Greetings from a very confused Chicago. Yesterday was 55 and sunny...first bike ride of the season going to pick my son up from school. The sidewalks are flooded from melting snow even if the streets are dry. Little hills of snow here and there, but you can actually see patches of grass. Of course, tonight there will be rain and sleet turning to blizzard conditions and thundersnow. 10 inches possible over the region.
Some things never change with my daughter falling asleep in the bike trailer. It was a welcome relief to have her asleep because it seems like if she's awake that we're not enjoying her very much lately. The other night we were still trying to get her to bed around midnight and she cried so much that she ended up throwing up all over herself and the living room rug. But I was glad I didn't do the laundry right away because later in the day she ran into a wall and split her lip open getting blood all over her blankie. Proud moment for me as a parent having both vomit AND blood stains in one washer.
It feels like everything is happening at once these days. We have a potluck dinner at school on Thursday evening. Friday we're celebrating The Mama's birthday with a date night and I just ordered her birthday cake. Then Saturday morning I'll be up around 4am to drive to Effingham for a sheep workshop.
If you just asked yourself "where is Effingham?" don't worry. All you need to know is it's downstate. But on the way back in the afternoon there's a farm for sale along the drive that I've been talking to the owner so I thought I might as well stop by and have a look. How often am I downstate?
Their story is kinda sad and very common, I'm finding. It's a 25 acre farm that's been in their family for about 100 years. Used to have sheep on it previously, as a matter of fact. The husband has cancer though and they're looking to move to someplace warmer. The house needs a little work, but they have a fairly new barn and calf shed.
She's not the first owner I've spoken with in a bad situation of having nobody to work the land in the event of a serious illness. One woman who has offered us help finding the offspring of her flock some day had to sell her farm for the same reason. And our friends in Wisconsin it's their nightmare of the future as they reach old age and the very real likelihood of disability is there.
No kids in any of these scenarios...at least that were mentioned. But even if you do have children, I don't think parents can really expect in this day and age that the kids are going to work the farm as adults. Let's face it, farming has become--either industrial or small family--a niche. A very important one to those of us who like food. But the honest truth is that very few Americans would tolerate the lifestyle--especially not when thrust on them as an expectation. It's very much become a way of life in the same way that triathlon is a lifestyle.
One does it because of the appeal. You don't choose it to get rich and you don't choose it if you mind things like manure, dirt, hard work. Which is the exact reason my love of sheep is an odd thing for me. It's not a mindset I could have gotten into 10 years ago. Maybe not even 10 months ago. But seeing it firsthand, there is appeal.
As I get older, the decisions about how to spend my time seem the most important. Not being negative. Picking my pursuits carefully for value to me seem the best. And a visit to this farm on the journey home from a sheep conference probably is a complete waste of my time in one way. Chances are fairly low that it's anything more than a short visit to some nice folks. Not to mention that I'm sure this poor woman wants to sell faster than we're willing to move. But part of me just wants to pay my respects during this stranger's difficult situation. Sickness and their, I'm guessing, lifelong venture slipping away.
All this on the heels of a raucous discussion of pasture rotation, ovine parasites, predator control, and fence repair is (sadly?) my idea of a good time these days. I don't know whether that is wisdom or stupidity.