Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Living with chaos

One of the biggest life lessons, or failures, depending upon your point of view, of farming is living with near-constant chaos.

Most people complain of chaos in their lives - their inability to reconcile their iPhone calendar with their old-fashioned wall version, the weeds that take over their garden the second they turn their back, the social, academic, and athletic commitments that seem to truly dominate their lives.

But, let's take a baby step into farm life to truly appreciate life among entropy and the coping skills each family member is required to develop in order to refrain from killing any other members of the clan:

Back in a previous life, I had a house twice this size and a yard about 1/10 this size. Things had a place and I even had for a while, no kidding, a landscapey type person who showed up once a month to prune and trim with his crew b/c I was so afraid to touch the carefully choreographed landscaping gently laid down some 40 years previous.

This all seems vaguely hilarious now.

Tonight I write this with 50 baby chicks peeping atop spectacularly soiled newspapers in my 4X6 laundry room, which, as fate would have it, also holds my laundry facilities. My 2 cats and 1 Australian Shepherd keep watch, all, strangely, apparently concerned for the well-being of these chirpers.

Keeping count? That's 53 animals in my 1500 SF house - but we've forgotten the rabbit, which is perched in a cage at the bottom of the stairs and not quite in the dining space or kitchen. 54.

Outside, my lovingly built up and partitioned and peppled up front yard is assaulted daily by, we think, about 30 hens and 1 admittedly very fine and unusually genteel rooster.

Keeping count? That's 85.

Meanwhile, down in the pasture, the baaing is near incessant. We have fat and happy Icelandic sheep wondering when exactly we'll be showing up with the next bucket of grain to lure them to this evening pasture or today's Lazy Man dinner - a few flakes of platinum-priced Timothy hay. Right now, between lambing and harvest, our sheep count 14.

Keeping count? We're butting up awefully close to 100.

So. What does 100 animals or thereabouts look like? It's easy to focus on what it looks like outside - animals about, landscape under attack, the need to build and move fences.

But, that's only half the story.

100 animals looks a lot like livng with total chaotic meltdown up there in the "big house."

Can't do laundry, the house smells like chicks, the entire contents of the laundry room have been emptied into the den (the 10X12 den) and elsewhere. When you live in a small house already, moving a whole room out for a few weeks to accommodate newcomers looks like bedlam. Dog fur roams freely, it's tough to vacuum, let's not even discuss what the dust holds. And we're dumping cloudy chick water into the toilet each night. What passes for normal...not so much.

Still, turning your house inside out can be frustrating to be sure, but it can also be illustrative. Tempers run hot. Fuses are short. It's not just Mom who gets irritable when the house is upside down - although she may be the most honest about the cause. But, here's a weird thing I've learned: chaos, as much as I hate it and always will, has a place. It breaks down normalcy, it pushes limits. It forces the frustration and the grievances that a perfectly tidy house, and life, can sweep so easily under the area rug.

Don't be afraid to get messy. Sometimes chaos is the only way to sanity.

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