When you live on a farm, such as I do, your day is centred around your chores. There are mouths to feed (both human and animal) that depend on you, and they will always come first. All other activities happen somewhere between these daily chores.
When I was a child, my parents had a herd of milk cows, and this meant that twice a day they would need to be milked. I remember Christmas mornings, anxiously waiting for chores to be done so that we could open our presents, or on Halloween night so that we could go trick-or-treating (we were often the last kids walking from door to door).
My parents taught my siblings and I the importance of “getting our chores done”, and we simply knew that everything else came second to this. But I have to credit my parents for never making chores feel like a “chore.”
As children, my siblings and I accompanied our parents to the barn and were included in all of their work, but this was also a time that we spent together as a family and they always took advantage of opportunities for play. I learned how to 2-step in the alleyway of our barn in my rubber boots while David Lee Murphy sang, “Dust on the Bottle” over the rhythmic suction of the milking machines. I played with the cats, kept company with the pigs, and talked with the calves in the warm coziness of our barn…
As we no longer have milk cows, our list of daily chores has changed a little. But we still have cattle, and so we still have many mouths to feed, and as any farmer will tell you, their animals will always eat before they do.
There is a beauty in rising with the sun and moving with the day as Nature intends. You feel the exact moment when the day breaks through the night and the subtle shift in temperature from the bitter cold into the warmth of morning. On the weekends, my children will accompany me, and they are coming to appreciate this rhythm as well. There is something special in greeting “good morning” to the sun, the weather, and all of the animals.
I like to think that the cows enjoy my company as much as I enjoy theirs, and it is more than just the bales of hay they are interested in. I try to engage with all life that I encounter, and truly embrace every moment that I can. I tell the cows how beautiful they are and how happy I am to see them — although my dog, Sidda, makes it hard for any of the cows to get close to me as she takes her job of “protecting” me from them very seriously, and she will not allow any of them to get too close while I remove the strings from the bales.
It seems that everyone wants to have a chore, a purpose, and a reason for being here. I have always noticed on our farm that the animals will give themselves a chore to do. Every day they will have an important task that must be done, and there is absolutely nothing that will stop them.
I think it is worthwhile to ask, “What can we learn from this?”
For Sidda, it is protecting me while I feed the cows, and for my other dog, Chubs, it is leading the way as I drive my truck to where we feed. Of course, there has to be plenty of moments taken for belly rubs while we do our chores.
My chickens are never shy, and I try to give them as much enthusiasm as they show to me. I ask them how they are all doing and I am sure to thank them for the lovely eggs that they have laid for me. I can feel the hens respond to this gratitude, and Moby, the rooster, puff up with pride. I make sure to tell him how handsome he is.
Pigs are notoriously friendly and I am sure to touch all of their noses and wish them a good day.
The cats are always eager for love and attention, and have a way of making themselves available to me no matter where I am. They conveniently can be found upon the gates that I walk through, and therefore receive many extra strokes and pets. I thank them for their good work as well, as I appreciate not having any rodents scurrying around.
As I wait for water to fill my pails, I am surrounded in purring cats and lovable dogs.
There are many little moments of “waiting” throughout my day, and I try to pause and see the beauty in them — the sparkle of the water in the sunlight as it fills my pail, the freshness of winter in my lungs, the crisp bite of the air on my nose — rather than allowing my mind to race off to the next chore on my list.
It is a satisfying feeling to feed all of my animals and watch them happy and contented.
My dad has always said, “I can’t relax until I know that all of my chores are done and my animals are happy.”
Of course, it’s not just farmers that have chores to do. Everyone does. Our chores just look a little different, that’s all. And as I have learned from the animals, we all need a purpose, something that wakes us up in the morning
I try to approach all little tasks throughout my day with the same enthusiasm as my chores.
When I wake my kids in the morning, I inhale the smell of their skin and embrace them warmly, and try to make the most of my time I have to share with them.
When we give our full attention to everything that we do throughout our day, everything feels like a richer, more joyous activity. This can include everything from driving to one of our kids’ games, shopping for groceries, washing dishes, or the quality time that we have carved out for family and friends.
When we engage with and embrace our “chores”, they no longer feel like chores. They no longer feel like something we are rushing through so that we can move on to more fun or important things.
From my parents and the animals on my farm, I have learned how to feel the joy of life without regarding it as mundane work that has to be done. I learned how to feel the magic in the ritual of repetitive tasks, and the knowing that no day is the same as the day before. Every day is full of wonder if we are only willing to see it. And in this way, we discover that the joy of life does not happen between our many tasks, but within them.
I hope that you have found this helpful!
I would love to hear from you! You can contact me via my website www.jessieklassen.com. While you’re there, feel free to subscribe to my free weekly “ish” newsletter where I share advice, wisdoms, and lessons that I have learned from my life living close to Nature.