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Selling the farm?

Farming proves to be too much work

August 22, 2011

I looked out the upstairs window yesterday morning to see the long-haired, long-horned goat named Edward flash across my field of vision as fast as his 14-year-old legs would carry him.

Hot on his heels was the mini horse Doodlebug, who was apparently in a snit about something and had decided to take it out on poor Eddie.

I limped down the steps (the right foot is still tender from when my half-draft horse mare Cappuccino stepped on it three weeks ago) to start the routine, which included, in no particular order:

Opening up the chicken coop to a stampede that must have resembled a feathered version of lowering the gangplank on an immigrant ship on Ellis Island, circa 1840; breaking up a disagreement among two donkeys and four cows over who got the grain and who got the hay; and being butted about six feet through the air by a hungry sow.

Farming has gotten to be too stirring for me.

And too time-consuming (e.g. we are so busy taking care of horses that we never have the time to ride them.) And too hard. How was I supposed to know that? Someone should have stepped in five years ago and told me that farming was work. Because work, well, that just kills me.

And it was work I didn't understand, like small-engine repair and barn construction. No lie, I was building a chick pen and it took me an hour and 45 minutes — 45 minutes to build the pen and an hour to figure out how to load the staple gun. Turns out there are two (incompatible) types of staple; it's kind of like the VCR and Betamax of the staple world, I take it, and long story short, it's an awful feeling when you've used up a month's worth of profanity by the 7th.

And finally, farming is too expensive. I thought all you had to do to farm was sit back and fail to grow soybeans so you could collect the government subsidy check. But this year we were burdened with a fine growing season that all but wiped us out.

So the upshot is that we are putting the place on the block and downsizing to something that is more manageable for two people on the north side of 50 who want to be able to travel for more than six hours at a time, before we have to be home to milk.

So Beth and I have entered into a new phase on "animal negotiations," or, to put it another way, deciding which animals will have a place "on the bus" when we settle into new digs. As animal lovers, we decided early on that we could not be trusted with more than five acres because we tend to accumulate critters like grandma accumulates graduation photos. But we're getting enough land to afford the opportunity to take along a few larger pets.

Beth does not want to part with animals (mostly boys — just sayin') that have little value in the larger farm marketplace. I refer to these as the "loser animals," although I am discouraged from using that term at home.

Personally, I kind of shudder to think what this new zoo will look like. In truth, it might not be so bad; many of these animals have good looks, although they offer nothing else productive for society beyond the ingestion of nutrients and expulsion of toxic particulates. So it will be a lot like Jersey Shore.

We haven't decided exactly when we will be making this transition, and when we do, I am sure there will be other hardships that will take the place of the toils of manual labor. But as long as we can evacuate before Cappie crushes my other foot, I'll consider it a win.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or via email at timr@herald-mail.com. Tune in to the Rowland Rant on www.herald-mail.com, on antpod.com or on Antietam Cable's WCL-TV Channel 30 at 6:30 p.m. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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