I have been seeing a repetitive post on Facebook that you click on to see when you will retire. It struck me that the notion of retirement means that one wants to stop what they are doing at some point. So maybe if I am doing what I love, retirement is either not necessary, or I am retired. And if I am retired, then there is a lot of stuff to do to keep me busy… Not the idea most would have about retirement. But that is farming.
In days when this country was more agrural, the notion of retirement did not exist. It was not until after World War II that the term come into the mainstream, and something we all aspired to. Probably not a coincidence that office work was on the rise. I was one of those folks with an office job in a high rise building.. In a cubicle… And I felt my soul utterly dying a slow death every day. I kept myself motivated by saving my money and reading about farming and business ideas. The thought of spending the majority of my working life, and in essence my life, in an office working for someone else dictating my schedule, just a waste of a life, or at least not conducive to a meaningful life.
It is hard to describe my journey to where I am now, and too tedious to go into at length. The essence of it is that I did trust the journey and trusted my guides. And each stage was a learning platform, even that dull office job at a trucking company. So here I have landed, a shepherd and a yarn producer… And yes, a travel agent for large corporations I can do from my home, that provides me the needed steady income. But it is the farm that provides the most challenge, the most energy, the most problem solving skills, the most time. Some days after inoculating and hoof trimming or working on the garden, or shoveling rabbit manure into the compost pile, or fence mending, or assisting in shearing and wool sorting…. covered in grime and sweat…that I ask myself… Is this what I wanted?
I compare how I feel after those tough farm days to taking 80 customer service calls in canned air sitting in a chair in front of a computer screen all day and my answer is, hell yeah!!! I am in control of my days, I keep my body moving in the outdoors in all kinds of weather, I feel alive, not slowly dying. And the rewards of building something, a farm and a business is invigorating. And it is scary…and there are problems to solve… And there are sad days… Yet always lessons to be learned in those tough days to store in my arsenal of farm knowledge. But I keep coming back to the notion about feeling alive.
Now the tasks do mount, and I am in the throws of learning I can’t do it all. It does take a tole on my body, and mental state. So during this last year, I am delegating and paying some folks to get some problems and chores done, as dealing with a 100 year old farm house also has its challenges. I am putting my college student son to work on the gardens, I hired some really good guys to fence in my back pasture, and I now have a great house keeping company coming out once a month (woo-hoo!) and those living in my household contribute to paying for the house upkeep.
This allows me to work on the farm business, developing a stellar American Shetland yarn (Hilltop Shetland) that I can produce consistently and reliably and work on marketing it. And producing, on a small scale, an end product for that yarn, our 1910 socks.
And… As a knitter and spinner, I have too may works in progress waiting for me to tackle… Hoping for more time for these, otherwise I would need to put these in my will.
It has been a long journey, and I have a ways to go still… so retire? Why?
I never aspired to stop something, I aspire to do, to create, to grow… And in essence… to live. My grandpa lead busy career in the steel industry. He worked very hard up in Pennsylvania and finally retired to Jeckyl Island Georgia for a life of golf and beach combing. I think he lasted a year, maybe two. Not sure if retirement killed him, he was a smoker… But not sure if he thrived. He was a doer by nature, and in fact was always looking to do, to feel productive. I share that compulsion.
So, as I look at my farm to do list, and decide what I will tackle on the day God calls the day of rest, I figure that I don’t have time to die… Too much to do.. to much smelling fresh air while I do it, too much hearing birdsong and frog croaking, to much feeding and tending to my fiber animals. And at the end of the day, might take a dip into my God tended swimming hole, that spring fed pond at the bottom of my hill, that adds to my view in my workplace. I will float to the middle and take stock of my blessings in this world. My thought will be that heaven has a lot to measure up to, as there is nothing like having an 8 acre pond to yourself except for the fish, frogs, turtles, and geese.. And yes, an annoying beaver. Too much to do, and yes also enjoy to leave the planet anytime soon. So I guess I am foregoing the notion of retirement..what is there to retire from?