Best laid plans...with rain in the offing, I am not fixing the doors to the chicken coop today, but will do some garden weeding with the hoe-although Mrs. Curley will have to put off her planned planting today due to the threatening rain.
We have pumpkins growing in our garden. They came up from seeds which were laying dorment in our compost heap. When I mixed in the compost and spring arose, so did the pumpkins. Now, they won't last around here even though we have one the size of a softball already. The heat will be too much for them. We will keep a couple plants going none-the-less just to see.
In the absense of our planned work, Mrs. Curley and I sat down and had a wide-ranging discussion on the agrarian life, current economy and culture, homeschooling, and all the interelations therein. The discussion brought up more questions than answers, but questions we need to resolve; after all, we have been here almost 2 years. Let me give a little highlight of the general direction we were discussing. No particular order is contemplated, I am just want to get some ideas down to develop more later.
Agrarian Lifestyle: What about our kids?
First point, many who retreat to an agrarian lifestyle expect their children to like it also and even to follow in their parents footsteps and stay on the homestead or on nearby homesteads as adults. While this might be nice, (I always am heart-broken to see my children leave home even if it is just for a semester at college) we don't see the main purpose of the small holding to form or reform some long-term tribal lands. One reason, is that God's will interferes with our best laid plans. God has given talents and vocations to our children which may or may not include staying in our agrarian community. (I remember vividly how two boys decide to stay and two decide to leave for education at the end of 'Swiss Family Robinson' - and there was nothing wrong with that.)
Why are we doing this-some think we're crazy?
We see several purposes for our moving to a rural area and trying to live a bit more agrarian, (but we have been surprised at times by how our expectations have differed from reality). For one, it is clear that so far not all kids like taking care of animals. We are about to get more chickens. We asked our chicken-master today what he felt about it. He carefully told us all the good things about having chickens. Then in a moment of prodding he broke down and quietly said, "I just hate them, feeding them, everything about taking care of them."
Now maybe we have gone about things wrongly or assigned the wrong child to the wrong chore, but in big picture, maybe some of our boys are not cut out to be farm boys. Who would have thought?
On the other hand, I recall my own thoughts when plucking my first, second, and third chicken. I thought, "I can't believe I am doing this. Now I know why people went from raising them to buy them at the grocery." I also realized a bit more about agrarian life. The first realization that everyday was concerned with the daily duties and the task at hand-in particular, putting food on the table for that night. Oh yes, you may have some long term plans, (the garden planting must have a vision, etc.), but the work every day had a daily and sometimes a seasonal consequence. Compare this to work in industry where (whether you are on an assembly line or an engineer, or executive) most every day's task is a long term task and sometimes you will never see the end result.
The agrarian experience, even if only experienced short term can teach you something of salvation-that you work out your salvation with God one day at a time just as you live your life one day at a time. The long term vision of Heaven is worked on a daily basis, not quarterly etc. It is hard to put in words exactly what I mean: I will try again before this topic is over. Let's put it this way, simple traditional lifestyles are not very forgiving. If you don't work one day, you may just not eat. Yet at the same time, the rhythms of the seasons regulate your work, leisure, waking, sleeping.
How are we doing?
One thing we have found at Bethany, is that we have not really embraced an agrian lifestyle for a number of reasons. One reason is that we set up the garden, the animals raising etc as the secondary chore consideration (more like a hobby), instead of primary considerations (necessity). This has not only affected our results, but also attitudes towards these things. (The difference: it is simply a chore, or is it the days work?)
So we have some ways to go. [Am reminded once again of the saying (paraphrasing) of Hilary Belloc: "It takes six months to turn a farmer into a city-boy; it takes 3 generations to turn a city boy into a farmer."]
As we examine our lifestyle (realizing it may or may not be the lifestyle of choice for our children) we also need to see how the homeschooling is going in this new envirnoment.
Here is an aside. For years I thought art class and music classes were a waste of time. Maybe this was because they were regulated to once a week, Friday afternoon, and only were required in elementary school. How I now lament this folly, both in my own thought and in the school system I attended. God is most visible to us (or at least to some of us) in nature and in the arts. The true purpose of art is to help reveal God to man. Now I that I finally see, how are we doing at our school?
I know this isn't a cohesive treatment, (I didn't even hit on the economy), but some things to think about. Of course in the final analysis, whether you live in Manhattan or Bethune, how you live and promote a restoration of Christian culture is more important than where you do it. It is possible in many places and many professions. There is much more to discuss, but these are some of the things we talked about Saturday morning.