably, homestead, raise our own food, homeschool our kids, and basically do as much as we can for ourselves, I often see a glazed over expression take hold and hear utterances of “ahhhhh, the simple life.”

heh heh heh I think to myself.

I’m not exactly sure how on earth bucolic living ever could be described as simple, unless you engage in the scene as a mere pastime and therefore aren’t really living it. As far as my limited amount of experience will testify, homesteading is a heck of a lot of work. (I sometimes feel like a hypocrite even calling myself a homesteader. I don’t have the slightest clue, really. I engage in internet commerce, bop on over to the local dollar store for toilet paper, and zip into the gas station to “fill ‘er up”. Geez.)

So. Just in case you were wondering, here’s a few things I’ve taken note of lately that challenge the idea that this homesteading way of life could be viewed as simple. Here goes:

1. I’m pretty sure a bag of dogfood from the feed store trumps cutting open a dead lamb as sustenance for the livestock guardian dog in terms of simplicity. You tell me, what would you rather do?

2. Walking over to the thermostat on the wall and fiddling a bit seems far simpler than heading into the woods with a chainsaw.

3. When a cup of coffee begins with chopping wood, the corner Starbuck’s is a piece of cake.IMG_6668

4. What time does the school bus come again? I’ve forgotten. Oh, right… school is right here. And I am the teacher. And the cafeteria-lady. And the janitor. Simple?

5. When a dozen eggs from the grocery store costs a mere few dollars, why exactly have I spent several hundred on chicks, several hundred more on feed, and several hundred more on fencing? Tack on all of the hours spent raising the chicks, feeding them, protecting them from predators, and moving their fence around the pasture every few days… well, wheeling the shopping cart to the refrigerated section of the grocery store seems downright easy.IMG_6657

6. The laundromat is my friend. Following a night of my little girl puking on every single heavy blanket on her bed, the “simple” task of hand-washing all of those loads felt daunting. I caved. My simple life was made even simpler by cramming some quarters into a machine.

7. Last year we planted a few hundred strawberry plants. We unrolled big heavy bales of wheat straw to mulch the plants and keep the weeds at bay. But the straw still had many, many wheat berries in it which sprouted so nicely that the strawberry plants were shaded and the task of plucking that fine carpet of wheat grass was completely overwhelming. Then the deer moved in on them. They love strawberry plants, you know. Now that the wheat grass has been weeded out of what plants remain, a freeze arrived just when the plants were blooming for their first big crop. The heavy piece of 10′ x 150′ row cover didn’t just magically decide on it’s own that those tender blooms needed protection. Who do you think was left to do it? And we haven’t even arrived at the picking part of this equation. The fact exists that this is just one crop. We grow dozens of different crops each year. You see where I’m going… not so simple.

8. Can’t we, just this once, call the plumber to remove the giant hairball that is clogging the bathtub drain?

9. A cow’s gestation is about ten months. A good grass-finished beef animal requires about two years to mature and finish. You’re looking at three years before that first bite of hamburger. Calving season is about to unfold here very soon. Want to come over in about three years for a cookout?

10. When you build your own house, and the front door is framed in a slightly cock-eyed fashion, and you look at it sideways each time you go in and out, there isn’t anyone to blame for that detail but yourself. (In this case I could slightly nudge Eric in the ribs. But we’re a team and I’ve done many more half-cocked things than he has!) Best just smile and tilt your head. The door works just fine anyhow.

Carving out a life is not simple, no matter what style of life you live. The reality is that each day is far from simple. Not just for me and this way of life that I have chosen (for I did happily choose this), but for all of us. Some of us pay electric bills, some of us adjust solar panels. Some of us drive big trucks, some of us drive horses and buggies, some of us walk. Even the monk who has rejected all earthly possessions and sits for hours each day in meditation has a hard row to hoe… sitting still with a clear mind? Now that is hard work. I just can’t do it. Despite the heft and magnitude of each decision we make, it doesn’t really matter how big or small. Every little decision requires a human at the helm to decide what path feels right. Life is complex. We are complex creatures with the amazing knack for adding complexity to just about everything we do. I know we all feel this way, in our own way, each and every day: Fully living life is not so simple.

IMG_6706For me, I think the simplicity comes with the unambiguous nature of my work. Nothing is ambiguous around here. My actions have direct consequences: Forget to water the greenhouse? Dead plants. Tend the garden well? Full bellies. No firewood for the stove? Cold house. Love my children despite totally obnoxious behavior? Watch them grow and flourish. And on and on. Hmmmmmm. When I look at things in that light, maybe I am living the simple life after all.

11 thoughts on “not so simple.

  1. Oh, #8 and #10 speak to me clearly! We did not build our house, but we literally peeled it back to the lath and plaster in parts and started over. An old farmhouse from the late 1800’s, nothing is ever straight. It drives my brother nuts, who does most of the finish work. He tries his best, but things are just always going to be crooked and slanted! And I won’t go into the details about the plumbing, but I will say that the pipe to my washer (no I don’t wash my hand) was overflowing this morning and my husband is the designated “dead squirrel” remover. What seems simple for some is just day to day normal work for the people living that “simple” life.

    • Love, love the description of the drain clog as the “dead squirrel”! That is almost precisely what the hunk of hair looked like that I removed from my clogged pipe! And living in a crooked house has gives life so much more character!

  2. Cher, it’s much appreciated that you shared the REAL life of a homesteader. Having spent time with you and Eric and the kids, I saw how much effort was required… and how much joy there was in the household. The stability of the children, their growth and solid education, their are and concern for one another, their participation in chores, and even Ira’s duck egg project showed me that you have done a wonderful job. You work hard, and you accomplish the important. I look forward to seeing you in the fall!

    • Thank you so much, Debra. Yep, you saw the real deal first hand! And all of the chaos of my crazy family! We look forward to seeing you, too.

  3. I don’t know you, Cher, but I was part of the Spring Hollow Farm that Coree’s folks were part of. I LOVE this post … and will refer to it the next time anyone I know has the audacity to refer to the “good ole’ day” as blissful living. You are spot on, that we, as humans, live complex and varied lives … the bliss comes from choosing wisely. Thank you, Kathryn

  4. When I think of “the simple life”. I don’t think of it as simple living or simple work. I think of it as simple clean. Yes, going to the grocery store may seem easier, but what you get is not simple food. It’s full of chemicals, antibiotics, not natural, sickly, treated horribly and all around complicated. I need to know what ingredients are GMO ,for which there are many derivatives, I have to read every ingredient and understand what I’m reading. I need to know which growers use what pesticides and which pesticides are better (if there is such a thing).I have to ask the butcher where the meat comes from, call the farm, drive by it and call to ask questions. Buying organic doesn’t help, it could mean the makers still don’t follow guidelines and just pay annual fines. Finding simple food in a grocery store is not easy. For me, growing and raising it is.

    I have no plans to completely leave the comforts of modern convenience entirely, but I do want to eventually end up some place that I can, if I have to. Plus I miss the air cleansing, soul warming gift of natural fire. I do abhor central air.

    I truly love the life you have chosen and this blog is by far one of my favorites. Highly inspirational, keep it up ladies!

    • Thank you very much. I agree with you completely about grocery store fare. I would never keep doing what I’m doing if I didn’t. If you really want to know what comprises the food you eat, best to just grow it yourself! Thanks for reading, we all appreciate it!

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