Wednesday, September 4, 2013

An Outsider's Viewpoint of my Homestead Farm Life

A fairly new person to the area phoned the other day and asked to see my farm. Normally I'd decline, but this woman went on and on about wanting to go back to homegrown foods, be "green", about how she moved here to improve her health. Guess I was having just a wussy day, because I caved in and said yes. The visit turned out to be quite a learning lesson for both of us.

I'm going to make up a name for this woman because I'm going to get real tired of just saying she and her all the time. So lets call her Mary.

Mary moved here from Chicago. So this is quite a lifestyle change for her. She's never had a garden, never had a pet. But she is keen on eating healthy, growing food, and becoming "green" ...whatever that means.

I let Mary see my house, which is still a house in progress. I could see that the water catchment turned her off. "You bathe with rainwater?" Yes, I also wash my dishes, clothes, and just about everything else. The thought of using catchment water doesn't bother me. I pointed out to her that it was a really "green" way to get water. I don't think she'll be switching over to catchment anytime soon.

I then showed Mary our "green" electricity, the solar system. She consoled me on the fact that I lacked a dishwasher, had to have chest refrig, no clothes drier, had no TV, no computer set up, no entertainment center, no convection oven, no plethora of kitchen appliances covering the countertops, no hottub spa, no hot water heater. I again politely explained to her about our "green" system of generating our own electricity and changing to a life of using very little power. I preferred this scaled back lifestyle, though secretly I would like to have that hottub spa.

While talking about solar panels, the young sheep came running up the driveway to try to mooch some grain. Mary cringed and backed away. With them came the four chickens. You would have thought they were velociraptors by Mary's reaction. Um, I don't think Mary is going to become a livestock keeper. I talked about being able to raise you own eggs, chicken, and lamb. Mary never relaxed.

By now I thought Mary might do better seeing the gardens. At least the plants don't move, bite, or poo and pee every two minutes. I proudly explained how we raise or trade for quite a bit of our food. Mary wanted to know what I did for wheat? Wheat, I asked? Yes, like in bread, pizza, spaghetti, crackers. Well, I don't usually eat that stuff. When I told Mary that our diet revolved around what we could grow, raise, or trade, she said there was no way she could do that. Her life was not worth living without bread, cake, pies, pizza. So what about rice? Uuuuuuuh, seldom eat rice. Mary was really skeptical about my diet. But I pointed out how healthy it was to eat fresh, clean veggies. "Clean? How do you keep the plants clean?", Mary asked. Just then three turkeys walked through the garden. Cardinals were eating some of the cherry tomatoes and house finches were nibbling on the greens. I proudly showed off the healthy worm population under the mulch. Pointed out the fact that a gardener has to keep an eye out for bugs, showing her some examples of scale on some plants, mealybug on the cutting celery, spittle bug on the rosemary. I found some stink bugs and aphids that I'll need to do something about.

Parting remarks were quite an eye opener. Is this what non-farm people think of me and my farm?
...Doesn't all the dirt bother you?
...Do you get sick often?
...Aren't you afraid of getting worms from the animals?
...Are you afraid of being bitten?
...Of course you wash your vegetables in bleach?
...Bugs and birds are in your garden all the time, spreading disease.
...How can you touch that horse manure (it was actually compost).
...Worms are all over everything.
...How can you live without security lights? Aren't you afraid of being robbed?
...What do you do with yourself at night? I'd go crazy without a TV.
...You kill the lambs? How could you! You kill the chickens? 
...Oh, you squashed that bug! Aren't you going to wash your hands? 
...You set those tomatoes on the ground. You can't eat them now, right? 
...Bees are on your flowers. Bees can kill you, stay away! 

Well at least I won't have to worry about Mary coming back and making a nuisense of herself. 


  1. I wonder what Mary's idea of living 'green' and being self-sufficient is...

    1. The Marys of the world appear to host unrealistic visions of what it's like to go back to the land.

      Mary read magazines dedicated to urban homesteading and farming, and apparently fell in love with the pictures. She also read Hobby Farms and Organic Gardening. Those glossy magazines make all the county living look beautiful, clean,neat, and fun. No pictures of sweat, mud, dirt, blood, dead things, squashed bugs, etc.

  2. We do pity poor Mary. If she is reasonably healthy enough to tolerate a few hours of intermittently moderately vigorous work each day, she might try to find a mentor/teacher that she could work with as an apprentice, maybe just to get some dirt under her nails. If she volunteered at a community garden, no plot of her own at first, then tried growing something easy that she could taste for herself, she might undergo a transformation. Maybe see if she could grow a container of patio tomatoes, so that her first bite of her own vine-ripe tomato awakened her to what she might learn to do for herself? Yes, I am an incorrigible optimist.

    1. Hi Barry. I don't know if Mary will stay around here. She and her husband are renting a house in one of the better subdivisions in Ka'u, and she thinks it's horribly primitive. I did suggest that they check out Hilo, Waimea, and Kona before settling down.

      I also gave her a mini tomato plant called Balcony. It's something she can grow in a pot on her lanai. Possibly she will get it to grow and give her tomatoes. I wish her success. We all had to start somewhere, and I've seen successful gardeners have worse starts. Not much worse, but indeed pretty bleak.

  3. i enjoyed that. reminded me of a few people I know. it was very nice of you to give her a tomato - let's hope she can slowly transform herself.

  4. Lolololololol best laugh I've had all day.. Poor woman, where does she think her food comes from....