It is the New Year of 2018, which I believe many of us are hoping will be better than 2017. But like so many of the other social media personalities and bloggers out there, many times we talk about the interesting things that happen, post the best pictures of our projects, and try and make sure that we only capture the lovely fruits of our labors, while strategically avoiding the hard topics or large messes just outside of the camera frame. A lot of farming is not very glamorous and can be very monotonous. Strategic representation of farming on social media can romanticize the idea, but I think it is fair to discuss a few of the realities of farming.
The day-to-day business of farming can be boring and overwhelming. Your daily chores whether it is feeding animals, weeding and watering crops, or preserving your tenth batch of tomatoes can be tasks that you trudge through. Like the mail service, rain, sun, sleet, or snow, does not prevent the need for your animals to eat; it only makes your tasks more unpleasant and inconvenient. Preserving usually requires waiting for fruit to be at its peak before canning or pickling, which means not preserving one day can mean you lose a lot of your supply by the next. Having these responsibilities can greatly infringe on the time and opportunities that you have off of the farm, which can be quite isolating. There are no vacations or holiday breaks; someone must always be on the farm.
Injuries are very common on a farm, and seem to be rarely discussed. A lot of the injuries are due to the strain of heavy lifting, slippery or uneven terrain, farm equipment accidents, and the occasional bad aim with sharp farm tools. This does not even get into the burns, cuts, and scrapes one experiences cooking and preserving. These injuries result in two possible scenarios: Either you can limp through your chores doing enough to get by until healed, or if the injury is more serious, it requires other people to take on your responsibilities until you are able to get back on your feet. Neither of which is ideal.
There are also times that we do not discuss some of the unpleasant sides of homesteading and what we do. At Little Red Hen Farms, we do raise meat animals, and we also lose animals to predators. It is not completely uncommon to find deceased chickens that have fallen prey to attacks, which you must collect and dispose of to prevent disease. On the days that our pigs are harvested, or killed, someone must be there to lift up animals to bleed out, and witness the process to make sure the animals are treated respectfully and dispatched efficiently. These are not things for the light of heart.
Finally, strategic photography is something I am definitely guilty of. On Instagram, Facebook, or Websites it is easy to appear to have everything together, be amazingly productive, and always positive. However, this is not the reality. I can guarantee that 99% of my photos are angled just so to catch the light, and prevent you from seeing the mountain of dishes, dirty floors, or any other insecurity I may have lying in the background.
All I can say is that most of the time we go through the motions of the day, doing the things that require doing to keep the homestead running, try and prevent waste, keep a toddler alive and entertained, make appointments, and interact with others to prevent turning into hermits. And that my friends, is the reality.
So, while this may be a bit of downer, those who farm all have a reason to do these things and work through all of the struggles, because there is also joy. It is a great feeling to watch your hard work grow animals and plants to feed your family. It is satisfying to use your own produce to create yearlong stores and fill your larder, to make soap, or entertain your friends. It is a labor of love, but as Pat Benatar once said, love is a battlefield.
Happy New Year!