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What do homesteaders do for fun?

Reader and frequent correspondent Martha Johnson wanted to know what homesteaders do for fun. The most common response was, "Homesteading is fun! When you have animal to watch, a garden to work in, land to walk on, and more projects than you can shake a stick at, who needs (or has time for) anything else!" Here, however, are some different ideas:

Lisa Stickdorn, Charlottesville, Indiana

Attend seminars, etc.

What do I do for fun? Silly question! Most countrysiders will tell you that homesteading IS our relaxation during leisure (?) hours.

For most people, life on the homestead without any outside employment is a rare luxury. To come home to a simpler existence and to strive to see it flourish through the work of one's own hands is usually fun enough.

But...

My husband and I have only lived beyond the sidewalks for four years and we're constantly striving to increase our knowledge, particularly about sustainable livestock farming. There are numerous seminars, field days, and livestock shows in our area, and we attend as many as we can. They are usually a pleasant diversion from shoveling manure, weeding the garden, mending fences, vaccinating livestock, etc.

Usually there are many different people to talk with. Many new contacts and friends with common interests can be discovered. We usually bring home an assortment of literature to add to our extensive library about farming and homesteading. (Reading in the evening is another pastime we enjoy.)

Most of these events are a short distance away, requiring only one day away from the homestead. Once a year or so, though, we find a seminar that requires an overnight stay. We make it into a mini-vacation. We have excellent neighbors who are willing to feed the stock for a night or two.

Last June my husband and I attended a sheep seminar given by the University of Kentucky in Lexington. As we live in central Indiana, we made a pleasant drive through the bluegrass country the night before, stayed at a moderately priced hotel, and enjoyed the seminar the next day. We were back on the farm by the third day, refreshed and eager to try the new ideas we learned from the seminar.

I'm not sure if a sheep seminar constitutes life in the fast lane," but it certainly is "fun" for us.

Debbie Dahl, Colcord, Oklahoma

"Everyday things"

Fun comes about in many ways when you live in the countryside. For us, fun is -

* Hearing the chicks peep-peeping at the post office when you go to pick them up.

* Watching a newborn kid goat frolic around its mother's legs.

* Spreading fresh sawdust on the stall floor you just spent two hours shoveling manure out of.

* Seeing the first ear of corn in the corn patch, or the first pumpkin starting to turn orange.

* Watching the kids play in the clear creek water for the first time in summer.

* Tasting that first cup of cool milk after you milk your goat.

* Finding the first brown egg from the young laying hens you raised from chicks.

* Not having enough room in your freezer for all the vegetables from your garden.

* Having 85% of your duck eggs hatch - in December!

* Counting the money left over after you have paid the feed bill.

Jeannine Ricketson, Saugerties, NY

Little time is "wasted"

What do I do for fun? Take time to watch the ducklings go for their first swim, or watch the chicks, or the antics of any of the animals. Isn't this one of the reasons we chose this lifestyle?

I take time to smell the roses or wild flowers, picking them and filling the house with bouquets.

In summer, picking raspberries in the old quarry is a treat, as is any walk in the woods with the dogs.

The high point of the week is biking into town to the library and selecting books. I have no tv or vcr, so reading is a big enjoyment.

Other recreation includes crossword and jigsaw puzzles, but for the most part I don't like to waste even my leisure (?) time, accomplishing nothing. I'd rather weave or sew.

Betcha such thrilling recreation would really blow the minds of the yuppies.

Tony Brown, Winona, Minnesota

Line dancing!

I consider myself a serious and successful homesteader, but all work and no play make Johnny a dull boy. I have a long list of fun things aside from gardening, orcharding, building, animal raising, and my wild flower nursery employment... some done regularly, some rarely.

My latest fun activity is line dancing.

I wasn't sure I would like it. I wasn't sure I'd like the music, or have the mental or physical energy to learn the dances. To tell the truth, I wasn't sure this old dog could learn a new trick.

But after a few lessons and dances I had line dance fever. I found myself thinking about the Friday night dances during grunt labor, and instead of being exhausted on Friday night I found the dances energized me and brought my spouse and me closer together.

I also have a new alter ego: a Stetsonwearing, boot scootin', line dancing cowboy!

Most of my fun activities don't cost anything or much, and it's good to take the time to have fun with your spouse, children, friends or yourself.

And don't be afraid to try something new. It just might be fun!

Scott Jackson-Ricketts,

Independence, Virginia

Work should be play

It was with some amusement that I pondered the question of what do I do for fun. Actually, I was baffled for an hour or so.

Yes, a confession. Not unlike the constant assault of banal questionnaires that pile up in my mailbox, complete with multiple choice hobby check lists which never made any sense to me, neither did this. Then I realized I had to answer this one, for Wendell Berry's sake, and ours.

The assertion that work and play are at odds has been pithing my patience for 20 years. You will find that in any field, the people who describe themselves as truly successful and happy make no distinction.

