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Sometimes, I think people get the wrong impression about living on a hobby farm, like it’s all green grass and baby animals and flowing honey. There are instances when that is absolutely true, but there are equally many instances when it is anything but joyful.

Farm life is messy and it’s muddy. We have patches of manicured lawn and landscaping, but even those are often invaded by chickens who want to scratch around in the woodchips for food or dust baths, or are driven over by tractors and trucks to get the necessary work done. We have lots of ruts and missing patches of grass.
Even when I think I’m prepared, I often fall short. Like this winter–I was sure I had bought enough hay for all the animals. Surprise! They ate like I was feeding pigs which meant at the worst time of the year, I had to buy more bales until the grass turns green again.
A lot about living on a farm is cluttered. Like the mountain of cardboard boxes that have been snowed over and frozen to our deck for the past few months. We use them for landscaping and gardening where we want to keep the grass and weeds down, but that means collecting enough to be able to put them to work. As much of a mess that they are, they represent unfinished work, which is always a challenge for me to see. I will work myself ragged to keep messes at bay, but even I have a limit and am constantly reminded there is always more to do.
Not all the messes I am tasked with are dirty, either. With all the work we have to do outside in the mud, rain, and snow, that means there is inevitably several loads of laundry that face me every week.
We also experience a lot of disappointments in between the excitement. Last year, we had a very late, hard freeze that killed almost all the fruit in our orchard, which would have been the first year we would have been able to harvest any of it. The plants in the garden don’t always grow, and once in a while, we forget about the maple syrup boiling on the stove and burn it down to a bitter, useless blob of black sugar.
Worse than plants are when the animals on our farm struggle. We’ve had calves grow sick and die, despite our best efforts to nurse them back to health. This winter, our last remaining turkey snapped (the rest of the flock had been decimated by either coyotes or foxes) during our two-week cold spell. Who knows what happened, but I found her outside, pecking one of our hens to within an inch of her life. The turkey has since recovered her sanity, but Jack had to dispatch the hen as there was no way she was going to recover. Shortly after, Jack was returning home from picking up the girls from school to discover our strongest hive flying out into the frigid cold, only to die when they hit the freezing air. We’re still scratching our heads over that unexplained mystery.
As hard as farm life can be, there’s always a trade-off. Even in the mud, we still get to go outside and visit the animals, get fresh air, and make sure they’re as comfortable as a farm animal can be.
As many mountains as there are at our house–laundry, boxes, mulch–it also means there’s something fun to play on. I’ve found several children hiding under the laundry when I get around to folding it. Most of those boxes on my deck have had several lives between the time they were delivered to our house, the artwork or the forts the kids have used them for, and their eventual decomposition as they beautify our landscaping. And that row of mulch? It was free, delivered straight to our house, and will be used for years as we organize our slice of paradise.
As frustrating as it can be to lose a crop of vegetables or batch of syrup, I’m always amazed how much the earth produces. There’s more sap to collect or the next season to plant and grow.
Then, every once in a while, we are surprised with a day that is basically perfect. Saturday, I was able to sleep in late, woke up to breakfast from Jack, and was able to clean the entire house with the kids with relatively little complaint.
When we were done inside, we went out to do some chores outside, discovering that it was sunny and springlike. I helped Jack move one of our small chicken coops over to the garden while the kids played in the shed, creating their own playground out of hay bales and old pallets.
After a picnic lunch on the porch, we went back out to keep working and playing. Jack cut back the forsythia bush growing by the driveway and again without complaint, the kids helped and even had fun by turning it into a contest to see who could run the most branches to the burn pile the fastest.
Since Jack had out the chainsaw, the weather was gorgeous, and the garden wasn’t growing, we decided it’d be a good time to take down a couple of trees that we’d been meaning to take care of. One ash tree by the pond had died from a targeted attack by the emerald ash borer and another black walnut shading the garden too much were masterfully cut and fallen into exactly the right spot.
Yes, it’ll be a lot of work, chopping, and stacking and raking up all the wood, but first, it’ll be an awesome playground for the kids, including Jack.
The rest of the afternoon was a mixture of work and fun, from modifying our chicken coop for the new chicks, moving some of the mulch to where it needed to go, and testing out the wetsuits the kids got for Christmas by doing their own polar plunge in our still-icy pond (thank goodness they could run straight for the hot tub afterward!). Then, the kids made their own dinner while Jack and I went on a date to a nearby Mexican restaurant, came home, and finished watching a movie together while boiling down another batch of maple syrup.
Yes, farm life can difficult and discouraging, but there is an immense amount of goodness, enjoyment, satisfaction, and outright fun that comes with it. We usually get it in glimpses, but once in a while, we’re lucky to get an entire day of perfection.

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Welcome to the farm!

True stories of raising children, remodeling, braving the elements and plotting out life, all while living on a humble acreage in central Indiana.

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