We got this request on Twitter about a week ago:
I would love to see a post about how you're adjusting to the long hours, hard work, and general transition to farm life. Also relative social isolation after leaving the city.
Succinctly answering the request is nearly impossible, but I’ll give it a shot. We get this type of question a lot, so clearly it’s on people’s minds. It’s hard to write for both of us because we’re in different shoes, so I’ll write from my standpoint.
Over the past 4 months we went from living in a 700 sq ft apartment with no animals (or experience raising animals) to managing 85 acres with 2 cows, 4 pigs, 11 dairy goats (potentially going to 13 soon), 5 livestock guardian dogs, and close to 30 chickens and guineas. Only time will tell if we find success, but thus far it’s been quite a transition, involving a lot of long hours, hard work and isolation, as our reader suggests. We're not yet "full-time farmers" (as they're reverently referred around here), but it's a first step and maybe in a few years that will be the case.
Isolation on the Farm
I would describe us as isolated, although we’ve been to farms that are far more isolated, so I suppose it’s all relative. We found a nice little community of friends, neighbors and fellow farmers that live nearby and we interact with them every couple of days. One of my favorite times on the farm was when the drought finally broke a week or two ago. Literally everyone we knew was texting us about the rain and how happy they were, and on and on. It was great. Before the drought broke one guy said he was gonna start a petition to get us out of here since it "used to rain before we moved in". He happily rescinded after a week of downpours.
Aside from that we rely on friends and family coming to visit us, which has happened regularly since we moved in. In addition, one of us will make a trip to town at least once per week and we’ve finally worked it out so we can go to farmer’s markets on the weekends to pick up the day-to-day things we need. For the first three months it was hard to make it to farmer’s markets. We were normally out shopping at 9pm at a Publix or Wal-Mart, to be honest.
Not leaving very frequently means that we cook a lot and try to grow as much of what we need as possible. We’ve effectively eliminated buying any type of dairy product, our herb garden is killer, and we’ve put a meaningful dent in our vegetable bill. Meat will take time, but is progressing. Grains are in the plans as well. Over the years we’ll get better at achieving a higher level of self-sufficiency, but so far we’re very happy with the progress. Having dairy animals is fantastic, I’ll tell you that. Unlimited cheese, milk, ice cream, yogurt, soap, etc.
We’ll typically go out for one meal a week to get away and not have to cook. Cooking and cleaning become very important and are a lot more time consuming than when we lived in the city. Even just for two people it’s a lot, I can’t imagine a large family. I think our dishwasher would explode.
The thing I miss most is sitting down with friends for a beer at a bar in the city. Honestly, I don’t really miss too much else about the city. Having lots of friends nearby and having a place to escape for a few minutes, that's what I miss most. I hadn’t sat down at a bar and had a beer in almost five months, until last weekend I finally met up with a friend in Nashville. I also recently had a chance to start brewing again, so that’ll enhance our isolation a bit as well. There’s just not quite the same craft beer selection in Lebanon TN as you have in NYC.
Over 90% of the time it’s just me, Sweetbreads and the animals. So yes, there is isolation, but then again we’re with the animals all the time and I never feel ‘alone’. The internet is a great social outlet. We love interacting on the blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and the most recent obsession with Instagram. The fact that the satellite internet we use is surprisingly fast and reliable definitely helps (Exede from WildBlue).
There’s an inner-hermit in me, which to some degree is a good attribute for farming. I enjoy our level of isolation, it's relaxing.
More on the Long Hours and Hard Work aspects to come.