There I was. Standing in the barn with both hands firmly wrapped around the legs of a squealing three week old male pig. I held it up as the vet made an incision across each testicle, beginning the castration process. And the first squeal sent Charlotte charging at us.
I had dreaded the moment most of the day. I was unsure how Charlotte would respond (she’s a good first time mama but very protective over her litter). But mostly, my nerves were on edge because this was the first time we had castrated pigs and I was feeling completely inept.
Ever feel like that?
We had three males to castrate, and the process took maybe 15 minutes. Charlotte tried to get at us a couple times but we kept her at bay. All was well in the end, but as I walked back to the house from the hog barn I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling in my gut that I was an impostor.
Not just to raising pigs but to this whole homesteading farm life thing.
I wasn’t raised on a farm. I wasn’t even exposed to gardening as a kid. My dad used to work a small plot of ground in the backyard, where he would grow beans and squash, but we kids weren’t allowed to go near it. I didn’t drive a tractor until I was in my late twenties. The closest I ever came to livestock as a kid was when we would jump the fence along the pasture down the road from us to see if we could get the bull to chase us on the way to the rock quarry.
My point is that everything I’ve learned along this homesteading journey has been self taught. And that’s sometimes a lonely way to learn things. It’s full of uncertainly. Mistakes. Failures. And a lot of bumbling through first time experiences.
When we moved to Iowa, I knew we were going to get some looks once we started putting in the vegetable plots. Our 12 acres farm is dwarfed by the large acres of corn and soybeans that stretch for miles around us. Hog confinement buildings housing thousands of hogs are popular in our area as well, making my small operation of 11 hogs seem insignificant. And my little 4052 John Deere tractor looks like a child’s toy compared to the large equipment rolling down our road in the spring.
I used to be hesitant to even call our small operation a farm. Real farming meant high horse power and lots of land. Right? Neighbors would ask about our garden and I’d catch the sarcasm in their question, although I don’t think it was intended to be malicious most of the time. We were different. What we were trying to do was different. People don’t understand different.
And I felt like an impostor.
No matter what path of life we choose, I think many of us feel this way. I think we all question ourselves and our own story from time to time. We wonder who we might be trying to fool. Doubt creeps in, and it’ll erode our faith if we let it.
Or we grow complacent, never challenging ourselves so we never have to feel out of place again. Which is a hundred times worse.
Ten years ago you could have never convinced me that we would be where we are today. Farming vegetables and fruit in Iowa. Raising pigs. Passionately pursuing a life contrary to the “normal” status quo. And I have to look back at times and laugh. We’ve come a long way. This journey has been strange. It’s been hard. But it has been satisfying.
So despite the feelings of inadequacy, I keep doing the things that are uncomfortable. I keep embracing the challenges that present themselves. The first time experiences. The unknown lessons. Because I’m looking for a life that is uncommon. I’m looking for a life that is contrary.
But we should never feel like we are left to do it alone. There are other impostors out there, like you and me. Trying to blaze an original trail. Trying to find a deeper purpose to their lives, one that does not depend on the commercial matrix of modern society. All good movements that are worth anything are fueled by the spark of community and common purpose. Homesteading is no different.
It’s better that way.
I love your comment “one that does not depend on the commercial matrix of modern society.” I feel like there’s real meaning to living your life that way!
Me too! And I think in the end, it’s so worth the challenges to get there.
J > Great post : I identify with what you say, but with a twist : where we are, the land being poor, the holding small (about the same as yours, on average), and the special laws that apply to crofts make them profoundly uneconomic (in the conventional sense), the vast majority of the crofts are neglected, and many have for practical purposes been abandoned (though they still legally have tenants, and those tenants have a legal duty to be resident and use the land productively). So there’s us, with no experience, throwing ourselves into it – and earning our living. Why, how? Because we’re not tied-down by the expectations of neighbours and relations about the way things are done, and we’ve got experience of doing other things in other contexts. We innovate and add value. And we’re prepared to change what we do, and the way we do it, as the times demand. Above all, we sell direct to consumers – largely those who share our values – worldwide, not just selling stuff to unappreciative neighbours.
Small farms are definitely a big part of the future food chain. I do believe that. So glad to hear that things are going well for you and that you are farming on your own terms. Here’s to staying contrary!
I can really identify with this post. We are often asked when we are going to build a house on our farm – we then have to explain that having a house on the farm is not important to us if it means having to mortgage the farm. There are so many other ways we don’t fit in – but it is really about living by our values and not societies.
It’s crazy that the “accepted” values in society are things like going into debt and buying more stuff. But so many people are living lives without true happiness or deep satisfaction.