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12 Life Lessons Learned on a Farm

October 10, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI get weird looks from people when I say we don’t have television in the home. I used to watch some shows – Grey’s Anatomy, Nashville – online but that is no longer possible either. The city culture assumes we can’t live without it. We need entertainment and a bombardment of news 24/7. We have to know what the Kardashians did today and the latest Miley or Beiber blunder. I had to look up how to spell Beiber. Everyone needs to make a living and those between entertainer and viewer will get their share.

It’s a daily struggle to get enough to get by, and frankly celebrities don’t add anything to make that struggle better. I do read quite a bit, and stay up on things that matter in my world. I try to share some of that with others, but in that this morning I came across a quote from Glenn Beck.

“Everything you need to know as a human being you learn on a farm. The problem with our society, we’re no longer an agrarian society. When we moved away from our farms, we lost everything,” Glenn Beck.

It almost brought a tear. I’ve lived in/near cities out of necessity at times and saw so many things that I learned early on that those in their 20s, 30s still hadn’t accepted in cities. Everyone’s so busy trying to grab their share there’s not enough to pass to someone else.

I’ve at times listened to talk radio of several kinds – I don’t do so regularly. But I read a little on the site and listened to a couple of things to get a context beyond one quote. As I listened (including reading the above link about doing something worthy) I thought about how much farm lessons were life lessons. I don’t hold illusions that anyone in Hollywood cares two whits about some little farm trying to sell enough ebooks to build community gardens. It’s laughable isn’t it? Probably doesn’t meet a ‘celebrity’ dry cleaning bill. Don’t get me wrong – many work hard and there’s no resentment there…but we can do without television longer than food.

I think there’s rough times in America’s cities and the negative reported just makes that more true. Life lessons from the farm…oh yes. Just a few that come to mind.

You can’t pull someone up if you’re standing on them. The only way to pull solid is on solid ground. Mud, wet or slippery footing makes for a questionable result. If the only dry place to stand is compromised what then? Make do. Giving someone a hand up only works if you’re not standing on them to keep them down in the muck.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADetails matter. Today’s hurry up world and broad brush coverage often mean skimming. With a teenager who has grown up in the digital age, there have been many conversations about why skimming is not a good thing. Skimming misses details, and details matter. It can be a life altering difference to say feed the rabbits and feed the rabbits hay. Overfeeding can waste feed and be detrimental to their health. Details are the difference between doing something and doing something now. Details are the difference between life and death in many careers. Details matter.

People don’t really care what you think. They might care what you do. Why is talk radio big? To express yourself…only you get to express yourself IF you get through to the host online. In the end does the host really care what you think? Agree, disagree, but it’s probably not personal. There’s not a personal touch. It makes it easy, then, when I ask what people think about <whatever> to blow it off with a glib answer. What do you think about food. “I want to eat.” Really? That’s all? Action matters too, but in the big wide world few care what we think.

Stock up in good times. Dad grew up seeing tough times in the Depression – that and being miles from town meant stocking up was second nature. Back in the blizzards of the late 70s we ate – we couldn’t get to town but we had food, there was food for the dogs. Still today it’s not uncommon for a half dozen bags of dog food and a freezer full of food at the farm…for two people and a dog. It’s not hoarding – but if there’s an interruption in income or situation there’s not one in food. It’s what needles at me badly because we don’t have that. Things are paid but I feel panic because one interruption can be big.

Bad times don’t last. It passes and with effort gets better. What’s the worst that can happen? It has to someone. Be empathetic, make a difference for people living through what you fear. I have to laugh when I read things about tight budgets that are higher than I’ve had in years.

Giving up is an option. Many say giving up is not an option. Oh yes it is. You can’t will another creature to live – and having tended enough sick, injured or otherwise compromised animals there’s only so much medical care can do. Giving up is absolutely done – 22 soldiers a day give up and end their life at their own hands. Don’t say it’s not an option. Suicide, bankruptcy, health issues – it’s an option. Might not be an option you will choose, but it’s an option.

Frisky1971Life isn’t fair. A favorite animal dies. Someone gets hurt, or loses something dear to them. Life isn’t fair. This lesson was learned before I was 10. Frisky, a calf I raised, played with, chased, rode, got attached to did not get pregnant and raise a calf. A farm isn’t a place for 1,000 pound pets…and one day Frisky was gone. It’s not fair. It’s life. There were other heifers, some that did get pregnant and many that weren’t like that first heifer.

Never be too proud to learn something new. Sometimes there’s a better way to do something, or a way to treat an animal that we haven’t done before. Sometimes keeping weeds out or a better way to water plants means more time to tend to other things.

Routine things are important. It’s easy to look at the big projects. Right now the hoop greenhouse, a couple dozen raised beds and an impossible task of coming up with about $4,000 on outstanding projects is a wall of things that needs done. But that doesn’t eliminate routine things. Feeding and watering rabbits, cleaning pens, keeping the poultry fed and watered. Often times Connor thinks his chores and contribution doesn’t mean anything but it allows me time to market, to blog, to take photos and do the seemingly bazillion little things that hopefully one day will bring in enough to sustain us on.

Get the other point of view. I see conversations often on where it’s not an emphasis but SCREAMING to get one’s point across. Ever do that to a horse? Grab a halter and go stomping out to him to catch him and he does what? Many run. “OK you want to yell at me I’m gone!” Stop. Listen. Recognize their body language, message. It makes life so much easier. Sit down in a cow pasture and often they’ll gather around. Open a rabbit cage and wait and many will come up to the door after initially moving to the back. Even an animal at the bottom of the food chain gets it – why doesn’t the one at the top?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASometimes it’s ugly. Life isn’t always nice. Many parts of it are downright unpleasant. Cattle that have difficulty giving birth, lambs that are in the wrong position, rabbits that have a litter of premature babies on the wire of the cage, blood and body fluids in life and death. A coccidia life so small we can’t see it can kill a turkey, or a rabbit, or a chicken. We can’t see it but we see the damage, in spotted liver of the affected animal that died. It’s why we need to see those details and sometimes treat when it looks like there’s nothing wrong – because life isn’t fair. People leave their dogs to roam and the dog gets poisoned, or kills someone’s animals, or mauls a child. Bad things happen.

People love to be scared. Thrive on negativity. Fear of food. Fear of disease. Fear of dying. Look in the paper and it feeds on fear. Four people died in West Virginia – horrible but there’s 310million that lived through the day and many of them did something nice for someone else. Most the time it goes unnoticed, but sometimes gets a passing story like the cop who helped buy a car seat for a hand up situation in Michigan. What if there was more of that reported and less of the freak show that is the yahoo news page?

Can we approach common sense? I’m sure I missed quite a few lessons – life isn’t over so there are more to learn! Make a difference for someone. Be that hand up.



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