The Realities of Hobby Farming

A friend and I were talking about parenting and how before you have kids you have this romanticized idea of what it’s like. You think it’s all cute sleeping babies, fun family outings, and lovable selfies. Then you have kids and the reality is a lot more hard work, exhaustion, and occasional grossness. Of course it’s still fun and amazing and worth it. It got me thinking about our life here on the farm and how a lot of people feel the same way about hobby farming- they romanticize it. It seems like so much fun- sunny skies, fresh air, ripe vegetables and cute animals to play with. While it is all those things, just like parenting, the reality involves a lot more hard work, exhaustion, and occasional grossness. And just like parenting, it’s so very worth it.

Here are some of the pros and cons of having a hobby farm.

It will be heavy

And your back will always hurt! I think this one surprised me the most. I’ve always been fairly strong, I like to think, but I had definitely always let my husband take over the really physically heavy jobs before we moved here. Once you’re farming though, it seems like everything is heavy, or awkward, and it’s impossible to ask someone else to do all those tasks for you. Hubby has his own work to do, he can’t do mine too just because I’m not strong enough!

Whether you’re hauling or stacking wood, carrying bags of animal feed, mucking a stall, pushing a wheelbarrow, or shovelling dirt for the garden, there’s a lot of work to be done that’s heavy.

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Exhausted after mucking out the chicken coop!

And it will lighten your load…

After a year on the farm I can see that I’m getting stronger, and I love it. Yes, I still struggle with the 90lb bags of feed, because let’s be honest, that’s pretty dang heavy, but I’m definitely getting better at it! The first few times I got feed, I could barely move the bags. It would take all my strength just to shove that bag 6″. Then the wheelbarrow might tip over and with the wheelbarrow sideways, the grain on the ground, me cursing a blue streak, and the chickens starving until Kyle got home, I’d call it a day. Fast forward a few months, and I was able to roll the bags end over end towards the coop. Then I could lay the metal garbage can we store the food in (to keep critters out) on the ground and push the feed bag into it. Come to today, and I can bear hug the feed bags and carry them to the coop, then drop them in the can.

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Did it!

See? I am getting stronger! I love it. I love to see my own progress and feel that accomplishment when I’ve done something I couldn’t do before. But some people might not be physically able to do those things, or wouldn’t want to.

I also feel lighter, emotionally and mentally. Being on the farm- all the space and activity and dealing with living things, whether it’s animals or the earth, give you a certain amount of peace of spirit. The farm is a haven, and a place where we can escape and slough off the burdens of the day.

It will be dirty

So dirty! Personally, I love seeing my kids come home from playing outside and they’re covered in dirt. I think it means they’re having a blast out there and enjoying the space and freedom we wanted for them when moving to the farm.

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What I love slightly less is that my house is ALWAYS dirty. It’s not a gross dirty. It’s boots tracking in mud and snow and grass and hay and shavings and top soil. It’s kids who played in the dirt and then put their hands on the wall for balance when they took off their shoes. It’s ash and wood bits EVERYWHERE during fire season from bringing wood in. It’s burrs from the dog and feathers from the bird the cat killed and brought inside, as well as from the chickens. My jacket pockets are full of shavings and bits of twine from hay bales. I have specific “barn pants” that I wear for outdoor chores because they WILL be covered in dirt and chicken poop. My boots are covered in burrs and poop. There’s broken egg and chicken medicine stains on my jacket.

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I’ve never been overly picky about dirt, which likely attributes to what a terrible housekeeper I am, but I know for some people it would drive them crazy. I could easily sweep my floors five times a day and they’d still be messy come the end of the day, so if that would make you batty, living in a farmhouse may not be right for you.

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And it will be clean…

The fresh air! Ahhhhh! I could breath it in all day. Wait, I guess I do? It’s like magic. Whether it’s the bitter cold of winter, muggy heat of summer, the freshness of spring or the crispness of fall, the air always smells and tastes and feels amazing.

Early Morning Winter (2)

I also feel like we’ve all been overall healthier since we moved out here. We certainly get our share of coughs and colds every winter, but we haven’t had very many full out yucky stomach bugs since moving here.

I’ve also read a few studies about kids who grow up on farms being overall healthier, with fewer allergies and such. Kinda cool!

It will be gross at times

If you have a weak stomach for poop, blood, mucus, bloom (the coating on the eggs freshly after they’ve been laid), vomit, and more poop, then farming might not be for you. If you can’t pick up after your dog, you won’t want to deal with chicken diarrhea or a bloody egg (sometimes the big ones sort of cut the chicken on the way out).

