I have worked at many different jobs in my life, but in my heart and fertile imagination I always operated a beautiful homestead, completely self-sufficient, off the grid and beholden to no one. I lived on a farm from the age of five to thirteen when my father finally admitted that running a farm while working full-time as a physics and astronomy professor twenty miles away was getting old, and so was he. We moved back into the city and I became an exile from the land.
In my thirties I married a strawberry farmer and learned to drive a tractor, pull a hay cart down a state highway without causing any accidents, work with bees, hoe, rake and harvest. Without complaint I missed Thanksgiving dinner with my family to begin mulching the fields to prepare for winter and spent cold and damp Spring nights irrigating the fields to prevent a late frost from killing the plants.
We bought our own land and scaled back operations a bit after our children came. For most of that time, I had a “real” job as an office temp to help keep the farm afloat. There’s an old joke about farming that it’s basically digging a hole in the ground and throwing in your money. Tell that joke and you won’t hear too many farmers laughing, because essentially it’s true.
There is something about farming, though. About learning to live in harmony with the land. About understanding the rhythms of nature. Learning without a doubt that ultimately we are not in charge. They say there aren’t any atheists in a fox hole and I don’t think there are too many out in the fields either.
Along with the need to work elsewhere, creeping age and the accompanying aches and pains slowed work on the farm and in many places the land started to take over again. Then, several years ago one of our children came back home to live and brought with her a sense of renewal and possibility.
Now in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic come practical as well as philosophical questions. Where do we go from here? What kind of world are we preparing for? How do I want to prepare for whatever comes next? At the age of 74, with arthritis in both shoulders and a bum knee, as well as being in not such great physical condition, I am trying to make my homestead a reality: planning a garden, searching the Internet for chicken-house plans, water collection systems and composting barrels.
Am I crazy? Likely. Follow my story and we’ll figure that out!
My brother and me on the roof of the farmhouse while it was being repaired. I’m not sure where my mother was when this picture was taken, but am pretty sure that today someone would call CPS and have us taken away!
©Martha Hurwitz, 4/19/20