I’ve long imagined myself self-sufficient. I envisioned an idyllic setting, perfect weather and beautiful pens filled with well-behaved animals. At the end of each tremendously gratifying day on the homestead, I’d head inside to dine on a meal prepared entirely from food I’d grown and raised myself, then sit in front of a fire burning wood I had chopped, and read a book. Probably about homesteading.
I dreamed the dream while living in the city and going to college and raising kids and finally achieved the reality when we moved out here to our little homestead a few years ago. Now my days are as idyllic as I always dreamed they would be. Oh wait. There is one little thing that never featured in my day-dreaming. Poop.
It turns out that homesteading is really 98% dealing with poop. There is a book entitled “Everybody Poops” that is popular with parents of toddlers. I may have even read it to my own kids. Sadly it did not prepare me for the reality that Everybody Poops. Including animals. And it hit me the other day that homesteading really isn’t about self-sufficiency or producing food or going off grid. It’s about poop.
I don’t think there is a single day – and I am talking 365 (sometimes 366) days of the year – that I don’t deal with poop. I scoop the poop from the horse run at least once, usually twice or thrice each week. I use a pitchfork to shovel cow poop out of the barn and from around the round-bale feeder every morning. I shovel the poop-saturated bedding from the chicken coop on an as-needed basis – the need arising much more quickly than would be my preference. I scoop poop from the cat litter boxes that the barn cats use at night between their rodent patrols, and each week on trash day (so that it can immediately be hauled away), I take a pooper scooper and scoop up as much dog poop as I can find from the area around the house where we spend the most time. Before guests arrive, I scrape free-range chicken poop off the porch, and before sitting in a lawn chair, I check that turkeys weren’t there first. Every time I step outside the back door, I step over messes left by the ducks hanging around the downspout. And mice poop, well, everywhere. Amazingly – and contrary to all my fantasies – even the adorably cute lambs and goat kids poop – they really do. Most of their poop becomes fertilizer for our pasture but their sleeping area needs to be cleaned and raked out regularly.
So it turns out that “homesteading” is really just a very nice word that means “dealing with $#!#”
Lest you think I’m having a down day or experiencing a more encompassing change-of-heart about homesteading, I’m not. But I laughed aloud this afternoon when I hit me how much of this life I so enjoy is, ultimately, dealing with poop.