PHOTO: Lee/Flickr
Rodney Wilson
October 16, 2017

People choose the farming lifestyle for many reasons. Maybe agriculture is ancestral, a family tradition home-baked into a the farmer’s genetics. Sustenance, too, is a good impetus—farming provides an excellent means to meet personal needs in an increasingly dependent world.

Overall, though, I see one overwhelmingly common trait among those who choose to spend time filling troughs and working the land—problems. Namely, farmers like solving them and have sought the lifestyle that guarantees daily challenges. Whether it’s replacing a belt on a broken tractor or assisting in a complicated calving, farmers are at their best when things go wrong.

As a result, most of the content around farming—articles, books, county extension classes—focuses on problems, most often in the form of DIY how-tos. These are great, and I’m not just saying that as a writer for Hobby Farms Magazine. I’m one of those people who loves a good problem, and I learned most of what I know about livestock agriculture from books and articles. (I also ask questions of seasoned farmers—a lot of questions.)

The Piglet Show

But recently I paused while checking on our hogs to watch nine newborn piglets frolicking in the open pasture and realized one drawback to being a problem-solver: I sometimes forget to stop and enjoy when things go right.

I forget to observe the bees’ frantic dance between hive health checks. I forget to stare at the tender little flower of a blossoming tomato plant and appreciate its simple beauty. I forget to laugh at the piglets when they leap and tumble over one another, making that silly little squeaking noise that only baby pigs make.

A farmer’s problems, for a certain type of mind, are beautiful opportunities. But so is the calmest autumn day when everything’s going perfectly and chores are over in a snap.

I know well the phrase, “There’s always something that needs doing on a farm,” and I’m as apt as any to go clean out the storage barn or rebuild a compost bin, but sometimes the something that really needs doing is just taking a walk in the pasture with your boar, sitting in the hen yard (my wife calls this “chicken TV”) or, yes, giggling over piglets.

A Pretty Special Thing

Because—and this is the thing—not everybody gets to do this stuff. Not everybody is able to step outside and see cows playing in the pasture or chickens awkwardly chasing bugs through the grass. Very few people can watch a mama sow gently nose her piglets while they skitter underfoot. And all we have to do is step outside—that’s pretty special.

There’s another reason to take a beat and enjoy a functioning farm—sometimes it’s easier to see what you’re not looking for. Whether it’s a weird step in an animal’s gait or a troubling discoloration on a blossom, many issues are best addressed before they become full-bore problems, but spotting them is sometimes easier when your mind isn’t hyperfocused on troubleshooting. Also, sometimes the problem you need to see isn’t the one you go out looking for but, rather, the one that finds you where you stand, watching.


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