This post was born out of many conversations my husband and I have had over the years. I have always dreamed of a full fledged “farm girl” life, but we’ve found that our reality has turned out to look a little different.
In south-central Pennsylvania, not far from my grandmother’s house, there’s a sprawling valley filled with Amish and Mennonite farms. They spread out across the land like squares on a patchwork quilt. One home dotted with colorful annuals follows another, many of them with large, well-kempt barns and fields. Even the smaller properties in town have tidy backyard gardens filled with fresh produce.
Ever since I was a small girl riding in the backseat of my grandparents’ car, I watched longingly as we passed the horse-drawn buggies and long lines of color-coded laundry. I wanted a home like this one day: a big, beautiful farmhouse, carefully cared for, surrounded by animals and filled with the smell of fresh baking.
Though I didn’t grow up on a farm, I still feel it’s part of my heritage. The memories of stroking a feisty cat in the yard of my great-aunt’s farm, the time spent lurking in the barn at my old friend Grace’s house, the stories of my great-grandmother making their own way with their backyard homestead, and even our own kitchen garden at my parents house… it all runs in my blood.
We’ve pursued so many of the skills that I saw in my own family: gardening, canning, drying herbs, tapping syrup, raising or catching animals for meat, keeping a handful of laying chickens… Over the years there has been an ebb and flow to things. Some years we are bursting with homestead projects and responsibilities; some years we struggle with burnout and accomplish very little.
My reality isn’t filled with onions hung up to dry and bushels of potatoes stored for winter. My canning cupboard is rarely full. Our garden rows couldn’t be described as straight and long, and perhaps some of them were never planted at all. We’ve gave up our primary meat source last summer because it didn’t fit with our lifestyle. Our goat became a pet after a year of milking, and for now I buy my milk at the store.
Perhaps when I envisioned myself on a farm, I imagined it would be a much more monastic lifestyle. One in which I could sit and garden and sew and cook in peace, without the multitude of distractions and outside obligations.
To some, this may sound like an oppressed woman’s reality. To me, however, it speaks of the fullness of a rich and hardworking life. It doesn’t seem confining; rather, it is amazingly freeing. Imagine- the chance to live life as it really works. To be close to your food, to manage your home, to know what kind of work and love goes into every part of your daily needs and wants.
Our modern lives are distracted, fractured, and disconnected from how we eat, wash, and find shelter. Our basic needs are met with paper bills given to us by working a job that’s part of the system, rather than by the work of our own two hands. This is what is so appealing to the idea of homesteading to me: the thought that we really could connect to how we live.
And yet, in my real life, I work at three different places outside of the home. I’m a music teacher and singer. When I’m not out, I’m homeschooling my kids or trying to recover the house from it’s daily explosions. In the cracks, I spend much less time in the dirt than I would like to.
My life isn’t monastic. It’s full of people to see, places to be, and things to be done. It may seem from the outside that I am a down-home, all natural, farmy type of girl- and yes, I do love these types of things. However, in my real life I am also a busy mom who begrudgingly drives a Town and Country and stops at Wendy’s when she’s in a pinch.
Part of me mourns this current reality. I want to live quietly and happily with the weather in my face and earth on my dress. I want to be home more. I don’t want to be running from place to place.
But, as my husband reminded me, the life that we have isn’t bad. It’s just different. My days are good. Our “farmish” adventures are far from full-fledged, but I’m learning to take joy in the adventures we can have right now.
Things don’t have to be all or nothing.
Am I a farm girl? No, not really. But do I have to be? No!
In fact, I often have to remind myself that one of the secrets of happiness is to be content right where you are.