Considering farming and gardening magazines to be the standard for how a farm should look is the equivalent of a normal person looking at a fashion magazine and expecting all people are supposed to look like the supermodels.-Charity Williams, HomeCheese
I admit, when I was growing up, I was critical of my parents’ farm messes. I wondered why they didn’t keep everything clean and neat like our retired friends or our friends who were row croppers. Now, I look back and wonder how two people who had full time paying jobs still got us to 4-H with our horses once a week and to horse shows, speech meets and church on weekends, in addition to everything else they did.
When I was in the service industry, we had a phrase to describe those times when we were too busy and falling behind: in the weeds.
These days, that describes my life.
And then there are the literal weeds. The summer here is inhospitable to most of the crops I grew up with as summer veggies but the weeds do not care. Remember, the earth doesn’t naturally stay bare. Each nook, to the square inch, we don’t cover in vegetation or mulch will cover itself with some other plant.
Every year it is the same. Winter is productive but as we burn out on green and brassicas, we get excited for the spring planting. We spend the spring working our butts off. The summer burns the plants out and one day, it rains. The very next day the entire place is so choked in weeds and dead spring and summer plants that we are embarrassed for the mail lady to come by. Every. Year.
Yes, we have weeds suppression in areas and we have methods to deal with them but with a garden this size, at temps this high, we sometimes just wait it out and live on the 5 or 6 crops that we are able to easily maintain.
Oh, but lest you think it is just the garden that disqualifies us from the glossy and perfect pages of Garden and Gun, there is the new mower that breaks a couple of times a season, leaving our yard longer than the suburbs would allow.
There is the barn that always needs to be cleaned or have some repair made. It usually has a pile of empty feed sacks in the corner and a hook with a thousand pieces of baling twine hanging askew. I reuse at least 30 pieces a year on other projects so this is justified. There are extra rain barrels on the side, because they were free, just waiting for us to have the time to put gutters on the back side.
There is the landscaping that I don’t care much about and, in fact, started filling with edible plants so it always looks like the hair of an eccentric.
The guineas come up and poop on the porch sometimes. The back porch always has plants on it and empty flats from whatever I have just planted.
The porches are also home to all the stuff that the kids have been playing with outside. That is, what isn’t in the yard or on the trampoline.
Speaking of trampolines, at least we finally got the one the storm threw into the woods cut apart and removed from alongside the driveway.
Oh, and don’t forget that the horses have wind knots! We can’t have more than one who looks like people expect them to look at any given time.
That over there? That is an aspiring compost pile.
Oh, you meant that? That would be the burn pile. Some people call it a fire pit or a bonfire ring but that is too greenhorn and sounds recreational. Here, it is just where things that need to be burned are thrown until that fateful day, once or twice a year, when there is no wind and we get time to stand around monitoring it most of the day.
At the back of the yard are the things we shoot. The firing range isn’t always pretty.
Piles of supplies, new and salvaged are a hallmark of a working farm.
The pile of lumber with grass growing in it will become our new chicken coop. Speaking of the coop, no the old one isn’t what you see in the Tractor Supply. Those are cute but we have more than 5 birds and they have much bigger runs and they are ugly.
There is a drag that I don’t have room to keep in the barn with grass growing on it. It only gets used once a year so it looks like that most of the time.
The garage has 3 projects in progress and parts for another 56 crammed in it at all times.
My dining room has a wire rack with lights on it, several trays of plant starts, the baskets we use at market, and a wooden peanut box of seeds.
Listen, I know a lot of you have more time, more money or just different priorities. I’m good with that. Maybe you can’t understand any of this. Maybe you have some where else to keep your giant box of seeds (the one that doesn’t fit in the freezer), your barn is always clean, your garden is small enough to be kept weeded, you don’t do projects and you aren’t homeschooling two kids like mine. But this is what our farm looks like. And it is what most biodiverse farms look like. Monocropped fields may look very orderly but that is not what we are doing here. When you drop by, you will see my weeds, the resting parts of the garden that just look a mess, the birds, with their yummy eggs in their weather worn coop, the manure, and the rest of the mess.
We judge a farm by its productivity.
If a magazine ever comes to call, there will be a cosmetic effort like nothing you have ever seen, complete with hired help and fresh paint. Until then, we haven’t the time to be concerned with society’s ideas about rural aesthetics.
And for all of you who are living this messy life along side us, here are some pictures of the dirty truth.
And, to further air the the dirt, here are some pictures of farm fashion, affectionately known as Nothing on the Farm Cares What I Look Like Couture .
Love from the farm
Happy eating, Katy