“What do you do all day?”
“Do you mean to tell me you can’t find one free hour this week to ______?”
“You only/just work two days a week.”
“I bet you have tons of time for sewing.”
...and so on and so on.
I get these kinds of things said to me frequently. Frequently enough that I have been ruminating on the subject of work, women and work, unpaid work, and women who farm/homestead for awhile. More often than not, I feel a certain vibe from folks like they assume that I’m running around having lunch with my girlfriends and getting pedicures every day, because I “only work two days a week.”
Several attitudes come into play here....first we have the perception that only working two days a week is somehow cheating. We also think that if you aren’t working for money then you aren’t working. I think my generation (that’s Gen X) assumes women have to have a family and a career. I also think that because I don’t have children people think that I should be working (outside the home). And of course, we can’t forget the age-old issue centered on “women’s work.”
Historically women’s work has been undervalued and under appreciated. We, as a society, don’t consider unpaid work actual work. Running a household and running it well is hard WORK, but I didn’t always get this either. I’ll admit when I quit teaching full time I had more than a little meltdown...say, a continuous meltdown for months and months because I felt like I wasn’t contributing to our family, but more importantly because I felt like I had no purpose, no direction. Sounds like a stupid cliche’ but it was true. I was adrift.
In the days before the farm, I had a very hard time mentally and emotionally because I felt like I had no value and I didn’t recognize that the work I did kept us going. The house was clean, the groceries bought, the laundry done, the lawn mowed (not traditionally women’s work?!). And it was never my husband who had an issue. He always recognized the work I did and valued the contribution. It was the deeply held, ingrained at the core of me, belief that I had to bring money into the household in order to be a productive member of the household. My struggles when I was (by choice) unemployed after 13 years taught me so much. I understand the attitude because I used to have it, but I also worked through it and now longer believe that I am not contributing simply because the work I do is unpaid in the traditional sense.
I work hard every day and my contributions to our household involve some of the most important and basic things we need: food and shelter. I take my “job” seriously now. I have value and purpose...make that, Purpose. I put food on our table, dairy, eggs, vegetables...meat if I chose to. I do this EVERY day. I tend the gardens and the chickens and goats EVERY day. I take care of our HOME. My “job” is a 365/24/7 job, but it is the most important job because it nourishes us and sustains us.
I do work outside the farm teaching college courses two days a week; it requires me to be clean and presentable and prepared and on time just twice each week. Folks latch onto that work “just” and I hear it a lot. Yep, just two days a week, I clean up and leave the farm and work from 10am to 4pm. Pretty cushy, right? Yep, I get that a lot too.
Since this got me so very irked I decided to log my day today.
7am hit the ground running...get dressed
dogs out, kettle on, go outside:
Open Buck Barn #2, check Rhett and Ben for cracked skulls, check water troughs **trough needs to be filled.
Open Buck Barn #2...check trough: full
Down to the Big Barn, open chicken hatch, check for evidence of predator **note scratching along wall....gotta go something about that.
Open Big Barn doors, throw hay to girls, visual inspection of each girl...everyone looks happy.
Back inside: dogs in, feed dogs, dogs back out, make tea while prepping for milking
Out to milk. Feed, milk, change water, fill chicken water, feed chickens.
Back inside: filter milk, set it to chill
While it chills (50 minutes): wash milking gear and (sadly) an icky casserole dish from last night, eat breakfast, check weather (ugh, forecast low of 34 coming up...re-prioritize super long TO-DO list), wash breakfast dishes, surf internet for news and facebook. Check email.
Back to Buck Barn #2: fill trough, clean and fill inside water, walk fence line, pick up litter from road.
to Big Barn: clean milkers and nursery stall, haul muck out, scrub kennel used for chicken transport, re-erect dead electric fence to channel goats to browse.
Walk up pasture and collect goats for a field trip.
It is now 10am.
From 10am until 12:30 I work on clearing the fenceline (the girls spook at some point and take themselves back to the barn....weiners!).
12:30-1:00 Lunch...also bandaging my thumb where I stabbed through my nail, because well, my gloves didn’t have a thumb?! Find better gloves, go back out.
1:00-1:49. Mowing along electric fences (of course, I had to air up my tires first. Then, because I failed to run the pre-mowing checklist...I ran out of gas...back to the garage for the gas can, poop!)
1:49-2:00: loaded some hay for my Mom and helped her pick fabric for some quilt squares (took advantage of being inside to pee!)
2:00-3:55 finished all the mowing, re-erected the orchard and pasture-splitting electric fence, and flipped the switch to power the fence charger...
4:00 Woo Hoo, I’m finished. But wait. I’m not.
(I used this hour to write the rough draft of this post and have a well-deserved cup of tea).
At 5:00 (winter time) I have to put the farm to bed. Three barns, 13 goats, some odd chickens. It takes about an hour. Then dogs need to be fed, then the dishwasher needs to be unloaded (but I can do that while dinner is in the oven), then I get to reload the dishwasher, take a shower, go to bed, so I can do it all again tomorrow.
In the summer the days are just like this, except they are 14 hours long...instead of 12.
But I JUST work two days a week.