45 pages this morning

i wrote this this morning and thought i wouldn't post it because it seemed a bit of a downer. i don't want to give the impression that i am unhappy or overworked. because, for the most part, i am not. but when i am, i find it therapeutic to write about it.  forgive me as i indulge.

its 8:23 and i have just pulled myself out of bed. i've been up for two hours and was, just two hours ago walking around doing the run of morning chores. letting the chickens out. filling their food and water. collecting eggs. throwing some hay to the donkeys. but no sooner had i appeased the most immediate needs of the farm i slinked back into bed. the temperatures of summer have already retreated and it is only august 1st. the pleasure of folding myself under the weight of our 3 blankets was too tempting.  i lay there unable to return to sleep, my mind already racing with farm lists but my body requiring the extra rest. so, instead, i read. something i haven't done much of lately despite my continued manic accumulation of books.

the money i spend on books is one of my most egregious luxuries. if i actually read them i wouldn't consider them as such but i am often, despite this morning, too tired to read. too tired to entertain myself in any way that requires active participation. i buy and collect and scavenge all number of books, but in the past 5 months since starting a farm with nick i have been hoarding reference books and howto books. books like howto care for sheep. and howto care for sheep the natural way. and howto make soap. and howto make milk soap. books on wild mushrooms. books on the weeds of the northeast. books on flowers and birds. books on cows and pigs and chickens. books on the garden. encyclopedias of the garden. books on pests. books on what to do after the garden gives you her bounty.

i have this subconscious belief that if i own the books the knowledge will transfer by proxy and i will feel secure in this endeavor. i will feel safe in the farm.

but of course that's absurd. as its equally absurd that i can run a farm based on what books tell me. i spend all week fretting about the sheep and my intentions of dealing with parasites naturally and at worse organically. but when the natural sheep book comes i just put it in the pile of to read. a pile that is only touched to be re-stacked or moved to a more permanent spot on the over-burdened bookshelf with the hazy hope of being read in winter.

it isn't just the thought of wormy parasites slowly drinking the blood of my lambs that has me silent and useless with fear. it is also the selenium deficiency in vermont soil and the sheep's seemingly unreasonable requirement for this mineral i know nothing about.  the cabbage root maggot has the same paralyzing power. as do the cornichons that are growing (my guess by now) out of control in the part of the garden i have inexplicably abandoned.  i carry a vague worry about happiness of the pigs and if the slice from vangogh's tusk on rose's side is infected or healing. i worry about winnie's hooves and if they need trimming or if their growth is my imagination.

the worry of the farm consumes me and on the, thankfully rare, day it exhausts me.

this morning it left me cowardly hiding in bed. reading a book that doesn't have a word to do with farming. a book that is only teasing my head with ideas of running away and solo-hiking the PCT.

there are mornings like these where i worry that this is too much foolish responsibility. that we only have the most ambiguous idea of How to Farm and how monstrously irresponsible we have been to put our money into this and to embrace the lives of these animals into our flock.

these doubts and fears are, i would hope, runofthemill. runofthemill to doubt and fear a life that everyone you have met has told you will be as hard and tiring as it is rewarding and nourishing. perhaps these Doubts and Fears aren't normal. perhaps this is the beginning of the end for me as farming. that i will be more overcome with worry and doubt until i sell our flock at auction and pack nick and rudy up for a quiet surfing life on the eastern coast of australia.

but i do truly hope that it does get easier. not the farming bit. that will always be hard. but the uncertainty bit. i have little hints that tell me it will.  by making the mistakes i am afraid to make and getting over it.  the very facts that i find myself ravenously planning next year's gardens, or finally getting Back on the Tractor hint to me that i will eventually, one by one, overcome the anxieties and fears of the farm.

of course, this is why i have nick and why he has me. to help each other through the periods of uncertainty. to help figure out the best ratio of selenium to salt for the sheep. or to go brave the cucumber patch and then the water-bath canning dance. to herd our cows together in a push and pull when we are both as afraid as the other of the bull. i am with him when he needs to redesign the pasture rotation and he is milking every day for two weeks in my place as i try to heal the tendinitis in my right hand.

as i lay in bed this morning quietly gulping in the pleasures of a book that has nothing to do with my life. i kept intertwining my cold legs with nick's warm body. so grateful for his presence in bed as i realize that he is as tired as i. as in need of a slower morning. so grateful for his companionship on this farm and in this life. the gratitude quieted the mornings' worries. helped me to slow down and enjoy the rarity of a relaxed wakeup.

at my bedside; books that are largely Disrespected & Ignored:

Wild by Cheryl Strayed
The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable by Juliette de Bairacli Levy
Stalking the Wild Asparagus by Euell Gibbons
New and Selected Poems by Mary Oliver
The Winter Harvest Handbook by Eliot Coleman
The Unsettling of America by Wendell Berry
Weeds of the Northeast by Uva, Neal and DiTomaso
Making & Using Dried Foods by Phyllis Hobson
Natural Sheep Care by Pat Coleby


  1. I just finished one of those (Wild) am in the middle of another (Asparagus) and have a third (Oliver's poems) sitting on my desk. I too now want to hike the PCT solo or at least in a small pack. Love your taste in books and the beautiful glimpse you give us into your life via your blog.

    Wishing you peace. I think it will get easier, and of it doesn't, you will know what to do.

    Love from California.


  2. Oh I know the feeling so well.

    When we first started this lifestyle, we kept one page ahead of the animals development and needs, and yet oh so soon we fell to one page behind.

    The books tell you how to do it all, they just don't tell you how to find the time to do it all.

    I understand, I sympathise. It does get better, sometimes we have to learn the hard way, but we do learn.

    Take refuge in the warmth of the bed when you can, I did.

