This morning it is a brisk 17 degrees outside. Everything that hadn't died already (and is supposed to be dead this time of year) will be dead when I walk outside today. The remaining eggplants, basil, a lone tomato, along with the bouganvilla on the side of the house, will have all died down to the ground. The bouganvilla will come back in spring, but the aforementioned summer food crops are gone for good.
Inside, the pellet stove is humming away, keeping the common rooms warm and cheery. It's a rural fantasy if you look at the surface....in a few minutes I will don flannel-lined denim overalls and start to clean up the things around the property that didn't survive. It looks bucolic and seasonal and, friends, it feels that way, too. And if you looked no further, you'd think we were a pioneer family, living the simple life and loving it.
But if you read this blog, you know there's more to my life than this. And lately it's been bothering me (once again) that others who blog on the so-called "country life" are misleading good-hearted people who read their posts and think, "well, I can quit my job and do that!"
You see, I was at work yesterday, at a job I love. Big Ag, my husband, works long hours on a corporate farm about an hour east of here. That's how we afford to the fix fences and well pumps, add raised vegetable beds to this property, and rent heavy equipment when we need to dig post holes or re-landscape the front lawn with native plants instead of grass.
And for some reason, this morning I've been thinking of two other blogs I read fairly often, where good, old-fashioned "country living" is elevated to almost a religious pitch, but where the necessary realities of having cold, hard cash are downplayed -- unless you want to donate some, that is.
One blog site is in the midst of a legal battle because, for the last few years, they have been trying to trademark the term "urban homestead," and shut down all other websites that use the term without giving them credit. If they successfully trademark the term, anyone using it will have to pay them or at least get permission to use it (and I'm sure the idea that Home Depot will want to market "urban homestead" products has them seeing dollar signs everywhere). But, hey, they are just simple folks, right? They're more concerned with baking bread and growin' food than entering in protracted legal battles to own a term that's been in use since the turn of the century before this, right? Well apparently not.
The other blog is a blog that once inspired me, with a blogger who wrote about growing vegetables and leading a vegetarian lifestyle, playing fiddle, owning rabbits and a goat and working a job in town to keep the bills paid. Then she quit her job and....life went off the rails. Read the blog now and it's become a celtic fantasy world, filled with descriptions of how wonderful it is to ride horseback in a kilt, speak Gaelic to people and animals, hunt, butcher animals, do archery, falconry and role-playing games, with nary a mention of real farming, except for a few chickens and sheep that seem to be kept around for no real purpose. None of which will pay the bills or have any real basis in reality at all.
I'm a believer that you do create your own reality, but only to a point. When the lawyers come demanding their invoice gets paid, or when the truck that takes you to the celtic fantasy reenactments gets repossessed, life gets real very fast. And if you don't have any kind of REAL job, you just might lose the whole kit and kaboodle. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but someday.
Most "farmers" work at other jobs to keep their dream in the black. Both my husband and I have jobs off the property, which help fund our adventure. To tell you otherwise would be misleading, and potentially costly for anyone who wants to do what we're doing now.
Farms take funding, and few survive without extra income coming in. So as they say in show business, "don't quit your day job, kid." Because while an actor or actress might eventually make millions and win an Oscar, farmers rarely come into that kind of fortune, even by using their talents. At the most, they support themselves by selling what they grow. We don't even do that; we do put a substantial dent in our grocery budget by growing our food and making most of what we use, but we could never live off what we do here. To think otherwise would be to engage in magical thinking.
Yet, the latest thing in the blog world is to putter along on your property, and if you get in trouble financially, just ask your readers to support you (literally). But to ask for money when you're not out there doing anything to bring in a regular income to help yourself survive is, well, the exact opposite of keeping your life simple. It's becoming beholden to an "audience" and constantly having to come up with new things to keep them entertained and engaged. That is not farming. That is public relations and marketing.
And it's not the simple life, not by a long shot. Our life may involve having to drive down the hill and go to work a few days a week, but those every-other-Wednesday paychecks DO help keep our life simple, by keeping this farm running and keeping us in the black. To imply otherwise would be to insult your intelligence and our work ethic.
Here's to keeping it real, folks.