My family dreamt of moving out to the country and living off the land. Two years ago, we did it, buying 10 acres and a house, along with cows, a tractor, and a truck.
We didn’t just want to farm, but to help build a community in the country of interdependent farms, like the Amish, but not as close-knit or exclusive. In the Catholic tradition, such a community would help realize the distributist economic model, where each farmer owns his own land, tools, and whatever products he creates from them.
Farmers and craftsman would support one another with goods and services that they themselves were not producing, much like a medieval village (think guilds: blacksmiths, coopers, cobblers, farmers, etc.). We were a long way off from being able to get close to this dream, but it was one of the motivations we had in moving back to the land.
In the two years we were out in the country, we came near to dying several times, and a month ago we moved back to the city. We told our story in a new book, Farm Flop: A City Dweller’s Guide to Failing on a Farm in Two Years Or Less.
1) Bull charge
That friendly cow in the pasture isn’t friendly. Oh, and it’s not a cow but a bull.
Our neighbor was running his cows out on our pasture, and greenhorn that I was, I went up to one of them and tried to pat it. “Good girl, sweet girl,” i said as I walked up to it. The “cow” stepped forward and bucked into my hand, hard. I went inside the house and called up my neighbor. “That ain’t now cow; that’s my bull!”
I had thought that all bulls had horns, and all female cows did not. False! Almost learned the hard way.
2) Driving a truck up onto a trailer with a makeshift ramp
My farm truck broke down. A country buddy named Kaiser brought over his dually truck and trailer. The trailer was four or five feet off the ground, and he told me to drive up his ramps right onto the trailer bed.
The only problem was the ramps he had were cobbled together out of scrap wood and metal pieces, two narrow pieces just wider than the tire width.
I got three-quarters up the ramp and one of the ramps started buckling under the weight. I was sitting about seven feet in the air, and the truck tilted wildly to one side. Kaiser was yelling at me to hit the gas and go the rest of the way up, but I chickened out and went down. As I did so, the ramp crumpled completely and the truck bounced down the ground.
We were surrounded by rattlesnakes and copperheads. We were checking out our new barn when the neighbor came over and yelled, “Whoa! That’s where the last guy who lived here found a whole mess of rattlers.”
We got the children out of there quickly.
A short time later, we heard about another neighbor getting bit by a copperhead and being hospitalized for two weeks. His body was covered in bruises from the bites, but he survived.
4) Tractor tip
I bought a neat blue tractor. But the thing about a tractor is, you can make it do stuff that will cause it to tip over pretty easily.
Want it to pick up a big load in the front loader? It will. But once you start carrying it around and hit a dip, watch out!
I was doing just that one day: I loaded up a bucket of dirt in the front of the tractor, then started driving it to the berm I was building. Ding! I hit a small depression in the land, and the tractor started tipping over.
I threw my body weight to the other side and dumped the load on the ground as fast as I could. The tractor barely righted itself in time.
5) Feral pig charging
Our neighbor ran an animal sanctuary that included five hundred pound feral hogs. One time, one of them named “Daisy” broke through our fence and came into our pasture. Then she muscled through our gate and into our driveway by the house. My son and I were up the driveway, and she started charging at us.
I picked up my son and sprinted down the driveway. She was about to beat us to the spot where we could make it safely home, but I got to it just before her and put my son inside the house. The hog continued to the road, hung a left and headed back to our neighbor’s land.
When the owner heard about what happened, she started laughing, saying what a gentle hog Daisy was.
In my entire life I had seen maybe two scorpions – little things you wouldn’t think twice about.
Out on the farm, there were hundreds. And they grew big enough to look like battle-hardened giants from Clash of the Titans.
Some of them I was afraid to try to crush with my boot because it may not actually kill them, and then they’d have a chance to retaliate. I said a prayer that my children would never get bitten by them, and that was answered.
Only I was ever bitten. It was at night, while asleep. A scorpion crawled up under the covers and stung me right in the upper leg. Could have been worse, as they say, but it was still very painful.