Thursday, December 29, 2011

Is It All Worth It?

Maybe it's because the husband's out of town.  Maybe it's the fact that the coffee maker didn't work this morning.  Maybe it's the fact that contractors are repainting at work, but HR thinks it's okay for us to sit at our desks and smell fumes all day rather than find alternative assignments for us.  Maybe it's just one of those days, but I'm dreaming of that low-maintenance townhouse with maybe just a well-groomed Pomeranian to keep me company. 

The coffee maker really didn't work this morning.  Thankfully, we have a very nice stainless steel French press for camping, so I didn't actually have to go without my fuel for very long.  It just threw my morning out of whack while I did some troubleshooting on the coffee maker and fumbled around for the press.  I was late haying the new ponies (what I had originally planned to blog about when I found a spare moment), which made me late for work.

It's mornings like these that make me realize how well orchestrated my life has to be to fit in a part-time job (30 hours, so technically an almost a full-time job), a family, and a "hobby farm".   That doesn't even cover church, 4-H, and other community involvements.  When one routine breaks down, the cracks show pretty quickly.  Being a perfectionist doesn't help. 
Yes, it's true that our library system, despite kicking off a healthy lifestyles initiative earlier this year, despite insisting that we serve fresh fruits and vegetables at meetings, despite purchasing water filters for all of our locations, despite everything, still insists that it's okay for us to sit in a poorly ventilated office while our branch is repainted.  They insist that it's not harming our health since "the painters are using low-VOC paint."  I guess somebody forgot to tell my headache and sinuses that it's low-VOC paint. 

I got home after work and an appointment for my daughter to find four hungry escaped pigs, 2 stubborn ponies, and 3 spoiled goats waiting for me at the gate behind the barn.  Usually one of the guys from my husband's construction crew comes to feed the pigs once a day when he is out of town -- and I take care of everything else.  Usually we also get our pig feed from the plate scrapings at a local soup kitchen (in exchange we donate the meat from one of our butchered hogs back to said kitchen); however, the cook is on holiday this week and must have forgotten to tell her substitute of our little arrangement.  Yesterday, I told the guy feeding our pigs I'd bring home some commercial pig feed to tide us over until next week, but forgot to mention that I'd be home later than usual because of my daughter's appointment.  When I got home, I assumed he'd already been by at his usual time and didn't have anything to feed the pigs.  Sizing up the 2,000+ pounds of hungry animal waiting on the other side of the gate compared to the 120 pounds of me, I decided the easiest thing to do was walk the fence line through the brambles back to the pig enclosure and dump some feed over the fence to entice them back into their pen, then deal with the horses and goats--who had already been hayed this morning anyway.  A nice, rational plan, right?

Well, the pigs didn't quite figure out that the food had been dumped in a different location in their enclosure, so they followed me, the human with bucket in hand, right back to where it had all started.  Meanwhile, the ponies were sick of squealing, hungry pigs and began to kick at them aggressively, thus increasing the squealing.  As the sky darkened,  I began to stumble over the thick brambles along the fence row even more, praying as I did that the woods would at least spare my eyeballs even if the rest of me was scratched to pieces.  Going slowly, I hadn't been too badly damaged by the brambles when I saw headlights turn into the driveway.  All I needed was a stranger coming up to the house while my daughter was in there all alone so I increased my pace.  Nobody ever comes out here to visit unless they've called first to make sure we're home.  Well, the woods did spare my eyes, but my exposed hands and my fancy knitted scarf did suffer some damage.

The driver of the truck turned out to be my husband's employee and sometimes pig feeder who had arrived later than usual.  He was kind enough to carry a lantern and bucket of feed BACK to the pig pen so the pigs would get the idea that they were being fed and could return home.  He also promised to come back during daylight tomorrow to try and repair and stake the spot where the jailbreak occurred.  Life was somewhat back to normal, but I was coughing like crazy from the paint fumes and running around like a mad woman in the cold air. 

I sat on the couch drinking tea and watching my daughter knit, contemplating whether this life is "worth it".  On days like today, it's easy to question why I live the way I do.  Having a tidy house with a postage stamp lawn on a nice, paved suburban street would be so easy.  They do sell pork and eggs in grocery stores.  We really don't profit much from the pork we sell, so it's not like we can't do without the money.  We lost so many chickens to coyotes this year, I haven't sold a dozen eggs since early spring.  Realistically, if I'm going to continue this lifestyle, I've got to cut back my work week to no more than 20 hours, I just haven't found the right moment to bring that up to my employer.

Well, after the tea stopped the coughing and I had read a chapter out of a good book, I could think more rationally.  I live like this because it's how I want to live. What else would I do with my extra  time?  Watch more TV?  Spend more time on Facebook?  Work more hours? What would I do with my extra money?  Pay for an after school program so my kids could spend even more hours at a school that already taxes and exhausts them?  Get my meat from CAFOs that treat animals in a way that I can't possibly believe was part of God's design?  Buy more Chinese crap that I have too much of already?  Where would I spend my passion?  I'm passionate about THIS life, even at its worst.

Every day, I walk out my door to such balance and beauty that it's a shame I can feel anything but grateful.  The French press uses no electricity, it's a 3-day weekend after tomorrow, and the pigs go to the butcher on Monday.  Buy this time a few weeks from now, I'll be drinking my French pressed coffee and eating bacon and eggs I raised right here on the farm, on bread I baked myself slathered in jelly from sand plums I foraged from the roadside on my way home.  Escaped pigs and a close call with coffee notwithstanding, I live a darn good life.

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