So I was laying in bed this morning, listening to the increasingly indignant squawking coming from the barn, and I had a thought. I should really get up and let the chickens out was my thought. But I ignored that thought, as I immediately had another thought. That pregnancy book ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ really didn’t prepare me in any way for what to expect, really…

This was swiftly followed by yet another thought (This is all pre-caffeination, too, just so you know so you can appreciate this fully.) I thought, Reading all those books, blogs, and articles didn’t prepare me for what to expect as a homesteader, either. At this point, I teared up a little because it was pretty early in the morning, and I was super impressed with my own coherence of thought.

About the time I was brushing the pride tears off my cheeks, both the quail and the chicken flocks got a lot louder, so I had to get out of my warm, snuggly, cozy, comfortable, not frozen or snowed on bed and deal with morning chores.

And most mornings, I really, really do NOT want to deal with morning chores.

And this, my friends, is what I’m talking about. No amount of research (which is something I do in spades before starting any new undertaking), is ever fully going to prepare you.

For most anything.

I read everything I could get my hands on about raising chickens, but there are so many things that have caught me off guard. Silly, little, obvious things. It’s one thing to know that they need to be fed every day, but the fact that my life now revolves around getting out of bed in rain, hail, or tornados was a bit of a shock to my system.

Yeah, yeah, I knew adding animals to the farm was adding a lot of responsibility. And I really thought I did know.

But to read about it, to see photos, or watch a video doesn’t give you the visceral knowledge of a thing.

There is a deep, internal drive begins to settle into your bones when you choose this life. It’s hard to prepare for it, and it’s not something you can just read about and then get.

Like pretty much anything in life, you have to experience it to really get it. You have to roll out of bed earlier than you want, layer up against the cold that will steal your breath, and go out and freeze your fingers off smashing through the ice in the watering pails.

That is what gives you a bone-deep knowledge. The doing.

There’s a lot of doing on a homestead. Putting a favorite chicken out of its misery when it has a broken leg and no chance of recovery. Digging deep into the dirt when you need to get it turned for planting, even though your body is crying for a rest. Scrubbing crap off the floor of your kitchen because someone tracked it in on their boots. Again. Checking the taste of the jam, the kombucha, the bread you just made, and realizing that no one else has ever had this exact flavor on their tongue, only you. Tasting the richness of a ‘still warm when you picked it up a few minutes ago’ egg. Relishing the gentle sweet crunch of a carrot not found in any store, a carrot with a little bit of dirt still clinging to it. Savoring the knowledge that while there is¬†always¬†still more to do, you have done things that matter, and your animals are well. And in some ways, you are well, too.

Tracey and a chicken egg!

Like most things in life that we have no direct connection with, our family had a romanticized notion of what it meant to farm, to homestead. When we viewed these things through the filter of the TV or in the photos we see on Facebook feeds or blogs, we missed out on having the visceral knowledge of it. Everything has a price.

We’ve chosen this in order to teach our kids, and ourselves, that everything has a cost. The food we eat must be worked for; someone planted and grew that rice, those burgers were once a doe-eyed calf, those carrots were pulled out of the ground by someone’s hands or by a machine someone drove. I want them to understand how interconnected everything is.

But I also want them to know that the knowledge we need to survive, to thrive, and to grow comes from the doing.

Tracey Delamarter and her family own 7 Tree Farm in the Pacific Northwest, where they raise chickens, quail, rabbits, and grow organic fruits and vegetables. Follow their homesteading journey on their Facebook page and website.


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