We are on the right side of the dirt and perhaps the wrong place in history. This year has been extremely dry, and thanks to our neighbors to the north, it is also free of sunshine. In the event this month brings frogs raining from the sky to finish off the pandemic, as well as drought, and days of darkness, we will have two options. We can panic, or we can develop a taste for frog legs. After all, the fact that chicken wings are now being charged at market price on menus, just like lobster, makes me think free frog legs would not be so bad. Aside from the fact that the Supreme Being would realize that another biblical warning was being ignored by perhaps the densest population ever to inhabit the planet, free almost chicken wings, Woo Hoo!
For the first time ever, the dry weather has made it possible for me to be ahead on the barn and field work here at the farm. The hay has been off for three weeks. Both of our free stalls in the barn have been cleaned out, and the manure spread on the fields. Finally, the rain has returned, and the fields are growing again. With the extra time alone on a tractor seat, I had time to think about how fortunate we are.
All of my life decisions were based on being able to farm for a living. My first major in college was computer science. I was not some coding genius that was going to redefine supercomputing. I planned to make a bunch of money, cash out early and spend it all on a farm. To say I was intimidated by being the only one in the lectures with no coding experience in high school was an understatement. My high school had more typewriters than computers. I decided that perhaps becoming an education major seemed the way to go. Math always came easily to me. I would have a computer science minor and a math ed major. My summers would be free to farm! Switching majors seemed like a no-brainer. I enjoyed working with all the kids during student teaching and thought the decision was great. I can remember the exact moment I decided I made a mistake. I was dating who would soon be my first wife my last semester and was introduced to the school's superintendent where she taught. I was informed that Brookville would need a math teacher for the upcoming school year. Upon being informed I would soon have a degree and certification in math ed, the superintendent's first question was, "Can you coach?" In a heartbeat, I realized that the politics and nonsense of that profession would drive me up a wall.
Luckily the natural gas industry was in a boom. Being able to show up to work was the only requirement, and the pay wasn't terrible. So with any industry in a boom, there was a lot of opportunity to bounce jobs and adjust to what worked best. I was a "gas hopper," if you will. With all booms, there is always a looming bust that follows. Luckily my wife at the time wanted a family milk cow. I will never milk another cow or make another small square bale of hay. We compromised on a goat. I figured if the goat didn't work out, I could take her to the auction and be done. I wasn't exactly sure about what I would do with the goat. With no expectations on what to expect with a goat in milk, I was surprised at how accommodating goats are to be milked. We were also in need of something to do with all of that milk. For months I felt I was living with Bill Nye, the science guy when she was working on tweaking different soap recipes. When she picked a winner, we started selling some product to a local store and then began going to markets ourselves. The natural gas industry was going downhill fast, and I knew my days were numbered. I also felt it was time for this monkey to go to a different circus. Almost every company I worked for was either bankrupt, on the verge, or relocated to Texas. I am too fat to withstand a Texas heatwave. I can lift heavy things and follow directions. So, I made the decision to follow the wife's lead, and we jumped into soap-making full-time.
We have been bustling ever since this has become full-time for us. After four years, it has finally dawned on me that I am where I wanted to be all along. When bouncing across the field in the tractor, I realized this was what I was hoping to get to do for the rest of my life. I was too distracted worrying about the details of keeping the lights on, keeping up with making soap, and tending to the animals that I lost the big picture. What I do for a living is what I wanted to do for a hobby or retirement. Aside from having to pose for a picture once a month, I ended up where I wanted to be. For the first time in my existence, when I say I am living the dream, I am not being sarcastic. When folks used to say money is only a number, my first thought was, it is only a number for you because yours is huge. My number is negative if I don't get to work every day. No, money is just a number; when you find what makes you happy. Not to sound like a sandal-wearing, hair-braiding, drum circle participant, but when you find what clicks for you, everything else just gets lost in the background. What used to seem to be the end goal and important happens as a side effect. Do I have a million dollars in the bank? Nope! Not even close. But let's be real. With inflation, a million in the bank isn't what it used to be. So, the goal would always be changing when and if I got there anyway.
Why it took a drought to make everything snap for me, I can't explain. I do know that life is short. It may never happen if you are spending your days being miserable to reach a goal later. Make the jump. Find your place and enjoy it. Until next month, fingers crossed that we avoid raining frogs, stay safe and wash on, and be safe with the fireworks. The demand for hand soap is directly proportional to the number of attached fingers…