Or are we?
My father is working on getting me disability insurance which yes, if you’re wondering, is an amazing gift to get a farmer. But in order to get said insurance, I’ve had to dig up our tax information for the last two years and present our income. Now, if you’ve followed our blog, you know that the last two years have not exactly been indicative of any sort of stable farming life––we are just now feeling like we are full time farmers. 2013 we were part time farmers, part time home builders. The year before that we lost two farms and, well, that was a crazy year.
Anyway, when you look at our gross income from those two years it’s pretty sad. Like $13,000 sad. And according to our insurance agents, that’s not enough to get disability. We need to make at least $15,000 a year to earn that (because if poor people get hurt they don’t need that little bit of money or anything).
We will likely clear $15,000 this year (fingers crossed) and be able to get disability insurance by early next year, but I can’t help but feel like farmer income is more complicated than just what our tax returns say. It’s not something that can be easily quantified. Take for example the fact that we have several hundred dollars worth of potatoes stored and a couple hundred dollars more of canned and dried goods? And that’s just what we have left after a season of extravagant fresh produce consumption every day for every meal. Where is that in our gross income? We earned it, worked for it, we just got paid in veggies is all. And if either of us get hurt, not only do we miss out on our $13,000, but the thousands of dollars of food that come along with it.
Anyway, if I may hop off that soapbox for a moment, all this is to say that Hannah and I have had to look at the numbers several times this year and have asked ourselves, are we poor? But I just can’t help but feel like we are too healthy and too happy to be poor. We don’t have everything we want, but we have most of what we need. If this is poverty––and by tax (and apparently insurance) standards, it most definitely is––it really ain’t so bad. But if we get hurt, then that’s when we’re really in trouble.
As we deal with the fact that we are possibly having a baby any day now, we are trying to simplify some things around here. Since I am currently not as capable as I once was of chasing escaped pigs through the woods, we have them living in our garden where there is a permanent fence that they can’t (theoretically) get out of. Jesse has been bringing them lots of treats since there is not as much for them to forage. And in perhaps some sort of reverse-psychology scheme, we have been letting the goats out every morning for an hour or so. They eat along the fence row for awhile and then simply walk back into their fenced in yard, content for the rest of the day. Cross your fingers that these strategies work for a little longer!
It’s dark and it’s raining. Not hard, just obnoxiously––the kind of rain that seeks, that comes up from underneath, drifts sideways and finds your dry spots no matter how well covered they are. And for a bonus, the rain has made the ground around the house slick and muddy and ideal for handling turkeys.
The turkeys are roosted by this point, so its easy enough to sneak up on them in the dark to load them into the truck. They kick and flail when we catch them, throwing mud and wetness about wildly, but everyone makes it in unharmed. Not thrilled, but unharmed.
It feels good to have them loaded, and sad. And the next day it feels good to hand them one by one to the processor, and sad. It feels good and sad to raise an animal strictly to kill it, then good and sad to eat it. But that’s what farming is and we are always thankful when we can feel both good and sad about an animal we eat. Because it’s a lot of hard work, from start to muddy finish, but it’s nothing in comparison to what they do for us.
As difficult as they were this year, we are thankful for how much the turkeys challenged us, how much more they taught us about farming. Hannah and I are thankful these birds will be a part of so many good dinners, and appreciated by so many wonderful people. Thankful for our own bird, in the oven as I write this. Then when dinner is over, and leftovers exhausted, we will be thankful for how much richer the turkeys made our farm, and the strength and energy they give us to continue working on making it, our community and world a healthier place. Our thankfulness will not just be spoken at dinner then, but demonstrated in our actions throughout our lives. So thank you, Turkeys, we will do our best to never stop giving you thanks.
Some random photos from the past week.
The weirdest, stinkiest goat.
Typical morning routine.
Boris and Gomer.
Moving those animals.
Somebody snuck inside on a chilly morning.
On the way home from market last Tuesday, Hannah and I found ourselves transfixed by the story they were playing on NPR. This BBC News correspondent had traveled to China to hear about their boarding preschools, and we listened to the program with our mouths entirely agape.
It seemed these were schools where parents could send their children as early as three years old, and the kids would live there for twenty four hours a day. At age three! You will have to download the program to get the whole story––or read abut it here ––but when they talked to the parents, they truly believed not only was this going to help the kids, but it was going to teach their children “independence and life skills.” They felt like this was what was best for their children’s future.
And that’s when we remembered that the same reaction we were having––well, appall––was the reaction many people have when we tell them we’re planning on homeschooling, on attachment parenting, on elimination communication, on breastfeeding past six months. There are people who think these activities ruin the child. Technically there is plenty of science to back up how beneficial these things are to children but conversely, the Chinese might say the same about their boarding preschools.
So that’s what we’re up against as new parents. We’re up against specialists and scientists and people who will tell you unequivocally that something like boarding school for a three year-old is good for them. Once the baby is born, we have to make a lifetime of decisions for him or her based on what? We don’t have experience raising children all the way until adulthood. We have to rely on science, too. On other parent’s experiences. On intuition. On our own specialists.
Because as insane as boarding schools for three year-olds sounds to us, these parents are doing it for the better of the child (mostly––some were doing it because they were simply too busy to take care of them). So our plan is to read a lot, study a lot, think a lot and use our best judgement. We want the best for our child, too. Determining how to get there is the hard part.
And, we also have a lot of great parents as readers. So you tell us––what has worked for you? What books? What tips? What advice? Lay it on us.