Farm Life Is Messy

Farm life is messy. Messy for your marriage and family, messy for your social life, messy for your career, as well as just physically messy. So before you scoop up that farmhouse in the country, pause a moment to take spiritual stock and ensure your values are aligned with the lifestyle that comes with farming.

Marriage, Family, and Farm Life

Too often, only one person in the family is enamored with the idea of farming or homesteading. Blame the allure on Instagram reels of perfectly curated images featuring rainbow colored eggs in a row, bouncing baby cows, and fluffy ducklings that are so cute it hurts to look at. But if you used a wide angle lens instead, you might catch a glimpse at the hawk that killed a favorite hen, an alarm set to wake at dawn EVERY DAY, or a coop that is in sore need of cleaning. In other words, the reality of homesteading and farming. It’s hard work when there’s two of you. It’s a lot harder when there’s only one of you committed to it. 

I do know some single people that make it work. So it can be done! But I want to focus on why you should be especially careful if only one of you in a couple is dedicated to this lifestyle. 

To make my point close your eyes and imagine it’s super-bowl day. It’s February and cold. Your dwarf nigerian goat is due any moment. People are coming over to watch the big game. But you just want to be outside with your goat to witness the miracle of a newborn. What do you do? And do you find yourself resenting your partner when they ask you to refill the bowl of chips while you run into the house to get some towels to dry the babe off? Over time, this clash of values is going to generate friction. I don’t want to tell anyone committed to the homestead/ farm life not to do it, but I encourage a ruthless evaluation of what life will look like if you proceed. 

Sometimes the best path forward is a meeting in the middle. A large garden, chickens, bees, and a pursuit of canning, cooking and baking provides a lot of the “farm life” experience without going all in. And leaves room to sit down and watch that game, too. My best advice is to start small and slowly incorporate more over time. This is great advice even if you are both committed to the farm life!

Career and Farm Life

Farming and homesteading is not cheap. It can be cheaply done, but still, it is rarely completely void of cost unless you are quite mature on your journey. Chickens need feed. You need material like wood and metal roofing to build shelters. Canning requires jars and a large pot. Often, you can find these items for free or cheaply – if you have lots of time to seek them out. 

Often the answer is to compromise with an off-the-farm job. In our family, one of us (me) keeps a job to allow for income to flow while the other owns the majority of the farm chores. This has been the best scenario for us. But it’s not without its drawbacks. 

First, choosing which of you will work and which one will stay on the farm can be challenging – especially when both of you would rather be working on the farm! But consider things like what type of job is most compatible (would a work from home or hybrid job be possible) or which job is most lucrative to help bring in capital faster – and therefore accelerate the timeline for both of you farming. On the flip side, which jobs are less stressful and less likely to “follow you home” so you can focus on farm stuff off hours? These are all things to consider. And no choice is right for everyone. Think hard and be ready to pivot as needed.

Social Life

Unless you imagine your social life is one where you socialize with chickens, goats, geese, bees, and cows everyday, you may find disappointment with the social life that often comes with farm life. 

Farming and homesteading takes commitment. Commitment to care for your animals, even when you yourself don’t feel like it. Commitment to complete necessary chores even though all you want to do is curl up with a book. And commitment to cancel dinner with friends when you find one of your hens with her foot stuck in the fence and may have a brake. 

Your social life will be impacted. There’s no way around that. However, it doesn’t mean you can’t have any social life. We’ve found a few strategies to balance the demands of the farm with the opportunity to enjoy company. First, we often host folks at our place. It just makes it so much easier knowing we are home to feed and secure the animals at night. Of course that also means you get to deal with the dishes, cooking, and pre-visit cleaning! I joke it’s how I keep motivated to clean the house.

We also have found the winter, with its shorter daylight hours, is more conducive to visiting people. If dinner is at 6 we can lock up the chickens a few minutes early and move the goats to the night pen without too much complaint. Once everyone is secure, we are free to enjoy our night. 

The other strategy that has worked well is to make friends with similar interests – because they are more understanding when you call to cancel dinner last minute. Or if your house is still a mess when they arrive for afternoon cupcakes. They GET IT. Just keep in mind they too may face similar challenges with animal chores and be gracious when the time comes that they have to cancel dinner even though the roast is already in the oven (leftovers!).

Ultimately, it circles back to your values and priorities. If you prioritize a social life, you may want to be careful about what animals you incorporate or how big of a garden you build. You can still enjoy a lovely veggie patch and a couple of chooks without taking on all the responsibility of a full-tilt farm. 

Why Farm?

So, why farm at all? If you are going to have to make sacrifices in your relationship, career, and social life, what then is the attraction?

I can’t answer that for you. But I will share why I farm. 

I love the land. I love the animals. I love the cool, crisp air against my face when I walk the goats. I love the sweat that trickles from my brow when I shovel compost. I feel pride and purpose when I collect eggs from my gals. I am amazed at the flavors and quality of the veggies that come from my garden. I find delight when I can share a meal scratch made entirely from ingredients I produced on my land. I value the independence and self reliance that comes with growing/ raising/ building my own. It’s a lifestyle that has no equal. A lifestyle that gives me greater purpose and satisfaction than any other I’ve tried. 

It’s a life well worth all the effort. But the real question you need to ask is not why I farm. The most important question to ask yourself is farm life a life for you?