For Countryside, which champions an essential way of life, which celebrates meaningful work, it struck me as very close to a marketing ploy. Out of sync.

In seeking recreation, people admit to boredom and dissatisfaction. They have yet to claim their useful place on this planet.

(Editor's note: We've often said the samething in Countryside. But you just made me realize what bothers me about Wendell Berry's writing: he reminds me of a wet hen who should lighten up.)

Merton Taylor, New Prague, Minnesota

Showing cattle

I enjoy showing cattle.

I work part-time fitting cattle; getting them ready for county, state, and national shows and sales.

To me it is fun to be able to do a good enough job to have one of your charges take a first place... or maybe even champion or grand champion.

It also gives us a chance to travel to national shows at Louisville, Denver, and Houston. We get to see the country and how others farm and raise cattle.

It also gives us the chance to meet some of the finest people, and close friendships have developed. Some have lasted 30 or more years, and a few romances at the fairs have turned into weddings from our group.

It is also fun to be able to judge along with the judges, to see how far off I am. Sometimes I'm on target. The World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin, has a railbird judging contest. I've come close in some of the classes, and it's a good education.

Another part of cattle showing is being able to talk to other breeders, herdsmen, and farmers about sustainable agriculture and what practices they use. We use rotational grazing on grass and we swap practices to help each other.

Along the way we have won six herdman trophies, a showmanship trophy and a number of champion trophies and ribbons. My wife says I would never leave her for another woman. A heifer... maybe.

Robert D. Sanders, Aurora, Minnesota

Something crazy?

At first I was dumbfounded. Recreation: that's something those city folk and tourists do, right? Recreation is a game of some sort, or sitting on a bar stool, or paying somebody to entertain me. I thought I'd better see what Webster had to say about it.

He says it's also "the act of creating anew" and "refreshment after toil." There is something I can hang my hat on.

Roughly 20 years ago I started moving away from the sidewalks with the hope of returning to the good old days of yesteryear. First, 15 miles out of the Twin Cities (Minneapolis-St. Paul), then 20, then 27.

And wouldn't you know it - others were doing the same thing. Only they wouldn't leave their sidewalks behind.

Each move reduced the amount of recreation I purchased, but it also increased my inner satisfaction and helped me to adjust to living standards which I recalled from the forties, when we lived the good life.

In the fall of 1989 I made the big jump. I moved a full 200 miles north, to an 80-acre, 100-year-old homestead that had been vacant for 12 years. I am surrounded by state and tax forfeited land and it's a mile to a neighbor's place.

How sweet it is... and how much work! Lots!

But there are rainy days and times when I need to back off and just get some refreshment. When that time comes I may do something crazy.

Last year I went to Iron World to see live, famous, country shows. Twice.

Most of the time I will do some painting or wood carving or mess around with my guitar, especially on rainy days.

On nice days, though, I'll do a "fun" project. Maybe a stone walkway, bird house or feeder, or a wildlife habitat.

Two things I do besides working on my game farm are reading every word in Countryside and writing to my penpal in New York.

Recreation is limited here, but the deer, a passing wolf, eagles, owls, beaver, etc. etc. etc., make life so rewarding that there is very little need for recreation. least in the form most city people use.

Tom Anderson, Sellersburg, Indiana

Picnics on the new farm

In April, after looking diligently for a year, my wife and I found and bought our farm - 43 beautiful acres in the knobs of south central Indiana. It is 17 miles from our home and we intend to build there next spring.

As a result, every spare morning, afternoon or entire day we can squeeze out is spent at the farm, where the temperature is 10 [degrees] cooler and the decibel level is 50 lower.

Our 12-year-old son has since sold his Nintendo and now takes his friends to the farm where they ride their bikes up and down the hills and through the woods, play in the creeks, target practice with BB guns and bows and arrows, eat picnic lunches, and complain when it's time to go home.

On the Fourth of July we invited many of our friends from church to the farm for a pitch-in dinner. Thirty-six people showed up. In spite of the fact that we have no buildings on the land except two lean-tos, no water or electricity, and only the most primitive toilet facilities, everyone is still talking about how much fun it was.

Entertainment consisted of hours of horseshoes, jaw aerobics, tours of the farm in a utility trailer pulled behind my 37-year-old Farmall tractor, and playing in the creek and exploring the woods. Perhaps the most modern device was a volleyball net, which was used very little.

Everyone who was there tells me how much fun it was and asks when we are doing it again. The answer is the first weekend in October that I have off. We're going to have a bonfire, roast hotdogs and make 'smores.

Melina Bush, Pencil Bluff, Arkansas

Time with friends

Since moving to the country, my husband and I have found a very different attitude about leisure time and "fun."

The old city days would have found us sitting in front of the tube, snacking, looking at movie ads, paying high prices to be entertained. On weekends we might drive half a day to get into the country, pay $100 a night to stay at a "country inn," then dash back Sunday afternoon to begin another mindless work week.

