You devour every last tidbit of postings on Facebook from your local farmers. You pick through their blogs for buzz words to store in your internal farm dictionary. You learn how they pollinate the squash blossoms, what is trendy for livestock feed and you read every Joel Salatin book three times (from air conditioned comfort). You watched the goats kid on the maternity cam and just wanted to jump in and help that last little one as she struggled to stand. Did you realize the temperature in that barn was 30 degrees and the wind was blowing through the cracks with a chill that would freeze ear wax?
I get it all the time, “we want to retire and have a little farm”. Do you really call that retirement? Up when the roosters decide you should awaken, putting in an 18 hour work day and falling into bed to be awaken in the wee hours by the dogs fending off a predator in the barnyard. You get really good at going back to sleep after an hour on coyote watch. How about raking out the chicken pen in the mid summer rainy season with a smell that would gag a maggot? There is something about the smell of chickens in the rainy season that you will never forget – not really one of those fond memories, either! Rates right up there with the dead rat that you just can’t find, that is getting you back in the afterlife by forcing your olfactory senses into shutdown mode.
When hubby and I lost our jobs after 9/11, we thought turning our kids’ 4H project would be a really cool adventure. After all who doesn’t like to pet goats and drink milk? What part of cool did I miss April through October? We were one of those disillusioned “we want a farm in our retirement” type of people. As hubby’s debilitating arthritis took it’s toll and I inherited the farm duties, it became very clear that even though we were finding proficiency, perhaps we should have been more realistic about the labor end of the lifestyle. A hobby farm is a lot of work, but taking it to an occupational level changes the ball game completely. And who can afford a hobby farm with the price of feed and property taxes? I can sling hay with the best, birth triplet goat kids with the speed of a caprine midwife and necropsy a chicken on the picnic table but pay the price with aching muscles and callused hands to rival a steel worker.
After almost a decade of being the local farmer I can only hope to live to retirement one day – in about 10 years and I will be hitting 70. I have dreams of a secluded beach in Panama, living in a thatched shack with no goats, no horses, no dogs, no cats, not even a parrot to mock me. If I want an animal I will feed the seagulls! They can fend for themselves if I decide to sleep in one day. As I sit in my beach chair with my feet in the sand getting the suntan of my life, I want to order very fruity drinks (don’t skimp on the rum) with a festive umbrella adornment and write. I want to write those stories about all the adventures that have driven me to look forward to a retirement of doing nothing!