    Sue xx

  3. such a realistic and wonderful post! I am in the middle of moving 3500 km to a 10 acre farm that we are renting. And in the midst of wondering about livestock (we've only raised chickens and rabbits before), I am also reading about hiking the PCT, a spark igniting to hike a trail alone, for along time. Not sure where that spark all fits in, but I'm storing it in the recesses of my heart for another time, when wanderlust strikes again. Take care.

  4. I definitely feel the same doubts and uncertainty, it if hard hard hard. I am also as lucky to have a wonderful mean to hold me together. Lets hope this will pass.

  5. I think reading something that has nothing to do with your life is a smart tonic. I'm so SURE that the doubt can get easier, whether the farming does or not. One of the best things I did after I bought my little one acre was to go to Quillisascut Farm School. At the time, it seemed really silly and indulgent, since I'm not actually trying to farm, just grow a few things and live in the middle of farmland while working elsewhere to support my place. I definitely learned some things, got to meet a bunch of people living off one kind of farming or another in Eastern Washington, but honestly, the best part about it was hearing about how they built Quillisascut up over the years from nothing. That has really stayed with me. I don't have the same goals, but I do want to feel like my home and little piece of land gets better over the years, and it helped a lot to hear from folks who had been at the whole endeavor for a while, started with very little and have ended up with something pretty wonderful.

    Here's more about them if you're interested::

  6. Books are my luxury too. Though we are not farming and only on a single acre (and would love to have more so we could try the real thing), sometimes I do wonder if we are just making life harder. There is no real right answer though.
    Funnily I grew up in a quiet town on the east coast of Australia with a family that surfed. And I do long to return to that sometimes :)

  7. Hi there, I`ve been enjoying your blog for some months now. My husband and I live in Japan, but we`re planning to return home and start farming ourselves. I was first drawn to your blog by your elegant words in defense of the lifestyle to well meaning family and friends who express the obvious doubts. But it is just as reassuring and helpful to hear about the hardships and the doubts you experience. It`s a comfort to hear about the troubles along with the blessings. And in some, perhaps strange, way it is comforting to know that the doubts I have about getting started are the doubts that continue once one has. From where I stand, your writing at once justifies my doubts and makes them feel like a natural part of farming - that it is normal to contend with such feelings. Thank you for that.

  8. forget about the east coast of australia, the crowds would drive you nuts...


    it could be worse.
    you could have a job.

  9. I read somewhere once that a major source of depression is blog reading because it makes us feel so inadequate; today, your honesty and candor rebuffed that notion. It is sometimes nice to hear what "real life" is in the blogosphere, not just pretty pictures with even prettier words. So, thanks for being honest and sharing your uncertainties, doubts, and fears. Many bright days ahead in your journey...

  10. the grass is always greener! I'm heading off on a part- backpacking-part-farm-volunteering trip to europe and at the moment I'm not even excited- I'm sitting at home NOT packing and looking at local farms for sale! things will look up :)

  11. I used to read a lot when I was in High school but once I went to college it stopped. I didn't have enough time anymore and it really made me sad.. Now (I'm still in college) I try to read at least one book a month... they have become a luxury too!

    I got 'Wild' last month to and I can't wait to read it!

  12. @hubert, thank god i don't have another job ;)
    @amy, that sounds like an awesome trip you have coming up! relish in the opprotunity to learn from so different farmers!

    @ heather, great site! thank you! what a beautiful looking school.

    @angela and jess, so happy to hear about more women making the move to farming

    @tania, where in eastern australia?

    @sue, thanks for relating :)

    so glad others are enjoying "Wild"

  13. When i read "i have this subconscious belief that if i own the books the knowledge will transfer by proxy and i will feel secure in this endeavor" I smiled as I thought I was the only one who felt this way. I suspect that there is always a sense of unknowing (doubt,fear) during the whole ride on this spinning orbHopefully, you just get more comfortable with it.So glad you didn't quit the blog Again! - A from Marin

  14. I love reading about your adventures and especially your reflections like this. I've been following your blog for awhile, but this is the first comment I've left. Keep it up. You guys are inspirational, your writing is sublime, and your photos are magical. Thanks for sharing!

  15. I only have 3 acres and have already had these feelings so I can only imagine.

    Learning through experience is the only thing that helps me with the uncertainty. It will come with time. You are already doing it :)

  16. Although I don't own a farm like you, I share similar worries and anxieties about my life. It is comforting to read your words and know that we all have worries and concerns, whatever they might be about, and it reminds me at I time when I need reminding that we are all only human after all.

    Take care xXx

  17. love this post!
    I am finishing A Walk in the Woods and about to pick up Wild. It's on my nightstand, ready to be read.

  18. Hi Kate!
    Just wanted to say that it's really great reading your blog. Thank you for sharing your stories and pictures. Always makes me so happy to read your posts.
    Greetings from Finland to Nick and all your lovely animals!
    Best wishes,
    Anni (your reader from Finland)

  19. I work for a restaurant called The Harvest Table in Meadowview, VA. My boss' wife, Barbara Kingsolver, happens to be a best selling author! You may have heard of her of even read some of her books. One in particular you would be interested in is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle . The restaurant has its own farm, which is where we get all of the veggies for the menu. The book tells of how Barbara, Steven and their 2 girls split their time between Southwest, Va and Arizona. How they started the farm and restaurant, living frugally etc ... I think you and Nick, both, will enjoy the read! Thank you for this blog ... I'm a true follower!!

  20. I just found your blog, and wanted to thank you for your lovely, honest writing. I relate: "runofthemill to doubt and fear a life that everyone you have met has told you will be as hard and tiring as it is rewarding and nourishing." I'll certainly be back to read more.


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