Cold, Muddy, Hard


I decided to go outside and take a walk yesterday because I was so tired of being inside the house. But it was cold. I had to put my coat on because I’m tired of being cold. I thought, maybe this is the last time I’ll have to put my coat on this spring. There are all kinds of things I do every day that I don’t like to do, and sometimes often I think, I wish I never had to do that again.

But what if I really never had to wear a coat again? Would that mean I’d moved to Jamaica? I’ve been to Jamaica. I don’t want to live there. I want to live in West Virginia. And If I’m going to keep living here, I’m going to have to wear a coat again–and probably this spring.

What if I never had to trim the goats’ hooves again? Would that mean I didn’t have my goats anymore? What if I never had to lug feed out in the mud to the chicken house? Would that mean I had no chickens? What if I never had to milk Beulah Petunia in the snow again? That might be a bad example. That might just mean I got organized and got her bred so I could take the winter off milking….

I do any number of things on a regular basis that are difficult. In fact, I do any number of things that are more difficult than they have to be. Sometimes I think back to how my life used to be and how easy it was. I like challenge, so I created challenge for myself in various ways, primarily by relentlessly attempting to sell books to New York publishers. That’s really difficult. I didn’t have to do that, but I would have been bored if I hadn’t and would have taken up mountain climbing or something. People left farming in droves decades ago, in part because it’s difficult. Difficult is, in part, what attracted me to farm life.

Which doesn’t mean that sometimes it’s not difficult to embrace the difficulty. But then, if it was, I wouldn’t want to do it. Similar to people who really do go mountain climbing. Part of the attraction is the risk, and if it wasn’t risky, they wouldn’t enjoy it as much, even if sometimes they’re scared.

If everything about living on a farm was easy, there wouldn’t be nearly as much satisfaction in it. And even on the worst day when I’ve had just about all the satisfaction I can stand, I wouldn’t trade living on a farm for anything easier.

I love this cold, muddy, hard life. And there are probably as many reasons why people move to the country as there are people, but I believe one reason is because there’s not enough innate challenge in the world today. It’s too civilized and convenient, and in a world filled with convenience, there’s an oddly tempting appeal in inconvenience and the challenge of a more difficult life.

There are other paths to pursue to add challenge to one’s life, of course. The farming life is just one, very special one, of those paths, and it is, like all paths of challenge, not about the destination but the journey.

Yesterday was a relatively easy day. The hardest thing I had to do all day was put on my coat.


  1. bRose says:

    Dear Suzanne, the past few weeks have been very rough on you and your family. It is not just the weather. The loss of Boomer and the little ones have also taken a toll. You need a “Happy Card.” Yes it is Spring! Soon your coat will hang on a hook and get lonesome. Though all this it is a brand new day and yes we are supossed to have some snow (sigh.)

  2. glenda says:

    So that’s why we moved to the country!

    There are times we wonder!

    Like Sunday morning when we had to pull a very dead rear presented huge bull calf!

    You have the good times; you have the bad times, but we wouldn’t want to live a different life.

  3. CATRAY44 says:

    Great post and a lot of truth!

  4. Laura says:

    What a thoughtful, well-written post. It got me thinking–really, the soft life is hard, too. I would never want to be a suburban kid today, with all the pressures from social media, schools stressed by performance standards, and such uncertainty about wars, jobs, the environment, political leadership and more. All that is hard. But you sought out a different, purer kind of hard. It’s physically hard. It’s problem-solving hard. It’s where most of us came from, before our lives got so soft. These physical and intellectual obstacles you’ve embraced may not appeal to everyone, but they seem to be working for you. And reading your blog lets me –an unabashed embracer of the kind of hard life that’s pretty cushy and soft–know another way is possible.

  5. Gem says:

    How appropos! I often think these same thoughts…. Love ya Suzanne!

  6. holstein woman says:

    Sometimes life on the farm gives you more ordinary than it does splendor???? My farm in swimming in ordinary Oregon muddy splendor… :whip: Good thing I’m on a hill seriously.

