Over the past five and a half years on Green Acres, it has become obvious to me why farmers are so wise. There isn’t a day that goes by that I haven’t learned some “life lesson” through my experiences on our farm. Take last weekend. We had an unexpected loss on our farm on Friday evening that upset our entire family. Our beautiful, sweet dog, Blue, died suddenly and we were all at a loss for words. As I walked around the farm with our other dogs on Saturday morning, my son called and, as I was talking to him and crying about our sad loss, I began looking around me on the ground. While looking intently in areas I had not really scoured before, I saw some oak saplings that had, miraculously, not been eaten by our ravenous herd of miniature goats. I had erroneously thought they had found every single oak tree that had sprouted on our land over the past two years. I have been wanting to plant some saplings inside our garden fence until the trees are large enough to “make it” on our land. It made me smile when I realized I had discovered some hidden trees while I was standing there crying over Blue. Something good had happened due to an unexpected moment of grief in our ravine. Yes, it seems small, but I have honestly been searching for some of our own oak saplings to relocate because we have recently lost several large trees. The beautiful oak trees are part of what drew The Outdoorsman and me to this property so we want to make sure we are planting replacement trees where the others fell. It was an exciting discovery to make in the wake of my heavy heart.
The following day, as we were adding some exterior walls to our chicken coop to replace the tattered camo tarps that have been temporarily blocking wind and rain, I was painting the back of the chicken coop when my husband suddenly shouted across the ravine to tell me that a new baby calf had been born in our pasture. By the end of the day, we were all walking around our land looking at the different plants sprouting up and taking pictures of our beautiful new baby calf. Yes, we were all still sad about Blue, but God had given us some other things to tend to and look forward to nurturing on the farm.
For some reason, it all made me think of the American pioneers who had to keep going and keep pushing through each day even in the midst of tough events concerning sickness and life and death and the loss of crops. They didn’t have much time to sit idly in their grief, but were forced to pour their energy and attention into the next project or crop or building they needed for survival. Since moving to our farm, we have experienced a similar thing. Our family has had a steady barrage of hard things hit us over the past two and a half years, but The Outdoorsman and I have soldiered on due to the fact that our farm and animals demand our attention no matter what else is happening around us. We have had no choice about whether or not to push forward in our job as parents to our four beautiful children, our work on the farm, and our work outside the home at our places of employment. Even though it has been difficult to juggle all of the demands at times, I’m honestly grateful that we had things to keep our hands and our minds occupied while pressing forward. We definitely worked on autopilot on the farm at times, but it all got done!
I’m definitely not saying that a person shouldn’t acknowledge their grief or loss when it happens. I have learned firsthand the importance of processing loss and allowing yourself time to heal and grow. I have also learned the importance of surrounding yourself with friends and family and making sure you have their life-giving support and encouragement during seasons of loss and loneliness. In addition to that key support, I also think that it helps the grief process tremendously when you find something productive to do with your hands during the process. For me, I began raising chickens about thirteen years ago as a way to process anxiety and grief about some hard things that were happening. The chickens gave me something new to learn about, something to look forward to daily, and something to tinker with on certain days that were difficult. I could always go outside and spend time in the coop or spend time with my favorite hen, Ariel. Her sassiness and constant “talking” to me and the other hens made me laugh and took my mind off of “what-ifs” during that confusing season of life.
With farm life comes incredible amounts of responsibility. You have to put in the hard work on the front end. The responsibility for the lives of hundreds of animals can weigh heavily on you during tough seasons. We spent lots of time and money building pens and shelters to keep our animals safe for long periods of time during our absence from the farm. Whether we are at work or out of town, the hard work of building the pens and shelters brings its own reward when we know they are safely housed during an exceptionally busy season of life. We have also learned to lighten our load and sell off animals that are overgrazing our pastures. Even some of our favorite animals! It isn’t good for us or for our animals if there isn’t enough grass for all of them during an unexpected season of drought. We have learned some hard lessons over the past two years of drought.
Some other lessons I’ve learned on the farm is that there are definitely good seasons and bad seasons, good years and bad years, years of abundance and years of drought. You must take each of them in stride. They are all intertwined. One does not come without the other. Do not allow yourself to focus only on the right now. The drought. The heat. The storm. The death of an animal. Remember, instead, that you will also have good moments as well. Quenching rains. Magnificently amazing weather. Beautiful skies. Adorable baby farm animals. It all balances out in the end and we must remember that important truth about life, at times, too. There will most certainly be days of beauty and days of storms. Days of health and days of sickness. Days of new life and days of death. Days of friendships and days of loneliness. Days of laughter and days of sorrow.
The important thing to do is to focus on the days of abundance. Focus on the days of laughter. Focus on the days spent with friends and family. Look back at pictures if you must. Call a comfortable, old friend if you must. Don’t allow yourself to sit in the loneliness of a certain day and think it will last forever. That day will end. A new day will begin. With that new day, new blessings and new possibilities will arise. Trust me, for I have seen many a new day and many a new possibility during my lifetime. I have no doubt that you, too, will see a better day.
“For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19 NLT)