Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Simple Life...

I keep coming across the phrase or description "The Simple Life'
in reference to lifestyle.
As in, 'I want to live the simple life'
or, "I want to get back to a simpler way of life.'

And I have decided that this bugs me... deeply.
So I did a wee bit of digging on the word 'simple'.

In many ways I suppose it is appropriate.
Meanings such as 'humble', 'unadorned' can fit I suppose,
as can 'unaffected'. When I catch my reflection
in the kitchen window in the evening
I fit some of those.
I am most definitely unadorned unless you
count a wisp of straw and streaks of dirt.
And I am unaffected in my dress and
hairstyle (or lack there of..the hairstyle, not the dress)
And my lifestyle is most definitely humble,
if you take that to mean
not having two coins to clink together.
So, I will concede to living a 'simple' lifestyle within those bounds.

But the rest of my life is certainly not 'simple'
when in the context of some other definitions.

'Not complicated, complex or compound' doesn't really fit the
farming, livestock and homesteading lifestyle at all.

Let's break it down, shall we?

"Not complicated"
My life is complicated.
I have weather, I have pests,
I have predators and I have illness.
Those are complications.
Any one of those things can bring a screeching
halt to the success of my lifestyle.
To my life, really.
Your average suburban, non farming bloke
can handle the weather etc...
without losing a winter's worth of food.
My job is here. Right here.
My payment is a stocked larder and some
scratch money from eggs and meat.
Ok.. so the scratch money goes right to the feed
store which goes right back into the whole
stocked larder and scratch money thing.
It is a complicated system.

Especially when you balance all that
in with the norms of daily life..
baking bread, running the house,
feeding the humans and finding time to do that.
Scheduling the day so that dinner is more or less
on the table before midnight,
making sure we aren't wearing rags of filth in public,
homework, bill paying, how many more loads
do I have before it is time to make more laundry soap
And sometimes I find time to bathe.

"Not complex"
I imagine it like a CEO of a business
with over one hundred employees.
But, unlike a CEO I have to be aware
of more than productivity.
I have to know how each employee should
act, look, eat, walk, sleep, breed etc..
I have to really KNOW my employees.
At a glance I must know if something is wrong and how
to remedy whatever that problem may be.
I have to decide if it is a life threatening condition
and how to address it.. successfully.
Every time.
And I have to provide all for those same workers.
Housing, water, food and entertainment.
And their safety. Their complete safety.
They must have a secure place to sleep safe from Death.
And I care for their children
in every way.
And that is just the animals.
The same goes for the garden.
I have to provide everything
and monitor everything everyday.
The same issues apply for observance and diagnosis.

And I have to be one step ahead all the time.
I must know what the weather will hold for today,
tomorrow and three months in the future.
And planning.. oh my!
When do I think the last frost date will be considering
how the weather is this year versus the last couple of years?
Do I have time to plant more of this or that?
How old are these?
Which day will the weather be right for butchering?
When should I breed them next?
What should I raise next year?
And how did the weather and growing conditions affect the outcome of each of these?
I must do constant analysis..
What grew best?
Which was the strongest at germination?
Who was the first to produce?
Ripen? Who was the most disease and pest free?
Who is laying and laying strongly?
Which cross breed grew out the fastest and had the best meat ratio?
This is all some complex shit.
Which counters some of the other words that popped up..
"ignorant' and 'unlearned'
Oh really??
I study constantly and in great, great depth
to make sure I have all of the knowledge
that is possible to gather in hopes that
I can be successful.
I will go head to head with any medical student
on hours spent with my head buried in a book
and in the volume and weight of notes taken every year.
Bring it on!

"Not compound"
is really just a conglomeration of the other two,
but still must be considered.
If I screw up on any two or more things
at any given time my pain will be compounded.
And it takes a sum of all of the parts to have any modicum of success.
All things in moderation and all things must be in balance.
None of the parts of my little world can survive singularly.
It is a complex and compound life.

A few other words popped up in my search of "simple'.
'Common'. No, my life is not common.
There was a time when it was common to have
people thinking and living this way. But not so much anymore.
The ease and convenience of technology has
made doing for self darn near obsolete.
But I also think of "common' as an insult,
as in not special which leads me to next word..
No, my life is not ordinary. I mean, it is to me because I do it everyday,
but ordinary in the context of what others around me do.. no.
I am one of only two people on my road that
have a garden. I am darn tooting the only
one who has the animals.
There are beef cattle across the road and a horse farm up a bit,
but not a homesteading, many faceted enterprise.
My kid is the only kid in school who does this
that I am aware of and I know a few adults who do.
Nope.. not ordinary.

And the last is the funniest to me..
- of little or no importance-insignificant-trivial-irrelevant.
I find the work that I do to be very important
and significant and relevant. At least to me.
I would not do all of this crap,
oh! believe me I would not,
if it weren't all of those things.
The feeling of cooking food that I grew and
harvested with my own two hands,
the bite of a tomato still warm from the sun and
the deep pleasure at each and every egg I put in that basket
is what keeps me doing it.
The knowledge that I can provide fresh, good, healthy veggies
and meat for my loved ones
(and the nice people who are willing to pay me to do it for them)
fills me up.
I could and probably should have a job.
And many, many, many, many days
I am stricken with guilt and shame for staying
home all day everyday and playing while my
Sweet Husband struggles to provide monetary
sustenance for us to keep us alive and under roof.
But, he is willing to let me stay and I try to work hard.
And I try to provide my share and it is most definitely relevant.

Oh, hang on.. someone is coming NOW to buy some
chicks and I have to run and make sure the barn looks decent!.....
Ok.. I am back and $40 richer than when I left. Yippee!!
Now, where was I???
Ummm.. simple, relevance.. ahh.

But, to me, my life is simple. I know, I know..
negating my own arguments..
but it seems/feels simple to me because it is what I am good at,
it is what I do.
It is like breathing air.
I can walk into my barn and know in a split
second if something has changed.
I can tell by the sound or the quiet, the motion or the stillness.
I know my barn.
I know the different sound qualities of my dogs' barks.
I know if it is animal or human intereference.
I know how fast to head out the back door.
I know if my plants are dry or if they need magnesium..at a glance.
I know from the chew marks what ate my tomato leaves during the night.
I know how to find the time to knead and rise bread
and have it ready for dinner
and I know how much butter to make how many biscuits
and how the dough should feel in my fingers.
I do not measure.
This life to me is simple because it is mine
and what I was meant to do. I simply can and do.

And I wouldn't trade unless I absolutely had to.
The thought of 9-5ing it with afterschool care
and pantyhose and shopping after work
and hair products and makeup
and all that hell makes me feel sick inside. Sick.
And what do the folks that live that way look forward to?
What keeps them going?
For me, I love the constant change.
I look forward to fall and harvest, then putting the garden to bed.
I look forward to apple butter season
and the spiced smell of woodsmoke filling the yard.
I look forward to garden catalogs
and garden bed prep and spring planting
and the first warm days.
I look forward to the summer heat
and the first tomato and hatching time.
There is always something new right around the corner-
new and an old and familiar all at the same time.
I know what to do and what to expect,
but it is different than what I did last week.

If I was 9-5ing it, what would keep me getting out of bed in the morning?
Certainly not the expectation of the constant whir that is farm life.

Yep.. my life is simple
and complex
and complicated
and relevant
and vital
and mine.


  1. I couldn't agree with you more!

  2. Life is always simple until someone decides to complicate it. Glad to hear you're doing so well.