Recreating Noah’s Ark-Hardly! (Before I begin, let me assure you that when I wrote this five years ago for my newsletter, my husband granted his permission for me to publish it.)
I have never done anything half-heartedly! In truth it can be said that I meet everything with an enthusiastic zest that resembles the rough riders taking San Juan Hill. So, when it came to the farm, my husband happily told everyone that I was having as much fun as a kid in a candy shop. He truly derives much pleasure from my enthusiasm and always has. In point of fact, he proudly tells others that I consistently bring his ideas to fruition before he even has time to draw breath after voicing them. With this in mind, knowing me as he does, he really should be more careful with his thoughts if he does not want the same results of which he speaks so highly- especially when it comes to his desires for our farm.
The dichotomy of the situation began shortly after we purchased the farm. Day after day, with longing in his voice, I must add, my husband would express his desires for farm acquisitions. He said, “I can’t wait until we have our own honey.” So naturally I ordered bees. Then he mentioned that he could not wait until we drank our own milk. In step with my nature, I found a milk cow. He went on to say that he could not wait until we had our own pork, so I logically ordered pigs. He could not wait until we had our own sheep. As expected, I ordered sheep. And then, he could not wait until we had our own chickens for fresh eggs. Of course, I ordered chickens with some ducks, geese, and turkeys thrown in for good measure. After all, for years we sang Old MacDonald Had a Farm with great enthusiasm and continually discussed our plans for raising our own food and becoming self-sufficient.
As a nurturer and provider for my family, I followed through with each wish, which if I must say so myself, placed me in a tenable position. Decidedly not based on nebulous assumptions but on tacit evidence, and certainly not executed from rash judgment—no one could ever accuse me of that—but on a firm foundation of level-headed discernment-I just heard him tell someone at church that I have always been level headed-these orders were placed with complete confidence that everyone would be thrilled with the animals that were soon to become part of our family. I can most assuredly confess that it never even occurred to me that my husband would be less than thrilled; quite frankly, far less than thrilled. Strange how two people who live in the same household and sing the same lyrics to Old Macdonald Had a Farm could possibly think so differently when it came to bringing those lyrics to life.
How was I to know that his can’t wait meant in the future—some time over a period of years—not now, but later. He failed to mention that little detail. After all, why would anyone wait when they could have what they wanted right now? Besides, words express very specific thoughts. Can’t wait to most people means anxious to possess, as soon as possible, the sooner the better. Even after 37 years of marriage, I could not translate can’t wait into way down the road sometime in the far future. Needless to say, I actually thought he would be pleased that once again, like clockwork, I had fulfilled his wishes in record time.
Boy, oh boy, was I wrong! If we had been participating in a game show for married contestants, I would have lost a lot of points on this question: “Will your husband be thrilled with all the farm acquisitions you made on his behalf after he told you that he could not wait to possess them?”
On the other hand, if it had been a contest to see which married couple could disrupt their peaceful existence in five easy steps, I would have won hands down. Order bees; order dairy cow; order pigs; order sheep; and order fowl, and there you have it. Bingo! You are the winner of a nice fat divorce.
To make matters worse, he specifically asked me how many chickens I had ordered. Why chickens, I wondered? If he had asked me about the dairy cow, I would have gladly told him that I only ordered one. Or how many bees? I could have smiled and said only two hives. Pigs? I would have replied, just a mere three. Not much danger in those minuscule numbers. Instead he pointedly asked me the number of chickens.
Now imagine my trepidation of having to reveal that I had ordered 65 chickens after realizing that he was not thrilled about owning any additional animals on the farm at that time, other than the cattle we purchased with the farm. Even when I explained to him that I had initially planned on ordering one hundred chickens, but didn’t, which if he was interested, was 35 less than I originally hoped for—indeed a third less—he was not interested, nor was his frustration appeased by any stretch of the imagination.
Instead he burst out with, “Sixty-five chickens! Are you out of your mind? With everything else you are doing, you will lose your mind taking care of that many birds!”
Well he could not have it both ways. I could not be out of mind when I ordered the chickens and then lose it again after I began taking care of that many birds. But I refrained from making that point.
Upon reflection, I must confess that most of the animals were to arrive shortly before and after the annual conference I worked on for 80 plus hours each week for months on end, so it probably was not the best timing for me but certainly the best timing for the animals, compared to the hottest part of summer or the beginning of winter. Besides it takes 18-24 weeks before chickens begin laying eggs, so the sooner the better, according to my way of thinking.
