It’s that time of year again. The time of “are you coming to (insert holiday activity)?” Over the course of several days last week, we were also hit up with the “we should do a large group vacation and get a beach house” conversation. I can easily answer with, “No we won’t be able to get away from the farm” for most of these requests. However, if pushed harder by someone that can’t take the initial “No” for an answer the stream of thoughts running through my head begin to out pace my mouth’s ability to articulate them well without sounding incoherent, uncommitted to my decision, or just downright rude. I usually don’t get this line of questioning much from my side of the family with the exception of one that I can think of, that has always viewed my equestrian pursuits as dangerous and a waste of time/money. The rest of my family knows. They KNOW. They are currently or have spent a significant amount of their lives farming.
Its difficult for people that have never cared for livestock to understand the commitment it takes and the sacrifices that must be made to live this lifestyle. Its hard to explain that I don’t ever experience boredom. There are always too many things (most of them fun many of them not fun but still necessary) to do on my farm and not enough time to accomplish them. Most people will never understand that every single missed event or occasion is worth it and then some because they’ve never experienced a pursuit as demanding, but proportionally as rewarding. I can promise you there is no FOMO on my end. The closest thing I can equate livestock ownership to is parenthood. While most people understand the rewards of parenthood, only the priviledged few, the struggling farmers and ranchers of this nation, truly comprehend the spectrum of emotion that comes with caring for livestock. No, owning dogs and cats doesn’t even the skim the surface.
We spend as much or more effort keeping livestock happy and healthy as we do Offspring. To be fair Offspring is actually much easier to keep happy and healthy than the livestock. His basic needs are fewer, he communicates much better, and isn’t perpetually looking for ways to kill himself. Offspring doesn’t decide to lay down and die because his tummy hurts. I realize that isn’t always the case with young boys, but our kid is cautious, although I have no idea who he inherited that from unless it was Darling Husband. The livestock however, require more in terms of food, medical care, basic health maintenance, are a hundred times more destructive to the property, and are always searching for a way to cross that rainbow bridge. Most people have a vague idea of how to keep humans alive. I realize there is a significant percent of the population that should never have been allowed to procreate or have any responsibility for a child, but the knowledge of keeping a human alive is really just part of being a human. Only a fraction of the human population has the knowledge, skills, and ability to keep livestock alive and thriving.
Couple the fact that livestock husbandry isn’t easy or common knowledge with the fact that Darling Husband, Offspring, and I live 16 hours away from the nearest family members by car. Flying only saves you so much travel time. Depending on where you are headed, the travel time saved flying doesn’t out-weigh the hassle of flying. Our farm and livestock is not our main source of income. So where a larger operation, may have knowledgeable people on hand they can pay to watch the property for a few days, that’s not an option for us. Family is too far away to be of assistance, and so we rely on the kindness of friends and neighbors for the few excursions we take away from the property. The holidays aren’t the best time to be asking anyone to babysit the GHLHF. Also, since Offspring is not that far out of the toddler stage, I like creating his holiday memories here at our house/farm without dragging him all over the place.
Coming from the “The Montani Semper Liberi” (Mountaineers are always free) state where people love their state almost as much as Texans love Texas. I’m totally used to family not wanting to leave their state or even their property for any reason, especially not vacation or holidays. I’m also used to family centering getaways around livestock activities. I remember being slightly confused why it seemed West “By God” Virginians never want to leave the state as a teenager. Then I moved to Texas and even though I’m not a born Texan, I’ve totally embraced everything about this state (except Austin or Dallas). We need to build a wall around them to keep the disease from spreading. I don’t really feel a need to leave here for much of anything, and it takes days (I’m only partially kidding) to get out of this state anyway.
I only have a limited amount of vacation time. Darling Husband is pretty much free anytime for now, but me not so much. I like to hold at least one solid week for Offspring to do something big (Disney World, a cruise, a European trip one day maybe etc.). The rest is usually used on a Monday or Friday to lengthen a weekend or expand holiday time off. Those expanded weekends/holidays are usually dedicated to doing something with our livestock, rodeo, or watching friends and mentors compete with their livestock. I refuse to dedicate my precious, tiny amount of allotted vacation time to any event that will only be average, mediocre, or that I did multiple times years ago before recommitting myself to livestock. I can drive to a beach in Texas for a weekend excursion without having to use much if any vacation time. I also really like how Port A isn’t overly commercialized. The beach is fun and all, but I’ll choose a two day horse activity living out of my trailer over a weeklong beach house trip any day. We can stage enough food, that the livestock can make it 4 days before any manual labor is required to care for them. Then we really just need someone to check the water valves, and make sure no one is hopping around on three legs, or incurred a life threatening injury. Any trips longer than that is a big ask!
My horses may not be setting the world on fire in competition, but they held their own in some pretty tough competition this year. We may not be walking away champions, but for the amount of time/money I have to dedicate to their training they did as well as I could expect of them. The amount of time and money spent on keeping my horses competition ready, or just maintaining their current level of training is HUGE! The financial and emotional investment, we have in the GHLHF animals, is something most non-farming people just can’t comprehend. When we’re reluctant to leave them, it isn’t because we have some irrational attachment. We literally have hundreds of thousands of man hours and dollars invested in them. Any set back could set my goals back by months or even years. I have a ten year plan for some of these animals based on the amount of time and money it will take to do some of the things I want to accomplish.
I really don’t know how to explain the lifestyle well to other people. For now, I try to turn down the invitations as politely as I can and throw out the occasional “Well you can always come here.” line. If you have the passion you know. If you take care of a farm/ranch, you know, but if you only have a dog/cat or one horse on full board at someone else’s farm, you’ll never understand. I’ll never be able to adequately explain it to you. It just is what it is.