Life as a Farmer and Writer

I had some time to ponder blog posts while I dug up moldy straw and pulled posts in the barn this morning. I’ve been deep cleaning (or attempting to deep clean) throughout the summer. The space has a lot of potential, and the particular area finished today is surrounded by plywood boards and previously provided protection for farrowing sows and their piglets or ewes and their new lambs.

Chickens are currently the only barn inhabitants–that is, the only non-pest barn inhabitants. There are plenty of raccoons and snakes and mice. But the chickens are the only ones that are intentionally fed and housed.

These pullets are housed in a fortress — not a true fortress in the medieval style, but a coop I bought at Tractor Supply Company and put together, stumbling through the drawn directions. Two pieces of plywood and a piece of hardware cloth are wedged underneath the coop to prevent anything from digging in the soft ground underneath the coop and entering the chickens’ home. So far, it’s worked (knock on wood). 

The chickens were an unexpected side effect of my trip to New Zealand. I discovered I enjoyed feeding a batch of chickens, ducks, and geese and collecting the eggs while I was in Christchurch and brought up the idea of having some backyard birds one October night during a Google Hangout chat.

“Dad, I’ve discovered I like taking care of chickens.”

“That’s fine, but don’t expect your mother or me to be involved.”

Thus began my poultry planning process. First came the chicks, then came an opportunity to purchase several pullets, and now I’m managing the pullets, their feed, their water, and their coop.

Now, I am just waiting for the eggs to appear.

And while I am waiting, I take in one of the most significant lessons a farmer, even one who has been around farming her whole life, can learn: a lot of costs are borne up front, and then there’s waiting, whether a month, two, a few, years…even with something as small as chickens.

All of this brings me around to my blog post pondering. Sometimes, I’m asked what I’m doing nowadays, and I answer, “Farming and writing.” Then I elaborate, saying I work on the family farm and own a communications business.

But then, I confuse others because the way I’m working is a bit of a brave new world. Half of my hours are on the farm and the other half are spent online. The actual time of day I work can seem random sometimes. But thanks to the Internet, I can work from anywhere. Some days, I stay at the house; other days, I’ll work at the library. The entire arrangement with a variety of places to work is a good situation for me.

For a while, though, since I was around all the time, there were ponderings as to if I really was working somewhere.

I am!

There is a trend called Digital Nomadism where workers manage their jobs completely from their phones and laptops and travel the world, sometimes working from a beach in Fiji.

This is kind of like that…minus the beach. (I do work pretty well from the couch though. That’s often where I edit manuscripts. Don’t tell the “you must work at a desk in order to concentrate” crowd, though.)

Perhaps the most helpful thing that has resulted from this type of work has been honing in on what kind of writing I’m actually doing on this blog, and what type of posts I want to continue sharing. I changed the home page to reflect this focus: “Writing from America’s Heartland on agriculture, community and the value of rural lands and people through local, national, and global lenses.” I hope to take a deeper look at some of the lessons I’ve learned abroad and in returning home.

I’ve told this story before, where my agricultural economics professor asked me what my dream job was, and I replied, “Raise livestock full-time and write and take pictures freelance.”

I don’t know if I really thought it could happen…after all, so many of the interesting job postings were for ag journalism or public relations in cities far away.

But now it has.

And that is a very cool thing.

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