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past present

February 23, 2012

farming books

Lately, I’ve been reading all these books about farming. I am really loving them. The Dirty Life, BarnHeart, The Last Farmer. I like gardening but I’m really not interested in farming so I have been puzzled as to why I am so in love with these memoirs.

I finally figured out after reading The Last Farmer that it is all about using my family heritage as inspiration to rebalance my current life. My family is Swedish on one side and German and American Revolutionary heritage on the other. There were farmers and tradesmen on both sides and all viewed  hard physical work as a lifestyle and a value system.

I grew up learning that if you were not working hard, then you must be lazy. Therefore, I stick to things and work with focus. As for waking up and doing barn chores at 5am, well, that kind of thing has never been my strong suit. Over the years, I decided that focused work was only part of the equation and developed a balance of: work for income, volunteer work, socializing and being alone.

Since we’ve had a child, the being alone is much less, the socializing has changed and the work for income no longer exists. There is a lot of volunteer work, at home and a little in the community. What does it all mean? I think this journey reading about farming is my way of trying to funnel my strength and need for control over my work into some positive, balanced scenario.

The control a traditional farmer has is not typical. On one hand, a farmer is in full control of his/her place, making all decisions, for better or worse, and does all the hard work or finds people he/she can work with. On the other hand, nothing is in the farmer’s control. Weather can devastate a year of work (or more) and a farmer is always part of an intertwined support community, dependent on everyone else as the need arises, as others are dependent upon him/her.

I think I am wanting to adjust my life to this newish dynamic I find myself in, as a mother in a modern community. I am striving for simple routine, interdependence and a measure of self-sufficiency. Looking to my heritage and farming roots is how I am figuring it out. The answer to a modern dilemma can be found in the past.

These books tell of hardship but also of hope and new life for the old ways, incorporating the core of tradition into a new situation. It seems the worst hardship comes when we deny old ways, thinking we have a better new way. A new situation does not usually call for a new way, just a creative reinterpretation. I need to translate my past to my present, so I’m reading farming books.

What about you? Do your reading obsessions reflect some inner journey?

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