The Simple Life
By Michele Meier Vosberg
Cows, Spinach and Earthly Pleasures
Nineteen years ago my boyfriend told me that someday he wanted to move from the city and back to his grandparent’s farm. It was Christmas time, and though there may have been visions of sugarplums dancing in my head, I’m afraid there were visions of cows dancing in his.
It wasn’t meant to be. I told him so. Marry somebody else, I told him, I’m no farmer’s wife. I grew up in suburbia and I liked the city. I wasn’t entranced by the lure of rural life. All that good, fresh, country air smelled suspiciously like manure to me. I was dead serious. He married me anyway. He gave up talk about cows and combines and other foreign objects. On weekends and vacations, especially during hay season, he would go home to the farm to help. I stayed behind, blissfully shopping or going to clubs with friends.
We existed happily this way for quite a while. We moved to a small town, bought a house, had two children and lived the American dream. We had great jobs, great kids, a great house with a pool and even the picket fence, though ours was redwood instead of white. Even our dog, a golden retriever, was picture perfect for the family Christmas card. It should have been great, but something was missing. My nature boy longed for the outdoors. He wanted to sit quietly on a tree stump and watch the birds. He wanted to wander around the farm, fixing fences and chasing cows with the dog happily tramping along beside him. I was tired. Long hours of work had won me several honors but stolen my soul. Between the kids and the job, I had no time to call my own and was beginning to feel that I had lost myself.
This is a common sentiment, I’ve come to find out. Lots of Americans are tired, stories of how sleep deprived we all are show up regularly in the news. We work longer hours with less vacation time. Our lives are propelled by doing the things we must do, with little time left to do the things we long to do. Our lives are lived less deliberately and more automatically. We are overcommitted, overscheduled, overplanned.
That spring, crisis came out of everywhere and knocked us for a loop. One day my younger daughter turned my face towards hers while I was talking to her. I realized, with horror, that she was reading my lips. Her many ear infections had taken us to a crisis point. Her hearing was damaged. We had the first of several surgeries. There were also trips to the hospital for both my father and grandfather that spring. My father-in-law was also in the hospital, battling the illness which ended his life a few months later. My husband wanted to move back to the farm to be able to help. Exhausted and disillusioned, my resistance was down. Moving to the farm suddenly sounded like a fine idea. I wanted a simpler life. I wanted to stop rushing around and have time for the people and things that were really important. I wanted to get off the work day whirlwind. I wanted to grow a garden and plant trees. We put the house on the market.
The reaction was, I suppose, to be expected. My brother howled with laughter. “Plant trees? Since when do you know how to plant anything? I suppose you are going to carry your water up from the creek too?”
I pictured that. It did sort of have a nice Laura Ingalls Wilder feel to it. I imagined myself in one of those “Little House on the Prairie” dresses, complete with bonnet and those high button boots. I rather liked the idea.
At work, I mentioned that perhaps we would get some mules on our farm. A while back we had ridden my cousin’s mules, which in my mind were indistinguishable from horses. They weren’t as scary as cows, a lot more fun, and supposedly easier to care for than horses. The rumor mill started… Michele is going to move to the country to raise mules. Somehow that got translated into goats, and before you know it everyone was laughing at the idea of me living on a farm raising goats. One man asked my if I planned to make cheese. I didn’t even know you could make cheese from goat’s milk. Come to think of it, I’m not even sure I knew that you could milk goats.
I’ve learned a lot since then. I moved to the country and lived to tell about it. I learned to grow a garden. I enjoy planting things and get a cheap thrill when making a salad of all things I’ve grown myself. My biggest challenge to date was when the cows ate my spinach. In all my city days, I never knew that cows liked spinach. My husband tells me cows are dumb. How dumb can they be? They stepped right through the lettuce and radishes and weeds and went directly for the spinach. We never did find the hole in the fence that allowed the bovine brunch in my garden.
I don’t have any mules yet, but there is a stray goat that showed up with the cows one day. He is cute, all gray and frisky, just like you would expect a goat to be. Of course, my only experience with goats comes from reading Heidi as a kid. (No pun intended.) We asked around, but none of the neighbors seemed to be missing a goat. No one really knows where the little goat came from, but I know.