  7. brookdale says:

    Suzanne, you are so right! And so brave to go back to the hard life with a passion. You are an inspiration to us all.
    And the sun WILL come out, the mud will dry up, the birds will sing and the flowers will bloom and it will be time for dancing and singing for you and all the animals!

  8. Barbie says:

    Suzanne, you so eloquently wrote how so many of us feel about the hard work and struggles of farming and why we stay. As you say, it is the journey, not the destination. Thanks for that reminder as it is snowing yet again! :happyflower:

  9. Tina says:

    I couldn’t agree more, Suzanne. Our modern life is lacking; too convenient, too soft and easy in so many ways. I’ve always felt that we as a society are out of touch with the land, our humanity, and Real Life! I’m not a farmer but I respect and appreciate those who are, and I am drawn to doing and making as much as I can Myself. It gives me satisfaction and purpose, and I feel utterly ALIVE because of the journey I’ve chosen to make. I applaud you and every other woman who has made the choice to pursue a meaningful, challenging life.

  10. JOC says:

    My ancestors left the hard life in Europe in the 1840’s to come to America and own their own land and they worked hard–really, really hard to clear their land and live their life in freedom. I think I pay tribute to them every day by still living out their dream on their land. I think it is in my genes to do this and meet the challenges (which by the way, are far less difficult than what they faced) and keep the spirit alive. You, too are keeping the spirt alive. Thank you!

  11. Ramona says:

    I think it’s rewarding getting out and doing the work. That’s why we do it.

  12. judyh says:

    Thanks for the reminder that I love challenges. I’ve been digging a hole to plant an apple tree and ran into a huge (huge to me anyway) rock but after reading your blog this morning I’m even more determined to dig that rock out instead of letting it move me to another spot to dig, especially since I’ve spent so much time on this hole and know the ground is just as rocky elsewhere. Now I just need to start thinking of the housecleaning that desparately needs to be done as another “challenge”. 🙂


  13. Barbee' says:

    An eloquent post, Suzanne, and such meaningful, thoughtful comments you have inspired. I enjoy it all.

  14. Miss Becky says:

    this is a beautiful post Suzanne. your life is hard in many ways, but it seems so fulfilling. you’ve shown a different perspective about what it means to overcome difficulties, and it’s beautiful. thanks for this uplifting post. I hope your day is grand. coat or no coat. :hug:

  15. Ramona Slocum says:

    You put it in words so well Suzanne. I like your thoughts Barbie

  16. Kara Lennox says:

    You have articulated exactly the reason I keep buying these darn fixer-upper houses. It’s hard, really hard, but there is a definite sense of satisfaction when you finish a job (you never actually finish a house) and look at it and say, “I did that. Not many other people would/could do that, but I did.”

    Love your blog!


  17. Marci says:

    So true Suzanne…I get so tired of this weather! (Southeastern Ohio). I talk all the time about moving somewhere South…where it is warm all the time. I wonder if I’d miss our seasons??

    Country living is hard work…but when it’s in your heart, and you love it…it’s all worth it. 🙂 :cowsleep:

  18. lizzie says:

    Suzanne, AMEN! When I am cranky about hiking out to the chickens in two and a feet of snow, I think to myself, ” What would your Granny do” this always puts me in my place. I don’t think I could ever go back to living in a big city, with wall to wall people and traffic. You go Girl!!!! :fairy:

