15 Favorite Things

Yesterday I shared that I love owning and toiling over the farm. Though sometimes frustrating, I derive a measurable satisfaction from the work.

But have you met my wife?

Julie is loving. Supportive. Encouraging. But not physically strong.

Much of the work in the early stages of our farm requires strength and plenty of it. Lift this, load that, lug it over there. Stack wood, carry feed sacks, load up scrap metal, stack hay, wrestle this piglet. It feels great to be so physically exhausted. I can fall asleep almost instantly…anywhere (sorry pastor Mark!).

She doesn’t love that. She loves me but she doesn’t love all of the work.


So I try to accommodate her needs. Some of today’s post is exaggerated to make the point but some of it is very real. Please don’t comment that I’m a jerk. I can be a jerk at times. But most of the time I’m a pretty normal guy. You know…a jerk.

Julie recently made a list of her top 15 things that are free and her top 15 things that cost money. Stop reading now and go make that list. Really. Stop. Write down 15 things that you treasure that are free. Now write down 15 that cost money.

Done? Good. Post some of your 15’s in comments. Come on. Hundreds of people will read this. SOMEBODY can share a few things they enjoy. May as well be you.

My top 15 include piglets. Her top 15 (of both categories somehow) include chocolate. I love cutting firewood and watching the forest transition from thorny weed trees to dominant, climax hardwoods. She likes the warm fireplace in the winter. I enjoy watching the cows graze and stomp the pasture as we manage toward fertility and diversity. She likes to hold hands as we walk through the pasture. I want to make the chickens happy. She wants to talk to the egg customers.

Our goals are not mutually exclusive but they are not entirely aligned either. They are complimentary. Well, some of the time. Other times?

I want a clean house, well-behaved children, a weed-free garden and no toys on the floor. She does too. It’s unanimous so why doesn’t it get done? What does she do all day? I get up early, care for the critters, solve computer puzzles all day and come home to play farmer some more. What does she do all day? Why aren’t the dishes done? She has four helpers! It only takes a few minutes to wash the dishes! I know, I DO A LOT OF DISHES!

These aren’t productive thoughts to verbalize in argument conversation with your wife.

Julie shared her top 15(s) with me this past weekend after yet another …um…discussion(?) about the milk cows that resulted in me selling the cows. (Fast forward a few days, we haven’t sold the cows. I found a willing buyer within 3 minutes but cooler heads prevailed. For now.) You know what is NOT in Julie’s top 15? Milking the cows.

How can she feel that way? I mean, what is her problem!?!? Milking the cows is totally in my top 15.


No. She wants to hold hands as we walk in the pasture and eat chocolate and buy art supplies and journal her thoughts and …I don’t know…do some other girl stuff. I want to hold a rusty bit of baling wire in my teeth as I save the world once again with a miraculous repair like my super-hero dad. Hold hands? I guess but, “Hold hands? In the pasture?! Baby, we don’t have to go to the pasture to hold hands. Anyway, I gotta collect the eggs. Maybe you can hold my hand while I walk down to the birdies. But can you wear your purple rubber boots? I need to cross the creek and count the cows. I should probably build a little fence while I am down there. And I need to move the water trough too.” And just like that we are no longer holding hands as we stroll through the pasture to collect a basket full of eggs. We are working. Like workey-work. Baling wire in your teeth, cow manure on your jeans, broken fingernail, grunt and smell and save the world kind of work. The kind of work that adds to the already massive pile dirty laundry when you come in from doing chores and have to take a shower because the dog is the only one who likes your smell. And, by the way, the dirty laundry has to be put away when it is cleaned. You know, that chore that isn’t getting done as is evidenced by the baskets full of clean laundry sitting on the bed so we have to deal with them before going to sleep but we actually just carry the baskets to the living room every night because we are so tired from gathering eggs, building fence, moving water troughs and holding hands.

farm fashion

Well, something like that anyway.

So she doesn’t want to milk the cows. It’s not on her list.

So I am milking the cows. It is on my list. And it frees up time in her day to accomplish more of the stuff she wants to do.


And it is important that she have time in her day to explore things she is passionate about…and that I support her in those things. So the dishes don’t get washed after every meal. So there is clean laundry on the bed. So sometimes I stop working and just hold her hand in the pasture. Sometimes we all pile in the car and go to the library. Or to visit family. I separate the jobs that I want to do from the jobs I need to do, we do what we have to and leave the rest for later so we can all play a board game together. Same reason the house isn’t completely spotless sometimes. She had more important stuff to do. Same reason there isn’t a new blog post every day.

Sometimes it is important to her that she help me stack firewood. Sometimes it is important to me that we hold hands in the pasture while eating a chocolate bar and doing nothing else. I have to meet her where she is…to invest in her. To put a deposit in her love account.

All of this seems like common sense…and it is. But you forget that when it’s hot and the garden is submerged under a sea of weeds and the cows are out and the kids are grouchy and you can’t see the kitchen counter and things, generally, could be going better. But that’s life…the life we share. She loves me and likes the farm. I should probably adopt her style of thinking.

