At the end of December 1999, the brink of Y2K, my family of four moved to the country to become self-sufficient. The plan was to build a house, grow our own vegetables, raise sheep for food, chickens for eggs, and a ‘Bessie’ for milk. We came to our country property armed with containers of food in vacuum-sealed packages (enough to last for 10 years-just in case the entire electronic age came to a halt).
We took up residence in a‘temporary’575 sq’ trailer that we’d purchased for my father, who was anxious to live in the country with us. He was excited about residing on the property to help tame the wildscape, care for the animals, and keep up the farm equipment. Dad insisted on undergoing minor heart surgery a few weeks before our big move so he could get in shape to help us out, and died on the operating table instead. I will share the details of that story in another column…
My dad was careful with the little money he had, so he was the one who chose the trailer we bought. Describing it as a fixer-upper is an understatement. The floors were almost non-existent, and by the time we got it moved to our property both exterior doors were gone. They had flown off during the move—because the movers had neglected to secure them down. And the walls flexed like an accordion when the wind blew hard—which is all the time in our neck of the woods. On the up-side, the music it made during high winds was lovely.
Anyway…we had to fix-up the trailer before we could move into it. And the repairs had to be done before we could begin building the house or, we wouldn’t have any roof over our heads. The plan was to fix the trailer, then dig trenches and install sewer lines. But, we didn’t know where the water lines or cut-offs were, and when we asked the city maintenance guys—they didn’t either. Let me tell you that having to dig up four acres with a shovel to find the lines was not the best remedy for my husband’s already ailing back. The fence was to be next, or the animals would escape—again. When we were bringing our newly purchased herd of 20 sheep to their new home, the trailer gate swung open just as we were crossing our cattle guard. I’ve never seen animals disappear so fast and travel so far in so little time! It took two weeks to get them all back. We spent many days and nights trying to get them out of our neighbor’s pastures-who by the way, leaned against their fence with cool drinks in hand to watch and poke fun at the city folk. Granted, watching four city slickers run back and forth wildly through 20’ stalks of sunflowers from daylight to sunset, rattling a can of dry food, while dodging jumping sheep must have been pretty comical. Needless to say, not much else was accomplished during this two week stretch. By the way, we continued to work full-time in San Antonio during this construction phase. There is much more-but I’ll save those stories for later.
I’ve noticed a pattern in my life that I’m sure everyone can relate with. When we have the money for what we need to do, we don’t have the time to do it because we are too busy making the money we need. When we have the time, we don’t have money. Then there are those rare times that both time and money are available. But, at this point, our energy has been completely depleted, and all we are able to do is lie on the sofa and quiver.
Life in‘Green Acres’is relentlessly hard work. Yet, we wouldn’t go back to what we had in the city—even if someone gave us a big fancy home in the best side of town. We’ve come to realize that there is more to life than stuff. The city with all its conveniences and its limitless entertainment possibilities kept us running after anything that would make us feel good. In the city we lived to please ourselves. With regularity we went shopping to buy things we really didn’t need. We paid far too much for cable television, and spent more time with television pseudo-people than we did communicating with one another. In addition, habitually watching the daily news brought the worst of the world into our home, and without even realizing it, kept us living in anxiety and fear.
Living in the country forced us to see the side of life that had been obscured by city living. We’d never experienced so much death as we have here. Death calls often and without warning when you are the owner of farm animals. Casualty comes to young and old, healthy and sick, ready or not. Nature is an unsympathetic teacher with a rhythm of its own; marching steadily ahead whether you’re in step with it or not. It has taught us that the circumstances of life will break those who can’t bend; flexibility is crucial to ones physical and mental survival when at the mercy of nature. It forced us to toss out schedule books with‘important’agendas, and put our desires on hold. It took a while to accept the fact that there is a determined time for everything and that we had to take things in stride. We’ve finally learned to meet each situation as it arises, making allowances for unplanned events, and focusing on one thing at a time to keep from being overwhelmed by the unending cycle of work.
We have also learned that we can’t control the actions of others any more than we can control the movement of the wind; people change their minds just as often and just as fast. The one thing we can control is how we react to the circumstances that befall us. It takes practice to reel in our tendency to get frustrated, anger or depressed; but our emotional responses are always subject to change if we choose them to be.
People have often asked me“Why does this have to happen to me?”All I can really say is that we all get our turn. No matter our age; no matter our position; none of us will get through this life without our share of hard knocks. Life is fair in at least this way.
God has His reasons for testing each of us as He does—whether we like being tested or not really doesn’t seem to matter much. It seems that the whole point of going through trials is to learn the lesson; and to learn it as quickly as possible, so that we can move on to the next one. There is a lesson to be learned in every bad situation, if we take the time to look for it among the muck. Besides, if we don’t get it right the first time around—I know I’m not the only one who has noticed this—we are challenged with the same thing again and again, until we stop doing it wrong. Opportunities abound to refine ones character (and we all need a little refining). For one of us it may be tolerance of others. For another it may be patience. For another it may be love.
Living on this planet-in these fragile bodies-is always going to be a challenge. So we may as well stop grumbling about the unfairness of it all, and learn to enjoy the journey along the way.
Life dishes out distasteful portions to each of us from time to time, and for various reasons. Believe it or not, some of the nasty things we are forced to eat are actually good for us. Maybe we should stop squirming, take the medicine and swallow what we are given. It just may do us some good.