Living on a hobby farm gives me an inkling, just a hint, of what it must be like to be a subsistence farmer, a person who earns their living from the land. Holy cow what a challenging lifestyle.
Farmers get all my respect. It takes huge effort to wrest one’s living straight outta the earth. Our dabbling in raising plants and animals for the table gives me an idea of how hard it must be. It also makes me very grateful that I don’t have to earn my entire living from the soil and my own two hands.
Like so many early 20th century Canadians, my forebears were agrarians; Dad’s family farmed in northern Alberta and Mom’s ran a plant nursery in northern Manitoba. My grandpa loved the green valley his mother had settled, and lived there all his life. Not so my parents’ baby boomer generation, most of whom left the farm mid-century for the oil patch, suburban living or the big city. Because farming was exhausting work.
In the 60s and 70s we drove up from the coast to the family farm every summer and I fell in love with country life – at least the sanitized comfortable plentiful summertime version of it – and horses too. I think my folks inherited, and passed on, Grandpa’s “green valley” gene to me, because not only was my childhood spent on a hobby farm, we live on one today.
We count ourselves lucky, my husband and I, to have raised our kids in our very own green valley. Ours is a muddier version than my parents’ but sure doesn’t beat Grandpa’s! My grandparents’ farm, much to my amazement as a small rubber-booted child stuck fast in grandma’s garden, had the muddiest mud of all – that northern Alberta gumbo is formidable stuff!
Grandpa’s green valley gene, that pull to the countryside, that need for space and wide open surroundings, lives strong in me and I see it in our children too. Some folks crave the action, the bright lights and high rises, the carefully curated city parks. We like all that stuff too, but we are always just a little relieved to get home to our muddy valley.
Most of all, I am grateful that I get to play farmer, and that I don’t have to be the real thing. I don’t know if I’d have the strength.