10 of the Less-Romantic Aspects of Farm Life

Dreaming of that picture-perfect farm scene where ripe, dew-kissed tomatoes are begging you to take a bite? You can have that, but prepare yourself for all that comes with it.

by Alli Kelley
PHOTO: Richard Bonnett/Flickr

Living outside of town in on a farm is appealing to many people: beautiful views, peace and quiet, privacy—the list could go on and on. I love living in the country and wouldn’t trade it for the world, but it isn’t always sunshine and daisies. Being a first-time farmer is full of unexpected experiences you’ll never be able to fully prepare yourself for. Before making the transition from the city to the country, it’s a good idea to tap into the reality of how different your life will be. Here’s an honest list of some unpleasant things you’ll need to consider.

1. Mice

Whether your house was built one year ago or 100 years ago, you will have mice. And somehow, they will find a way into your home. Not only that, they will get in your walls, and you will be able to hear them scratching away in there if you happen to wake up during the night. There are effective ways to deal with them, but it seems to be an ever-present obstacle we all face.

2. Death

Things will live, and things will die. The weeds are really good at living. So are skunks. However, sometimes no matter how hard you try, all the kittens don’t make it. I’ve found beautiful owls that for some reason weren’t strong enough to make it through the winter, and I hate it. But it’s the circle of life.

Sometimes animals just die, and we don’t know why. I think that when you live in the city, you forget how common death can be. Living the farm life teaches you a lot about death, but it also teaches you to appreciate the beauty of life.

3. Dirt

It’s basically everywhere, on dirt roads and gravel drives, in the vegetable garden and throughout the animal pastures. As much as you try to prevent it, the outside always seems to make it’s way inside. I vacuum my house almost every day, and there is still dirt! It is ever present—you’ll have to learn to cope.

4. Weeds

Weeds must always be managed. They are never truly gone and they will always find a way back.

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5. Work

There is always something to do when you have a farm. If by chance you find yourself bored (ha!), there are weeds to pull, animals to feed and land to tend. We farmers could pick up rocks and tree branches every day for the rest of our lives, and there would still be more. I love finding ways to make our acreage low maintenance, but there will still always be work.

6. Bugs

Spiders get so much bigger when you live on a farm. There is also an abundance of flies, box elder bugs and grasshoppers—you name it, it lives here! I used to feel bad about killing spiders because they were little and just trying to find a warm place to be, but not anymore. After living in the country, I’m a ruthless spider slayer. And even if you don’t believe in using harsh chemicals, keep a bottle of bleach or strong cleaner on your shelf because when that huge mama spider walks across your path with about a million tiny baby spiders on her back, ain’t nobody got time to squash all those little creeps.

7. Smells

From the time I started riding horses, my mother would gag every time she picked me up or had to wash my clothes. I truly couldn’t smell anything stinky, but the reality is there are smells on the farm that can be pretty offensive to the average person. Rotting forage in the canal smells bad. Fields getting sprayed with manure smells bad—pig poop is the worst! Dead things stink. Your dogs will really stink when a skunk sprays them, and that will happen eventually. After you work all day on your property, yup, even you will stink, too.

8. Traffic Jams

If you currently live in the city, you may be thinking you already deal with traffic jams. What I’m really talking about, though, is a tractor jam. On a two lane highway. Going 5 mph. I happen to love it and take the opportunity check out what kind of tractor is blocking my path, blast some tunes and enjoy the ride. But if you’re in the habit of hurrying places, get out of it. Most of the time you can pass a tractor safely within a minute or two, but sometimes, you just have to wait, sometimes for miles …

9. Driving—a Lot

You will realize very quickly that it will take you at least twice as long to get somewhere and that you can’t just run to the store to grab milk. Going shopping becomes a half-day affair, at least. But then again, if you’re part hermit like me, this won’t be an issue.

10. Tough Conversations

Part of the farm life means having tough conversations with your children, your neighbors, your family and your friends. These conversations can be about why animals do what they do: Sometimes, mama animals kill their babies. Sometimes, they abandon them. Sometimes, your dog will attack one of your chickens. Sometimes, the tomcats will fight to the death. You have to be able to talk about why that happens and not be scared of explaining it.

I haven’t experienced this one quite yet, but when you live on a farm, your kid is bound to see two animals mounting each other and ask what they’re doing. It will happen, so be ready, but rest assured that farm kids tend to have a much better grasp and maturity about potentially awkward topics than kids whose parents avoid the topic.

You also have to spend time learning how animals communicate. This is probably the toughest conversation of all. They aren’t humans and don’t behave or communicate like humans, no matter how badly you would like them to. Growling dogs doesn’t always mean a fight. A hissing cat isn’t necessarily a mean one. Chickens cluck differently when they need something versus when they are laying versus when they’re scared. These conversations are all tough, but also very necessary.

I’ll stop there, for fear of scaring you off of your farm dream. But if you’ve got wide open pastures, beautiful sunsets and luscious red tomatoes swirling through your head, do yourself a favor and give yourself a reality check before buying your rural acreage. Spend some time on a friend’s farm or volunteer to do some work for a local CSA w to make sure that you’re ready for your farm dream to become your reality.

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