However, at that moment in time, I realized that caution should direct my path, as this conversation was fast approaching an all-out fight. Considering the question was not directed to any other species of fowl, just chickens, meant that remaining silent about the number of other birds I had ordered would not have been deceitful. But that is not my way. I am an up front, straight forward, get it all out, tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, sometimes divulging more than one should kind of gal, so I offered, “Well, that is not all the birds I purchased.”
At this point his eyes looked as if they were about to pop out of his head. “Not all the birds you ordered?” he probed, as if 65 birds were more than anyone had a right to own. Really? I thought. Had he not heard of Tyson?
I continued, “Well no, I actually purchased some ducks and geese, too.”
“Ducks and geese, too?” he repeated. “How many?”
“Well, I am not certain of the exact number, but I think it is around 38 ducks and geese,” I answered.
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“Thirty-eight ducks and geese?” he echoed.
“Yes,” I said, “and then there are the turkeys.”
“Turkeys?” he asked.
“Yes, fifteen beautiful heirloom turkeys,” I proudly stated, because I knew he loved wild turkeys.
“I have not ordered the guineas yet. Does that count for anything?” I asked.
Obviously not, as a dreadful silence fell upon the room.
Unsure of how to define his astonishment and anger at my overarching attempt to reconstruct The Ark, he sat perplexed and brooding. I, too, was silent and bewildered. For as long as we had been married, both of us had hoped to live and work together on a farm. I was only trying to make our dream tangible in the best possible way. If we wanted to be real farmers, we needed to have all the necessary equipment which, in my way of thinking, included bees, dairy cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys as we already had the beef cattle, cats and dogs.
Of course, part of his stress could have come from having another litter of seven kittens in the house. That was not my fault either because I explicitly told him that if he did not want another litter of kittens, he should not let our cat outside. I cannot help it that he failed to take me seriously when I told him that cats can and will get pregnant again while they are still nursing their first litter. But that is another story.
To be quite frank, we nearly ended our relationship because my husband was certain I had lost my mind in ordering everything at once, while I thought he was the rudest cad on the earth to berate me every few days, weeks on end, for ordering all those animals.
Subsequently, my husband would start these cumbersome critiques of my over exuberance-which had been lauded as a rare endearing quality on all other occasions, as if it was the only thing he dwelled on day and night- with the same rash accusation “As level headed as you are, I just can’t believe you ordered all these animals at once. On top of everything you are already doing, how could you possibly think that you could take care of this many more things? We are already stretched beyond what one family should handle. And how much are all of these animals costing us? Are you crazy? Can’t you cancel some of these animals?”
Well, of course, I couldn’t cancel orders I had already placed. My parents had taught me that my word is as sure as a contract and should never be broken. Cancel? Of course, he knew that I could not cancel!
Over and over again, I would explain to him that I had promised everyone that I would purchase the animals when they became available; that we had all agreed that we would work hard at becoming self-sufficient by raising our own food, and that can’t wait means order now. After all I was just trying to please him by fulfilling his wishes as I had always done for the past 37 years. Besides, I was 58 and he was 66, so it was now or never. If we were going to get this farm up and running for our children, we better hit the road running because he and I did not have much strength or stamina left.
As stated earlier this went on for some time until I finally broke down and cancelled the bees, the chickens, the ducks and geese… When he realized that I had cancelled the orders, he briskly walked to the truck just as I was leaving to run errands. I thought surely he was coming out to say he was sorry and to thank me for thinking of him once again. To my dismay, he came out to tell me that he could not believe that I cancelled the orders without consulting him.
Without consulting him? Had he lost his mind? He was the one who had continuously asked me to cancel the orders. To say the least, I was furious! I told him to get out of the truck. All I do is try to please him, and this is what I get? Out! Out! Out!
And out he went and reordered everything that I had cancelled. Apparently, the children had a talk with him—thank God for children—which made him realize the error of his ways, placing us back on track playing farm.
In the end, all is well, as both of us enjoy the animals. Both of us water and feed them, talk to them and pet them, and wonder out loud as to how we could butcher such wonderful creatures.
I am sure that the annals of farm life are full of stories of other couples who approached their farm in different ways, who may even have exchanged harsh words, but who in the end, worked together side by side to care for their animals. Yes, farm life is the life for me!