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The Trade Off

We're about to head into a week of much-needed rain around here. I'm hoping the cooler weather and overcast days inspire me to catch up on as much indoor work as possible, so when the weather breaks and the days blossom into June heat, I'll have the freedom to work more outside. Or that's what I'll tell myself.

I remember when I first quit my office job, people would envy my being home all day because they felt I had given myself the gift of "reclaimed time". As if not having to be in a specific office chair meant my day was wide open, like a perpetual Spring Break.

It's partially true. My day, and how I spend it, is more flexible. I can decide when I want to start working on research for a freelance script or return emails or work on designs - but that's about it. I didn't quit my job to be a code developer or consultant on a laptop, some well-paying remote job I could do in any hotel with wifi, folks. I'm married to 6 acres and the care of 40+ animals (and counting with chicks and goslings still hatching). Think about how hard it is to make weekend plans away when you have one dog?

Yes, being here is my dream. When I get to wake up at 6AM on a Tuesday and walk my land caring for my animals and sipping a cup of coffee, I do feel like I "made it". Like the fact I'm here and not rushing out the door to an office does give the illusion I'm some retiree with a pension puttering on a summer day...

But hoo! I am not that.

That's the biggest downside to my life, as far as outsiders looking in. I traded the freedom of my daily life on this farm and time for less freedom, in general, in the wider world.

I can't travel, not easily. Even an overnight away with the dogs in a hotel with me involves several neighbors and friends the understand things like closing coops and how to get escaped goats back in their pens...

But also, and this is the part homesteaders don't talk about, sometimes I use this place as an excuse to not experience the wider world. To hide. To protect. To hyper-focus on flowers and pasture rotation and mare training so I don't have to think about the fact I have never had a passport or seen the black sands of Iceland. And while it does come with the joy of declining wedding invitations it also comes with the anxiety of not being to a Natural History Museum in a decade.

And I think a lot of farm and homesteading accounts are selling their lifestyles to themselves as much as the public, because we did choose manual labor and bucolic proximity in exchange for vacation photos and redesigned kitchens.

I know I made a choice to become working class when I could have remained middle class. I know I live a life that makes me happy daily in exchange for a more comfortable life with dental insurance. But if you're not an heiress to a fortune or have parents that will just slip you a check when times are hard - this like life is a wild trade off. I chose a very hard path with a lot of limitations, all because I didn't want to be told how to spend my Tuesday morning in an office with windows that don't open from the inside...

That was my choice. To be here. At least so far. I am not sure what my future holds. I have no idea how long I'll be able to make this work. So much of Cold Antler Farm is faith and stubbornness, honestly. And one day it might become too much, just too much, the stress and fear about money and the cold winters and freezing pipes and lonesomeness. There were some real low points over the last two winters I was ready to walk away.

But then February passes. March rain slowly fills in the cracks in your heart, making you feel slightly more whole and capable. And by the time the seed catalogs arrive and the first lambs and piglets fill up the quiet spaces... I find myself back in Idaho again, reading dog-eared issues of Hobby Farm magazine and Foxfire books and praying for a life without conference rooms and asking for permission to go to the gynecologist from some 32-year old middle-manager in a fleece vest.

Just know that everyone's life seems better from the outside. You might see my Instagram and think I'm in paradise. Well, people living in paradise don't get scolded by their dentist's office for moving a broken tooth repair appointment a fourth time because they still have two piglets to pay for. Just because you see a picture of peonies and a border collie doesn't replace therapy, or self-work, or mean that my social life is stellar. Keeping up with friends is hard. Dating is harder. Being a part of anything bigger than the farm feels almost terrifying. So we romanticize and criticize, feel lucky to have sold our souls to our idealism when, in reality, I would kill to see the Harry Potter theme park in Orlando.

I think this is why so many people farm in retirement or do it as a couple with resources and family support. Because doing what I did was fucking crazy. I bought this land FIVE YEARS out of college, and have been dedicated to it ever since. It's taken everything I have, every dollar and shred of dignity I've ever mustered, to stay here.

Thats a high cost to pay to have control of your Tuesday morning.

Something to think about when you're dreaming of a life like mine. I do not mean to discourage you. Not at all. But you're going to need a love for this lifestyle so vast it can handle the outside influence of the entire world. And I know some of you understood every word of this, and some of you are so grateful you had those retirement savings and started farming at 60, and some of you will NEVER have a 9-5 job an have been WWOOFing since college... and all of us came to this dream at our own pace.

But know that no life is perfect, and some of us are just too stubborn to quit, and trying to find peace with the time they have left with the beauty they have, in hand, right now.

I'm going to make a third cup of Korean instant coffee (I'm out of regular) and walk the woods with my dogs before it rains. And for today, I'm going to be grateful as hell that I can, and go from there.


If you appreciate what you read, I encourage you to contribute towards my writing with a tip. To be clear; no one has to pay anything. I will still write here and it's always available for free. But if anyone wants to volunteer to venmo/paypal at least one dollar, it means I will write a post the next day. If no one does, then I'll update when I feel like it. Might be the next day, might be in a month. Please understand, that I do not mean a dollar for every post or from every reader! I mean, quite literally, if a single person anywhere in the world sends a single US dollar, and that's all the money I earn that day, I'll write tomorrow. Venmo: jennawog (preferred) Paypal:

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