The barn cat looks like I feel lately.
Driving home from my “other” job tonight (I moonlight as a cosmetologist), I felt like I should be real for a minute. Every now and then I feel like it’s important to make sure the blog isn’t just the “pretty” versions of life. It’s easy to post the parts that you want the world to see and leave the dirty laundry, disheveled house, and sticky kids just out of frame. But that’s not really my goal for this blog. I want to document REAL life.
There are two parts of my life right now that I’m not sure have come across totally “real” to readers. The farmhouse and the farm are the two things right now that I feel people “romanticize”. Don’t get me wrong. I do it, too. I blame Pinterest for our romantic ideas about farming and home renovation.
With the date approaching when people will actually see the farmhouse in real life I feel it’s important to clear up a few things.
1.) We are not professionals. I don’t really think anyone thinks we are. But just in case people think we’ve done professional grade work over there, we haven’t. I’m proud of the work we’ve done at our skill level. And we’ve gotten pretty darn good at some things. But, our motto for the farmhouse is, “Meh, that’s close enough”. Because there were a lot of things we already knew how to do but there were just as many things we had to learn to do. And when you’re learning as you go, on a budget, and within a specific time frame, you sometimes have to do the best you can and call it a day. The perfectionist in me is dying with each “close enough” project we complete. But if we were shooting for “professional” quality, we might never move into the farmhouse. We’ll call it “charm” in the meantime. And we’ll still be patting ourselves on the back that we even attempted this thing in the end.
2.) We are not rich. Or even sort of rich. Or even extremely “comfortable” where money is concerned. We are happy. And grateful. And blessed. But we live paycheck to paycheck like a lot of people. So, when we say we “renovated a farmhouse” please don’t expect to see reclaimed barn wood floors or vintage farmhouse sinks or claw foot tubs or real “antique” anything. We have pieced together the most affordable option of almost every material we’ve used in the farmhouse and little of it is “period” appropriate or even matches. We are however super proud of the fact that our laundry room floor didn’t cost a dime because we managed to scrap together “remnant” pieces from the other wood floor projects, the gaping hole in the bathroom closet was walled in with the same wood from the wall we removed in the kitchen, and the fireplace chalkboard in the master bedroom was finished using scraps as well. Scrapping things together doesn’t always result in perfection. Please see number one above.
3.) Remodeling a farmhouse isn’t as glamorous as they make it seem on those remodel shows on TLC. The kids are past tired every day for the last 5 months. I am lacking in the grace department where parenting is concerned right now and they have been extremely forgiving. There have been nights Mr. Thistle and I were at each other’s throats because we were so tired of being tired and dirty. If your farmhouse is in the South and doesn’t have HVAC and you spend June-November remodeling it, guess what? You will be sweating bullets and smelling like rotten coleslaw for the first half followed by freezing your hiney off while your kids walk around with snot-sicles coming out of their noses for several hours of the day. You heard me. It ain’t pretty. Guess what else has to happen when you don’t have HVAC in November and it’s 27 degrees only 12 days into the month? You have to make sure all the faucets are dripping because there’s no heat to warm your pipes and keep them from freezing, bursting, and ruining all your move in plans. (Fingers crossed this week that doesn’t ACTUALLY happen.) The fun parts of renovating come late in the game in a project like ours and are usually over-played on the scale we’ve had to complete them on (read: painting is fun but not when it’s every room and ceiling and cabinet and door and trim). You are always trying to work within a crazy small budget and going to the store for one more nail just isn’t possible until the next pay period…in two weeks! Just when you feel like you are close to being able to enjoy the finished product someone sticks their foot through a freshly painted ceiling or an entire room’s electrical outlets magically stop working or the bathroom door you just spent the last half hour hanging won’t close no matter what you do. But if you can just hold on long enough to get home to post a before and after shot, all your friends can remind you of how great it looks.
4.)In the meantime, if you have farm animals, they still need the same basic care every day whether you are tired or not. Whether it’s dark when you get home or not. Hay still has to be hauled. Trips to the feed store still happen. Daily feeding, watering, and tending are never off the list. And you better bet someone will take this opportunity to find that weak spot in your fence while you are at the farmhouse for 8 hours, unaware of the Shawshank Redemption shenanigans going on, and meander over to the neighbors front yard to mow down their flower bed and make you look like a fool….A FOOL! Not naming any names….Sweat Pea, Tinkerbell, and Dolly.