In our life now there is little leisure time. There is always something to be weeded, painted, split, canned, groomed, mowed, milked, fenced, furrowed, graded, dehydrated or stacked.

Leisure time is when we choose to set aside those activities and sit and visit. My husband is a pretty fair gospel and bluegrass musician, so we relish the times we can gather with friends for fellowship, tunes and food. We are chicken farmers, so we talk shop a lot with other farmers, checking on everyone's flock production.

In short, we choose to spend a bit of special time with like-minded loved ones.

The nine-to-fiver sees leisure time and recreation as a God-given right. We see it as a hard-earned respite from our workday.

The "fun" is there all the time. Watchingkidgoatsplaykingofthehill, or walking to the creek to check the water level on a hot July afternoon are the lighter moments of a hectic day. Introducing a city-dwelling grandchild to fireflies (forever after known around here as "little lights") is one of the blessed moments of my life. We no longer require or seek to be entertained. Our good Lord has given a world of wonder and bounty which sustains and entertains.

And a wonderful bonus: I've lost 30 couch potato pounds since moving beyond the sidewalks two years ago!

Valerie Jordan, File Lake, Michigan

Lots of simple things

My husband and I work full time off our farm, and the rest of the time on it, doing all the usual chores. Here is what we like to do for fun:

Drive to town, buy a pizza and six-pack of beer, then go "two-tracking" in our four-wheel-drive truck.

Go to flea markets and farm markets.

Go to horse auctions and livestock sales.

Horseback riding.

Gather up all the dogs and goats and whatever and go for a walk.

Have a bonfire.

Take photographs.

Go canoeing and/or fishing.

Visit friends (and their animals and gardens).

Eat out at an inexpensive restaurant.

When time allows, on trips downstate, we chart a course on back roads to see the countryside.

Sit on our front porch and watch the cars go by.

Tanita & Dewey Burden

Fowlerville, Michigan

"We re-create"

The Question of the Month started me thinking about our lives since buying our "little piece of heaven" seven years ago. What do we do for fun? What is the fast lane, and are we missing something by not being in it?

A realtor showed us a picture of this place after we told him how little we had to spend. We told him if it looked like the picture, it was sold. It did and it was.

Our house and barn are 94 years old and had received no care for the last 20 years. One of the three outbuildings collapsed the first year we were here. The second floor of the old farmhouse was unusable and on our limited income it took almost two years to get it to a point where we could use the hall and bedroom. It was a good feeling when we could finally stop sleeping in the living room.

We both work full time in nearby towns, so for us, the "fast lane" means getting ready for and going to work. By the time we get home 12 hours of our day are already gone.

The 24 mile drive home is the happiest time of my day. Once I'm back in the country my mind can go back to the really important things in life, like whose corn is how high, the rabbits in the road and the deer in the fields, and how the new porch is coming on the house down the road. And most important, looking forward to seeing my little "family."

The size of the family has gone up and down in the last seven years. Right now we stand at 11 Pygmy goats, 17 chickens, two ducks, three guineas, a turkey, a barn cat, and a dog. We used to have Nubians but arthritis in my hands made it too difficult to milk in the winter. I spent one season without goats, but the first spring without kids I knew I had to have more. Being unable to milk on a regular basis was a problem, but Pygmies seemed to be the solution.

At the end of the day when other people are going to shows or malls or whatever other people do for fun, I do what brings me the most joy of the day. Dewey knows he can find me sitting somewhere in the shade of the barn with one kid on my lap, one chewing on my hair, and the rest hanging around asking to have their backs scratched. They are such gentle little creatures. I wouldn't trade one evening with them for all the Broadway shows, fancy restaurants or amusement parks in the world.

Anyone who can ask the question "What do you do for fun?" has never watched a newly hatched chick try to follow its mother when its legs won't quite work yet, or sprayed the ducks with the hose on a hot summer afternoon, or sat in the barn on a cold March night and watched the steam rise off a newborn kid.

One or twice a year we go camping on the 20 acres of woods we have in northern Michigan. But while we are there, we are planning where we would put a barn, well and house. How much fence we would need for the goats, how to manage the woodlot, where to put the garden, and how much manure it would take to turn the sand into soil. This is how we spend our "vacation."

By the end of four days I can't wait to get home.

We do go wild once a year, when the fair is on. We go to the figure 8 races (maybe that's what is meant by "the fast lane.") But I find I spend 90% of my time in the animal tents. I love to see other peoples' goats, rabbits, chickens, etc.

So, what do we do for recreation? We re-create.

Are we missing anything? You bet we are.

We're missing the strain, pressures, anxieties and financial burdens of trying to have "fun" the way other people do.

The only thing we'd change would be to find a way to eliminate our jobs and do this full-time.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Countryside Publications Ltd.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Stickdorn, Lisa; Dahl, Debbie; Ricketson, Jeannine; Brown, Tony; Jackson-Ricketts, Scott; Taylor, Me
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Nov 1, 1993
Words:3148
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