Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Bit Overwhelming At Times...

I have to admit that from time to time I become easily overwhelmed and when that happens I have a strong desire to just shut down. I think I am getting close to that point with all that is going on in our lives right now...
  • Becca is pregnant, which is a great blessing, but it does mean extra trips to Des Moines every two weeks for check ups and everything else that goes along with expecting a new baby.
  • The school year has begun and with it next week I will begin youth groups for the year. This is all fine and dandy ... except this year because of a combination of things (we are selling the house were we have youth group) in addition to starting up we are also trying to remodel a room at the church to be my new office/youth center.
  • You may have heard that we are building a house ... I have never built a house before ... I become slightly overwhelmed when I go out there to work in the evenings.
  • We need to be living in said house by September, 26th ... that is close!!!
  • There are about 130 cattle panels that I still need to go take down and bring to the farm ... I thought I would have that done weeks ago.
  • And, I still have fencing that needs to go up on the perimeter of the farm. That is on hold for the moment, but I need to use the panels mentioned above to build a temporary pen so that I can bring some of our Dexters up to our farm.
Of course I could go on and on and in doing so I would be describing the lives of most Americans (farmers or not). One thing that keeps running through my mind though is the amazing amount of work that was done by the founders of this country and our states. Because of my love for history I am constantly reading anything I can get my hands on about the daily lives of our founding fathers and those that have come before us.

As we try to start our farm from scratch with a lot of modern conveniences I can't help but appreciate the families that began farming near Plimouth Plantation or those rough and tumble individuals that worked their way through the Cumberland Gap and carried the edge of the frontier with them. When I think of their work and determination I think it makes our current load a bit more managable.

What a blessing it is to be able to chase my dreams and be encouraged by the memory of those that have worked for theirs. Here are some links to a couple of great farming books that remind us of our heritage and the amount of work our ancestors did in the face of overwhelming times.

A Bountiful Harvest: The Midwestern Farm Photographs of Pete Wettach, 1925-1965 - This is a can't miss book if you love great farm pictures.

A Good Day's Work: An Iowa Farm in the Great Depression
- I just learned about this book, but it looks very interesting and inspiring.

I would add to the list any of the great 18th century journals I have read, but since they don't directly deal with farming I'll leave them off for now. I would also love to hear about any historical agricultural accounts you know of!


sugarcreekfarm said...

One of my all-time favorites is "Giants in the Earth" by Ole Edvart Rolvaag. The story of the wheat crop is something.

Also "Son of the Middle Border" by Hamlin Garland. He grew up on a farm outside of Osage, and won a Pulitzer Prize for the followup to this book (Daughter of the Middle Border.)

Yeoman said...

First of all, regarding the pregnancy, Congratulations!

Secondly, on books, I could recommend a few, I think, but they'd all be cattle related, probably in a Western context. I'll ponder that. One I'll recommend first off is Wyoming Cattle Trails, followed by Wyoming Pony Trails, both of which examine ranching here in the 1880s to 1910 or so.

An interesting one is the Irish novel Durango, about a 1940s vintage cattle drive in Ireland. It's a novel, I should note.

I have to give a thumbs down to Giants In The Earth, which I have read. I'm afraid that I put that in the same class I put almost all modern Swedish literature, ie., hopelessly depressing. It reminds me a lot of the films The Immigrants and The New Land, both of which are very similiar (and apparently both of which were based on books which were regarded as Swedish language rivals to Giants In The Earth). Northern Lights, about a north country farm, and the supposed classic The Seventh Seal, all strike me that way. Everything is portrayed as bad. With both the characters in Giants, and The New Land, I'm afraid I'm left with my Irish background of wanting to slap these silly depressed folks and tell them to buck up and look around, they got it good!

Sorry for the editorial.

Yeoman said...

On Giants, and literature of that ilks, I'd actually recommend Garrison Keiller's Lake Wobegon books.

They address the same class of folks, really, and do address farming and small farm towns, but from the outside, and with humor.

The descriptions in Giants, etc., are very well done, but I'm afraid they all seem to be of the "we regret leaving Sweden and Norway, and you shouldn't even think about it."

sugarcreekfarm said...

Interesting! I didn't read Giants that way at all. The main character seemed to always be looking to the bright side, despite the extreme hardships they endured. His neighbors were not as hopeful, I guess. His wife was definitely depressed and wished she weren't out on the prairie. But that was reality, I think, for many emigrant wives. I have letters written back home to New York by my gr-gr-gr-grandfather after moving his family to Iowa. He talks often about how homesick and depressed his wife was, and yet he's always hopeful and optimistic. They were English, not Swedish.

Garland's books are somewhat anti-farming, because of the hardships his family lived through. Yet his depiction of daily life in that setting is what's interesting.

Bert said...

Moving panels? Sound like a good youth group project.

I am not sure what you have in the way of friends in the area, but it looks like it's time to ask for help. I know that's a hard thing to do but that's what community is all about.
Wish I was closer and I would give you a hand.

Anonymous said...


I know what you are going through as I too am in the process of finishing a house among other things. It is almost a year to the day that we signed the papers on pretty much a "shell of a house" and started down the road of my farming dream as well. Two weeks after moving into a house that was barely livable, my wife gave birth to our new little boy followed by the largest ice storm and no power in the house for a week. I have very high respect for those that homesteaded this or any new country.

I have been working on the house (with some help and guidance from family) for almost a year now and am finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. There have been times that I am ready to hang up the hammer and call it quits...and there are times that I dred getting up on weekends because I have no reason not to work!!! The thing that keeps me going is the thought that, although it is my dream life, my wife and children are the reason and motivation of why I took this on and is why I am going to get up everyday and get this thing finished!!!!! It is a day to day struggle and you should just chalk it up to "having a bad day" Tomorrow is always better.....

Eric Johnson
"Nameless Farm" (so far!!)

creativematt said...

You don't need the pasture for the cows! Forget about the fence! Just fill the pasture full of hay so that the cows can only peek out of the barn one at a time.

Anonymous said...

You might want to read "From Prairie to Corn Belt" by Allan Bogue. It's a history of nineteenth century agriculture in Iowa and Illinois. If you're looking to understand the development of agriculture as we know it, this is a great book to start with.

On a personal note, this is the first time that I've commented on your blog, and I just wanted to thank you for letting us all share your experiences. I long to do what you are doing, to take the chance and follow my dreams of farming, of raising my family (when I have children) in the rural world as I was allowed to grow. God bless you and your endeavours, and thanks again for inspiring us that it can indeed happen.

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