Every person has their own idea of the things that keep them alive, and conversely, the things that slowly drain their lives away. Finding and figuring out which is which is not the easiest thing to do, and many people spend all of their days being content with not knowing the difference. For me, it took a lot of death to find what keeps me alive.
After the realization that sitting behind a desk pumping out code was one of the things that was slowly draining me (as I explain in this post) , I embarked on the journey to build a tiny house and work on a local farm. From day one on the farm, the feeling of life was almost palpable as I helped out with daily chores and the hundreds of other things that needed to get done. This particular farm is a bit different than your average farm in a lot of ways. Mainly, it’s an incredibly new farm. It started on a 50 acre plot for meat and layer chickens, and in the last year has grown to 300 acres to house chickens, lambs, cows, pigs, some small cabins, and some gardens. The best thing about this farm, in my humble opinion, is that it’s so new that the day-to-day processes aren’t completely worked out, and there is a lot of infrastructure needing to be built. There also aren’t many hands helping out on a daily basis so I get to participate in a lot.
My first week on the farm was cold, rainy, and most of the others were pretty miserable. I, however, had the biggest smile on my face, and energy bursting out of me. I know that this is likely to fade as the years go on, but I can’t describe how great it felt to be outside working with my hands on a Thursday. All in a couple days my entire life force shifted inside of me, and every person I ran into that week was blown away by how obvious this shift was. One of the greatest things about this shift was I was able to put my positivity into the farm, the animals, and the people around me. My old coworkers would attest to the fact that this was not a by-product of my day-to-day life as a programmer.
My second week was when some of the realities of working on a farm started to sink in. Personally, I was physically exhausted by the end of each day. I’ve always been somewhat of a night owl, but I was in bed by about 9:00pm every night. I also started to lose weight which for most people is a good thing, but I was already as thin as a board in the first place. As far as the farm goes, I was subjected to things that have been so distant in my old life as a grocery store consumer. One of the lambs in the newly erected pole barn had been sick for a few weeks, and we had been feeding him extra alfalfa, and some tinctures that were mixed by the owner. He usually had a difficult time standing up on his own, but we would hand-feed him then walk him around a bit to get the blood pumping. However, on the last day of the second week, I walked down the long gravel trail to the pole barn and could feel the weight of something wrong. As I stepped through the gate, I found this lamb laying in a pile of his own excrement and the life almost entirely gone from his eyes and body. I called the owner, and after a few disgruntled swear words, she said she’d be down there in a bit with the .22 caliber rifle. After the deed was done, we had a short ceremony for the lamb to thank him for his life. To complete the cycle of life, I had to pick him up, carry him back up the road and bury him in the back part of the rows of 100-foot long compost piles. The weight of that moment carried out through the day, but there was still much more life to attend to and the farm must carry on.
From a bit of death, and a lot of hard work came a million more moments that fed my soul, and carried their weight in gold. My programmer tan (or lack there of) slowly transformed into a legitimate farmer’s tan, and added a lively color back to my cheeks. The initial loss of weight slowly transformed into a legitimate feeling of being hungry. Instead of getting out of my desk at noon to go to lunch because that’s what I do at noon, I eat often throughout the day. Coupled with the tough work, it actually makes food taste so much better. I can even feel how much stronger my body is getting, and I haven’t had to step foot in a gym.
I get to engineer things to make the farmers’ and the animals’ lives more comfortable, and more efficient.
I get to bring my two sons with me where I get to teach them what I’m learning myself, and I get to spend some of the most quality time I could ever spend with them.
I had the time and freedom to play some music with my oldest son at the local pub. I am fortunately reminded of and get to witness what it’s like to watch the sun rise over the trees while I bottle-feed lambs, or feed hay to the cows. I even took the leap of purchasing the trailer for my tiny house. I fortunately found a company that sells them for cheaper than you can buy them online, so I purchased one with four more feet! It’s currently being custom built and should arrive in the next couple weeks.
I am fully aware that this is not the path that everyone would choose to keep them alive, but the decision to leave my desk and say, “Hello” to the real world is one that has paid me in ways that money simply cannot. The old me who believed in slaving away at a desk just for a dollar to “support” my family had to die in order for the new, stronger, happier man to come alive.