Is Rural Life Worth It?

The goats have cabin fever. Three of them bashed the door as I opened it for milking and knocked me flat. After the pain, anger and yelling subsided, I wondered: Is it worth it?

Spring is starting and it will be time for chicks soon. The chick house roof is leaking. A window pane was broken by a black walnut. The prices have gone up again. Is the trouble of raising chicks worth it?

Food in the grocery store is cheap. It requires little labor. It needs no buckets of water, weeding, mulching or insect control. Is the garden worth it?

spinach bed

Spinach is only $3 a bag in the store. My early spring spinach took building a raised bed, filling it, planting seeds, covering it all winter, watering when needed. But the spinach is fresh when I want it with no chemicals on it. Bugs wash away.

When the weather is bad, the barn is a foot deep in bedding to remove, the black snakes get into the chicks or any of the other myriad problems arise, the no column seems to predominate.

When I consider buying eggs at the store, the yes column gets a big boost.

I’ve read that brown and white eggs are the same nutritionally. The so-called experts even try to say my flock eggs are nutritionally the same as the insipid things from the store.

dozen assorted fresh eggs is worth more than ole store eggs

The egg size varies. The eggs need cleaning and boxing. Some of the hens lay in out of the way places. Black snakes come by and eat the day’s supply. How can you compare fresh, rich eggs with those from the store?

I will accept that color isn’t that important. But there must be a nutritional difference between an egg with a runny white and yellow-tinted yolk and my stand up whites with orange yolks. At the very least, my eggs taste like eggs.

When I consider buying chicken at the grocery store, the yes column gets another boost. I’ve worked for Tyson. I like meat from chickens that has taste, isn’t watery and comes from chickens not fed who-knows-which chemicals but good feed, grass and bugs.

The no column does benefit a little when it comes time to dress out those chicks now mostly grown. That’s the city girl in me coming back to haunt me. I like chickens, usually. (Roosters invading the milk room are not appreciated.)

Golden Wyandotte hen

Chickens are a disaster in the garden. They get into everything. Feed is expensive. Roosters are noisy. Fresh pasture raised chicken meat has flavor and is humanely raised without so many chemicals. Hens come in so many breeds and are interesting to watch. They eat things like tomato hornworms, cutworms and ticks. And they lay eggs.

Monetarily a garden doesn’t save money. The cost of seeds, transplants, time and labor make garden produce more expensive than produce from the grocery store. That might make a garden add to the no column.

What tips the balance is the stress relief from destroying weeds. There is the sense of accomplishment when that fresh salad arrives on the dinner table. The produce variety is my favorite, not the most common. It is picked when ripe and goes a few hundred feet to the house not a thousand miles in cold storage.

Money stiffens the no column. Feed and hay for the goats takes almost three quarters of my income each year. They do repay two thirds of that in sales.

Nubian herd coming in from pasture

I have to be home an hour before dark to open the pasture gate for the goats. Goats take time, money, work, planning. Dairy goats like mine must be milked twice a day regardless. The kids are cute. The milk and cheese are fresh. Even when the goats are ornery, I like them.

The rest comes back in milk and cheese. Cow’s milk is off my diet as it makes me sick. That leaves buying this stuff called goat milk at some fourteen dollars a gallon. It isn’t drinkable.

There is one other big contributor to the no column. Dairy goats need me here twice a day, every day. The chickens need me here twice a day to let them out in the morning and lock them up at night every day. The garden needs watering and attention much of the week.

Are these things worth this amount of time? Are they worth not being able to go places or do things? Sometimes I really wonder.

Then I contemplate a dozen so-called eggs from the grocery store and know all the problems and time constraints are worth it.