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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Best of Both Worlds

I was late for work one day last week. “I had to go pick up the Farmer’s gun at the repair shop,” was my excuse. In the past it has been, “Sorry I’m late – damn Donkey got his head stuck in the feeder,” or “My apologies – my cow’s water broke just as I was leaving for work.” My life on a 200-acre farm outside Oxford Mills is a constant source of entertainment for my colleagues at a mar-com firm in Westboro. I post my weekly stories on the bulletin board by the water cooler, and host a staff party on the farm at the end of the summer.
My coworkers find it particularly amusing that I didn’t give thoughtful consideration to the fact that my Farmer was, well, a farmer, when he was courting me. He cleans up good. I only got a whiff of farm off him once or twice, during lambing season. And I didn’t live at the farm before it became my home.
I never really considered that my life would one day revolve around lambs and hay, Donkey and manure. And the Farmer didn’t really talk about it. He didn’t ask me to become his Farmwife – just his wife. But the farm kind of sucks a person like me into its vortex.
As I settled in to life on the farm I became fascinated by the animals’ behaviour, took note of their personalities and wrote stories about them. But I wasn’t really hands-on. And then came lambing season.
Eighty lambs were born my first winter as a farmwife. We lost only one. I had bottle-fed a dozen of them myself.
Then opportunity came knocking, in the shape of a challenging and rewarding new job in the city. I discussed the decision with the Farmer, and he assured me that we could balance our life on the farm with my new job in the city.
No sooner had I accepted the position than a young ewe-lamb gave birth to twins that she had no intention of feeding. I panicked. Who would feed my lambs while I was an hour away in the city? I turned to the Farmer.
“You will just have to teach them to feed themselves,” he reasoned. I filled a large calf bottle with milk replacer, strapped it to the side of the pen and held the lambs up to it until they learned how to drink from it themselves. After three days of “training” I was able to fill the bottle, go to work in the city and return ten hours later to fill the bottle again. I was pretty proud of myself. The lambs thrived. And so did I, in my exciting new career.
If I feel I need to be close to the animals for some reason, I am able to work from home occasionally. But there is rarely a problem of emergency proportions that will not wait until we get home.
The farm has become a retreat for our city folk family and friends, who often travel out on weekends to wind down and relax. We rarely watch TV because life is entertaining enough when you have dozens of animals to look after. I think the fact that we rarely get sick is also attributed to the hours spent every day in the fresh air, pitching hay and shoveling manure. This work keeps you honest. And the mindless activity of manual labour is great for meditating on the other stresses of life.
Granted, if you live on a working farm, you don’t take many vacations. But I have lived overseas in a big, exciting city, I have been to dozens of beach resorts in my life, and I concur with the Farmer when he says, “I live where I want to spend my holidays.”
Mixing the best of rural and urban life is a pleasure, and a privilege.

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