And I don’t know what else you could want in a free blog post. This is real life. I’m not here to pick at scabs for an audience. I’m also not here to tell you that farming is easy and the best way to make the world a better place is to buy a $250 American Guinea Hog that you butcher at 60 pounds after 6 months and harvest 30 pounds of meat for $10/pound. I keep it real. This is where I am today. Julie and I are fine. Farming is hard. Marriage is hard. Getting older is hard. But I rather enjoy farming and getting older with my best friend. It isn’t always easy but we’ll tough it out. And I hope you will too.

17 thoughts on “15 Favorite Things

  1. I’m going to cheat here a bit. I have two Things to Do that I think get to the meat of what you’re talking about. Tell me I’m wrong if you disagree.

    I like slow evenings not doing much, but I also like to eat our fresh produce. My wife like to pick said produce before cooking it. So a good time for us has evolved from picking produce together in the evening just before dinner. Even the itching green beans.

    I enjoy a bit of time talking and listening to people, while Maureen doesn’t like being in public talking.So my second fun time is selling produce at the Farmer’s Market. I get to tell “stupid, Teacher Jokes,” show children funny shaped produce and interact before crawling back into the quiet of home. Maureen helps and gets to shop at the same time. A well spent Saturday morning.

    PS I’m working on my list. It’s a great idea for couples to do to campare andcontrast.

  2. I agree with Steve, I’ll have to do this exercise with hubby (when he’s got time to sit and make lists that are not “to do” lists :)). I think, like you our lists would overlap in places, but be widely divergent in others. We’ve been aware of this for years in a subliminal kind of way, and we do make an effort to intersect when things have been so crazy that we’re in danger of disconnect – I might offer to drive him for the evening if he has to go add feature sheets to a home, or turn off lights or something, and we’ll catch up on our day while we’re driving home, maybe stop for an ice cream. If he gets home in time at night, he’ll come out and help me shut birds in, and we’ll watch the stars for a few minutes, and decompress together – maybe even hold hands :). But it’s hard, and we slip up a lot. We’ve done a lot of personal sacrifice, him more than me, to make this marriage and family as good as it is (and I submit humbly that it’s pretty good). It doesn’t really feel like sacrifice after a while, just what you do because you love someone more than you love something. And that makes it worth it.

    My list, as far as I got, and my thinking was pretty macro, so I might re do this another time:
    Free: Husband, family, mild climate that we live in, the diversity of the region we live in (ocean, rocky shores, sandy beaches, rain forest, mountains, savannah, meadow…), friends and neighbours, fire, democracy. Cost money: food (all kinds, including chocolate), home, farm, library, transportation, medical insurance, clothes, clean water, electricity. I know that’s not fifteen in either category. I was kind of stumped to do more – I have all those things, and really want for nothing. Moreover, it strikes me that the “free” list items all come at a cost – both monetary and otherwise. If I were to make a Sound of Music kind of favourite things list, chocolate and coffee would be on it, but so would cats, dogs, farm animals, gardens, seaside cottages, reading a new book by a favourite author, and horseback riding.

  3. First, you’re not a jerk. Trying to build a life worthy of your dream is a lot of work. I can empathize (but not about the manure). One of my free things is rock climbing and hiking with my family. One of my things that cost money is going on road trips.

  4. Free: The love of my wife and kids, good friendships, the quiet of early mornings, prayer, watching my vegetable garden grow, the sound of running water in a creek, the laughter of my kids, my daughter singing, hiking in the mountain, the smell of freshly sawn cherry wood.
    Costs Money: home, good food, wine, books and more books, traveling to see friends, dogs, chickens, tools, lumber, raw milk, a basement full of canned food, coffee.

    • Wine would be on my list also, big California reds if you please.

      It is hard to tell you where to begin reading McPhee. I started with “Rising from the Plains” about the geography of Wyoming. “Coming into the Country” about Alaska is a favorite. “The Survival of the Birch Bark Canoe” is about an old craft.”Encounters with the Archdruid” is about builders and David Brower. “Giving Good Weight” is about the New York farmer’s markets. Literally pick a topic, and find the book.

  5. If you haven’t read any of Wendel Berry’s books on Port Williams, you don’t know what you’re missing. I especially enjoy the audio books put out by christianaudio.com. The man that reads most of them sounds like Sam Elliott. He does an incredible job.

  6. The narrator for the audio version of Jayber Crow is Paul Michael (a Canadian), I think he reads most of the others too, though I didn’t check. He also reads a lot of what I’d call action adventure type stuff – Ludlum, Dan Brown, etc. Hannah Coulter is read by Susan Denaker, who also reads the Penderwick books (for kids), as well as a variety of adult books.

    I love the Port Williams books, but I’ve read them, so when I get back to reading more than a page a night before falling asleep, I’m going to give McPhee a go – his list looks pretty eclectic.

    It’s interesting how the voice matters so much for an audio version. Listening to a clip of Paul Michael reading Jayber Crow, I realized that when I’m reading Berry, I hear Berry’s voice, probably because I’ve seen video clips of him reading his own work. Also because I heard him before I heard the Paul Michael version. Like seeing a movie before reading the book. Probably if you hear Paul Michael first, his is the “right” voice.

    Here’s a favourite thing to add to my list: reading aloud as a family, taking turns with the chapters.

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