Friday, 10 January 2014

The Farm by Susan L.

  I've made several references to the farm in my writing. It was where I spent the last ten years of my marriage. What started out to be the dream of a lifetime became burdened in the harsh realities of rural life, endless renovations and raising animals.
  We found a bargain: a hundred acres with a 1920's red brick farmhouse. It was in such bad shape we really only had to pay for the land. The house was free. There was a massive 30 by 100 foot bank barn on the property as well. It too needed lots of TLC. In the beginning we were both excited by the chance to renovate the house, to restore it to its former glory.
  The first thing was cleaning up the property. There was so much junk in the barn and around the yard it was nearly two years before we got rid of it all. People would drop in to see the city fools who had bought "The Dump". We had some amazing bonfires though and were welcomed into the community with great appreciation.
  Our first house warming gift was thirteen chickens and a rooster. The following spring we got a pair of goats. Then came goslings which ended up bonding to people so they followed me around the garden and lived in the kitchen for a while. A foreshadowing of house lambs and kids. I was delighted with the novelty of it all.
  My ex would stop on his way home from work at a local market and would bring home additions to the livestock. That handful of chickens grew in a space of seven short years to become over fifty sheep and goats, a good natured bull, fourteen cows and calves, seven horses, a pair of welsh black pigs, guinea fowl, peacocks, ducks, four dogs and several barn cats. Oh, and a pair of llamas to guard the sheep.
  The financial drain this caused meant that house renovations dragged on and on. It wasn't finished until the spring after we separated and after almost all the animals were gone. It needed to be done to be sold.
  The bulk of the farm work fell to me. Everything from feeding, watering, snow blowing, mucking the hen house, raising a couple hundred meat chickens each summer, birthing, lawn mowing and equipment maintenance fell under my care. My ex would help begrudgingly to do the big barn in spring. A tough, slogging job because we deep littered the cattle for warmth over the winter. That exercise was done by pitchfork and wheelbarrow. A bobcat tractor was beyond our budget.
  Family vacations became a thing of the past. Summer holidays were spent in the hay field.
  My ex was a good worker, I'll give him credit for that. He worked off the farm often seven days a week for weeks at a time in order to fund our folly. He still found time to work on the house, doing all the tasks that can't be seen: first gutting the rooms of lathe and plaster, then plumbing, wiring, hanging drywall. It was my task to help him accomplish that and to do the finishing work: taping and sanding the drywall, painting, replacing window trim and baseboards.
  There were and are good memories. However, my ex spiralled into full blown alcoholism and became extremely volatile and more and more emotionally abusive. I simply kept on doing my best to please him while every day saw me disappear a little more. His concerns, his issues, his complaints were all that mattered.
  The gradual addition of animals had become a way of keeping me "barefoot and pregnant" because I couldn't leave the farm. We had poor fences and the cattle were always getting out. A huge liability if someone had hit them with their car. I am thankful I was able to draw the line at owning buffalo.
  My youngest son and I went away for a week one winter to visit my daughter who was working in the Dominican Republic. It was the only vacation we had the entire time we were there. It took three people to cover all I did in the course of a day.
  I'll say it again: thank God my ex had an affair. It was the proverbial straw that set me free. I'll thank Him too for the skills learned because where I live now was also a home in need of TLC and I have the knowledge to have done most of it on my own.
  "Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Selah." Ps 4:4

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