One of my many incarnations (or personalities, as mentioned in a recent post here) is as a farmer. Not just any farmer, mind you, a homesteader — self sufficient, living off grid, growing and preserving my own crops, and raising livestock. This dream has been around almost as long as my vision of being an acclaimed novelist.
The writing dream was born one summer Saturday morning as I was sitting at a long heavy table in my local library. As I breathed in the heady aroma– exhaled by paper, leather, and cloth bindings; old wood; and possibly furniture wax– I looked at the shelves filled with the work of writers ranging from
long ago to the newest best-sellers. I dreamed of one day being right up there among them, my work hanging out with the likes of Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and Victoria Holt. Even then, before I ever even hit my teenage years, I was a complex being.
My grandparents and great-grandparents had farms. A city kid, I loved the trips to the country, the fresh food, the barnyards, the animals. I would ride around on an imaginary horse and dream of a life like that. Years later, while living in Alaska, I met homesteaders. This tough breed built their own log cabins and lived an independent lifestyle. They hunted, trapped, raised livestock, and gardened in the short but intense growing season. They had huge stacks of firewood for stoves that provided both heat and the means to cook. It was a dream life. Of course, they had no indoor plumbing and their showers were homemade cubicles in the front yard rigged to a bucket and a 55-gallon drum. But that was a small matter, easy to minimize when I lived in an apartment with an electric stove, central heat, and a fully functioning bathroom.
I presented my case to my military spouse. It would be an adventure, I said. A great life in an unspoiled environment. My spouse did not agree. Instead of getting a bit of inexpensive land and researching cold weather chicken breeds, he completed his enlistment, got his discharge from the Army, and took us back to the lower 48. He went into sales and I wrote short stories about raising chickens in the snow.
When we later went our separate ways, I went into journalism instead of farming. I do, however, watch Homestead Rescue frequently, and I once wrote about a goat farm.
Nowadays, I am retired and I find myself still mentally switching between homesteader and literary giant (all those other personalities take a back seat to these two). I look at ads for small-holdings (that’s what we homesteaders call small pieces of acreage), then get a cup of coffee and sit down to write that best-selling novel that will one day be taught in literature classes. I did write a novel, but so far no literature classes – or big publishing houses – have begun clamoring at my feet.
I am a die-hard optimist, however, so I am promoting my novel and writing another. And I just got done feeding the chickens, goats, cows, cats, guineas, dogs, and chinchillas. Now, I am going to take an allergy pill, leave my son’s farm, and go back to my own house where the only other living things are a philodendron and a peace lily. I may stop by the library on the way and visit my good friends, Mark, Charles – and Vicky.