  19. Eve Davis says:

    Suzanne, you must have been reading my mind as I was sittting and thinking this very cold (36) NC morning. I wish I could have the opportunity to do some of the “hard” things again. Just in the past 2 years I have had to give up my goats and my dreams of large gardening anf flower beds, etc. My health has taken a turn for the worse and I was no longer able to care for my goats, I miss them greatly. I do still have my chickens, they require less care. I live on 27 acres of wooded land yet only 30 minutes from the ocean, we haev been here for going on 5 years. We moved from just outside of Houston Tx. When it gets cold here we can bundle up, when it got HOT in TX there were only so much clothing you could take off to try to stay cool! The amount of clothing coming off was determined by where you lived.I bet you get the idea. I can no longer hike in my woods, I can no longer tend to my creatures, it is hard to even go smell my rose garde. Am I complaining, nope not at all , I appreciate the things that I have been able to do, and wish that more folks go live their dreams. I have and my time was well spent. That is why the “Hard” times really were not so hard. I would love to be able to be knee deep in snow and carry a full water bucket to the barn for my horses again. Such is life, we were never promised a rose garden that did not have thorns, wiht the bitter comes the sweet. Make it a great day folks it may be our last. What are you going to do with it.

  20. Imperious Fig says:

    Thank you for a wonderful post. It sometimes seems that the work will never get done, the mud will never dry out…etc.

    I try to take a moment (at least once a week) to walk around the farm, enjoying it for the simple beautiful things that are overlooked when busy: frog eggs in a puddle; coltsfoot blooming in the creek bed, chickens dusting themselves in dry dirt in the barn, fog drifting down from the hills…

    I only wish that I could leave my day job and spend the time really needed to get my farm to where it is sustainable and will earn a bit of money.

  21. Diane says:

    When I start grumbling about having to spend half a day cleaning out the sheep shed or doing some other hard, repetitive, mundane task, I remind myself that this is an opportunity for meditation. I don’t have the time (or, let’s face it, the inclination) to sit on a meditation cushion but I know that meditation has terrific power. So, I do Shoveling Meditation, Carrying Water Meditation and Firewood Stacking. And when that’s done, I get to do Goat Hugging Meditation!

  22. Tess says:

    You are so right Suzanne! There are so many rewards from a tough day on the farm…goats with glossy coats and bossy dispositions…beautiful chicken eggs…splashing ducks with great eggs for baking…strong muscles from hauling feed and hay…all because we put our coats on! Thanks for the positive spin once again. Theresa.

  23. AnnieB says:

    Thanks, Suzanne, for pointing out WHY it ultimately feels good to do the hard things – because what would we do without the great little things they provide? Like love.

    @Diane: Yes! this is real prayer!

  24. Lana says:

    My life is SO totally different from yours! I live in a big city – Phoenix, AZ – and I go to work every day. But your message came across strong and clear to me – we all have our challenges, but the highs wouldn’t be so high if we didn’t have the lows. Your message applies to all of us – regardless of our situations.

  25. Lindsay says:

    I think I’m more attracted to rural life because it seems more wholesome and honest to me. I don’t mind putting in work when I can see the benefits, and when animals are depending on me to care for them. I love the fact that I stumbled across your blog one day right when I was contemplating how materialistic our lives had gotten and how distasteful I found it. Your blog is an inspiration and a reminder of what I’m trying to accomplish in my life. Thanks Suzanne.

  26. whaledancer says:

    There is satisfaction in doing things that are difficult, but I do think difficulties we choose are usually more enjoyable than those that life thrusts upon us.

    I don’t know whether I have enjoyed things that are difficult BECAUSE they are difficult, or in spite of it. But I think that if you can actually appreciate the difficulty of your farm life, you’ll be a happy woman.

  27. Abiga/Karen says:

    All I can say is I agree…..

  28. Darrell says:

    If it wasn’t for the hard times, we wouldn’t really appreciate the good times. Life on a farm is both hard and bothersome and great and fulfilling.

  29. Runningtrails says:

    This is a wonderful post!! I think we all need ti this time of year, when we are just getting through the short days, gray skies and little daylight. it’s cold, rany and windy today but spring will come and it will warm up!

    I know there are two sides to everything. Everyone’s life has the good and the bad to go with it. The grass is always greener in the other person’s life, but I would never trade living in the country for anything! I will never live in the city again!

    I’m with Diane, I meditate on the tractor for hours some days! I love it!

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