My family and I have spent a beautiful weekend on a working “vacation farm” in rural New York. Growing up as I did in a almost-entirely agricultural region, the idea that city dwellers would pay good money to drive several hours out of the urban bustle so they can wake up early and feed some chickens is more than a little bizarre to me on the face of it. But, at the same time, I do kind of get it, too. I understand the invigorating appeal of the farm routine, the closeness to the land and the cycle of life, the seeming simplicity of it all. Having been a city-dweller myself now for nearly half my life, I treasure greatly the years of my youth, and I pray every day that I can somehow find a way to give my own family a similar situation before too many more years are flown.
But such an idyllic goal is not without mingled trepidation. I have a uniformly poor track record so far with anything resembling adult responsibility, so I present a pretty shady prospect as a landowner and animal-tender. My wife has long shared this dream with me, and now she, too, wonders anew how feasible it might really be—whether we might not be aiming for more than we can handle—and that maybe the small town life might be close enough to the country to satisfy us: the social safety of neighbors and pedestrian accessibility to amenities and commerce instead of the possibly-risky bucolic solitude of our our homestead. And we are speaking of safety not from roving bands of post-apocalyptic marauders, but from ourselves, from the troubles that isolation can bring if embraced in quantities too great to be handled. That, I think, is what we both most fear.
Is that sufficient reason to give up on milking our own goats every morning, sending the boys out to hunt for chicken eggs, watching the sun set over our potato patch? I don’t know. Our mental and emotional health, the integrity of our physical and spiritual lives, the responsibility of economic realities—these are big things to have to weigh. The months and years ahead shall be very interesting for us…
I think pretty much anyone who grew up on a farm and moved away looks back with longing on the days of their youth. I’m one of those too. I hope you find your farm, so your kids will know what it was like for you. If not, maybe New Ulm’s zoning laws will allow you to keep a few chickens in your backyard?