Which brings me to the other part of our life that I feel I need to get real about. Farming.
Farm life is not clean, fragrant, or easy. It’s not idyllic in the way that Pinterest makes it out to be. Chicken coops are not white and pretty and neatly landscaped. They are thrown together with the scraps from the never-ending farm construction projects. These animals poop everywhere. They don’t care that you don’t like the way it smells or that it’s your front porch they’re using as a toilet. Or that it’s super slippery when dropped on the ramp leading into your storage shed. They won’t help you up when you slip in the excessive chicken poop on said ramp and they won’t get you a band aid when you crack your head on the ramp either. They will however, greedily proceed to peck at the grain you just spilled all over the ground when you fell.
The equipment never works when you need it to. It’s planting day, the seedlings have outgrown their tiny little pots and are begging to be in the ground, but you can’t for the life of you get that darn tiller to work. When you finally get the tender little plants in the ground, a late freeze comes and kills them all, forcing you to start over. You have no boss. Or, so everyone tells you. But really, you have the most difficult boss to read, Mother Nature.
All of your friends think you lead such a wonderful life. Or they think your nuts. And, while both are true, the parts that they think are wonderful often either don’t exist or don’t exist in the way they imagine. Yes, we get to “expose” our children to a different way of life. Yes we get to offer them a “farm” experience. Yes, we get to experience the farm ourselves as well. But this isn’t a petting zoo. There’s death and hard decisions and long days and little money. Pretty feet and hands? Forget it. There’s callouses and feet stained from the red Georgia clay and telling your kids you have to sell their sweet baby goat so he doesn’t get his own mama and sister pregnant. And lots of monotony. The same things happen over and over. Feeding a baby goat is so exciting for a kid the first time they get to do it. Maybe even the 5th time. But day 245, and now it’s old news. You have to find new ways to make the mundane seem exciting again for the littles. Over and over. Heck, some days you have to find a new way to make it exciting for yourself. Sometimes it’s just plain old NOT exciting and then you get to teach the littles the most important lesson: responsibility.
There’s a lot of reminding yourself why you’re doing this. Remember those friends that thought you were nuts? The ones who don’t find it so idyllic? They get in your head. Because we live in a culture that doesn’t really promote farming as the “dream” job. Everyone knows you don’t really get rich farming. (Don’t get me wrong, if you know what you’re doing you can make a living farming…but not usually a killing.) And we’re a culture that prides ourself on success measured in dollars. And convenience. And photoshopped beauty. And farming is none of those. So, to the rest of the “normal” people we’re nuts. Why spend all that time growing it when you can just buy it at the grocery store? Why spend all that time making it when you can just buy one? Why try to salvage something or repurpose it when you can just throw it in the garbage, buy yourself a new one, and save yourself the headache? All of these people get in your head and you start to wonder if you ARE nuts. You have to remind yourself and be your own cheerleader a lot of times because you are often on your path alone. You are off the beaten path. You ARE nuts. But in a good way. You know a little something they don’t. And if you don’t bring it to the table, it’s lost forever. It dies with each generation that doesn’t try to be a little “nuts”.
Farming and farmhouse life are not perfect. It’s not sunsets from your rocking chair and soft fuzzy chicks all the time. It’s massacred poultry and aching backs and unforgiving weather. It’s piecing together what you have so you can live there and praying it doesn’t come in over budget before you’re done with the big stuff and staring into the face of a lot of scary projects you’ve never attempted before and not knowing if you can do them but knowing that you have to.
But, it’s also watching your kids learn to get along without television or many toys or air conditioning or heat for a few hours a day and not act like they’re dying. It’s the pride in “making a silk purse out of pig’s ear”, or as normal people call it, turning a disgusting, abandoned farmhouse into something worth living in. It’s the hope that the little seed you planted will feed your family and that the animal you’ve cared for and respected will provide for you in some way later. It’s about experiencing the hard lessons in life and learning to still be tender in spite of them. It’s about learning to be content with simple and resourceful with the meager. And it’s about passing on that respect, contentment, and resourcefulness to the next generation.
And let’s be real, there’s a lot of poop no matter how you spin it.