And it will be beautiful…

Being rural and having this space and nature all around us- I’m so often struck but how incredibly beautiful it is here. Sunrise, sunset, and every moment in between seems to be pretty magical. Shoveling poop is just one of the less magical moments. But all around us is the beauty of nature. That might sound kind of cheesy, but there it is. 😉

Sunset

There will always be more to do

For most hobby farmers, it’s just not possible to work solely on the farm. At least one, or both, of you will likely have a full time job aside from the farm. We’re lucky enough right now to be able to have me at home. So I can do a lot of the farm work that needs to be done during the days. Even so, both Kyle and I work a LOT, and if we’re not working, it’s not for lack of things that need to get done!  Kyle always has farm related chores or projects that he does in the evenings or on weekends, and between the kids, the normal housework everyone has, the farm chores, the blog, and our egg and vegetable selling business, I work at least 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. There’s always multiple things I have in the back of my mind that still need to get done.

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We both always, always, always have something on the go.

And the work is so rewarding…

I don’t mind being busy, and we certainly get time to chill out and watch Netflix, or take walks around the beautiful property. I don’t mean to imply that you never have any fun, you have lots! The best thing about farm work, is that you’re working for yourself, and you see the tangible (and sometimes literal) fruits of your labour. It may be a lot of work to raise chickens, but every time I cook eggs for our family I can physically see what I’ve worked to produce for us (I *suppose* the chickens help a little, but let’s say it’s mostly me who produced those eggs).

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Kyle may spend a whole Saturday regrading all around the house, but every time it rains he can see the result of that work.

Spring Day! (25)

Instead of working for money, we’re working towards building and improving our own space and lives. It’s pretty awesome!

You will have to get over your fear of creepy crawlies

I used to be pretty freaked out by spiders, among other creepy crawlies. But I’ve found that living on a farm, these things are all around you, and you have to get used to it, suck it up, and conquer your fears, or you will not enjoy any of your outdoor time on the farm.

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I used to trap spiders under drinking glasses until my husband got home to kill them for me. Now, I can find a plump, vibrantly coloured spider in the garden and wonder what type it is.

Last year I found myself with a Stink Bug infestation on my squash plants, and they’re very difficult to get rid of, you basically have to pick them off one by one (yes, with your fingers) and smush them. And they smell. Did it! #braveasf$%#

There’s also tons of mice, snakes, and other small critters around. We see them all the time. I guess you get used to it, but if you have a really crippling fear, it’s something to consider.

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And you can indulge your love of cuddly fluffies…

A new kitten? Puppy? Ducklings? Baby goats? Chicks? You name it, and as a baby it is guaranteed to be adorable.

Ducklings

Sure, taking care of animals is work (as anyone with a house pet knows) but so rewarding when they’re friendly, sociable and lovable. Be careful not to get attached to any farm animal that has a limited lifespan (especially if you’re doing your own slaughtering) but animals and their silly antics are certainly an enjoyable aspect of hobby farming!

You will HAVE go outside every single day, regardless of weather

I am NOT a winter person. I don’t do winter sports. I don’t look forward to skating or tobagganing. I do those things sometimes because the kids enjoy them, but I’m absolutely a tea-and-pajamas person when it comes to winter! When we lived in town, I could easily go several days without leaving the house at all. On a farm, you will have reasons to go outside every. single. day. Whether I’m bringing in wood for the fire, feeding animals, mucking stalls, clearing snow off the solar panels, collecting eggs, or meeting the school bus at the end of our 150ft driveway, never will a day go by that I’m not outside at some point (usually multiple points).

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Clearing snow off the solar panels on a very cold morning

I’ve fallen down on icy patches more times than I can count, my fingers freeze when I need to take off my gloves to do more intricate work, like collecting eggs, and it’s a difficult balance between being dressed warmly enough for the cold but lightly enough for the active, heavy work you’re doing that will make you sweat, and did I mention it’s COLD (and in the summer it’s SO HOT!)?

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Now there’s the face of a kid who LOVES winter… or not.

And you will GET to go outside every single day, regardless of weather…

I’m glad that I’m forced to go outside everyday. As much as I hate the winter when I’m out there, I feel more physically and mentally healthy here on the farm through the winter months than I ever did in town, and I think a part of that is that I get outside. It’s fantastic.

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Beautiful day to be outside!

I absolutely LOVE my life, and LOVE this farm. It’s definitely hard work but I wouldn’t trade any of it!

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