Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Day in the Slow Life

This is a meme.

I was picked by Ohio Farm Girl (OFG) who blogs here to share a day in the slow life.

In her words "This meme is a great way for non-farmy folks to see what really happens in our everyday...and how the slow life rocks". In the case of yours truly OFG wants me to also talk about the transition - from the corporate world to the solitary existence on The Farm. She also wants me to say something to those desiring to take the leap.

Others who had started or who had been involved with this meme in one way or another are:

Mr H:  and


Apart from me other lucky guys picked by OFG are:

So clean your boots, get out of those farm clothings and get into something more comfy, make yourself a cup of your favorite coffee, for here goes:


What lies behind and what lies before us
are tiny matters compared to what
lies within us.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

My first transition was from a cushy government job, where I lasted one and a half years, to the private sector. Not many people were willing to take that risk. More than ninety percent of people from my ethnic background work for the goverment. That made my survival even more questionable. My colleagues said I was insane. May be they were right. But I wanted to apply myself fully and hopefully realise my full potential, something I couldn't do in a govt service environment.

I joined a company that was based in England, but has its roots in France. I thrived on the challenges that the commercial world brought. I enjoyed the interaction, the camaraderie, and the travel, which gave me considerable exposure to the rest of the world which I never would have imagined had I stayed put in my old job. And the perks - ooh, a brand new car fully maintained by the company every four years, full medical cover for the whole family, and a very comfortable income, especially considering our local cost of living was not very high. The company did treat you like one of its valuable assets.

In the course of my work I visited the rural areas and spent a considerable amount of time on farms and plantations (rubber, oil palms). One day an orchard owner told me his old fruit orchard was for sale. Since I had always wanted to own one I bought it without much hesitation. Since I was still working I could only be on  the orchard on weekends and holidays. I planted new seedlings as the existing trees were quite old. It turned out to be quite an investment.

I knew that I would want to get away from the city and live on a farm when I retire. The orchard that I just bought was not suitable as a homestead. Furthemore it was some three hours by car from where I lived. So I continued my search for a piece of land or an existing orchard that I could turn into my retirement home.

I found this place by the river at the foot of a mountain. It was surrounded by jungles and mountains, and was quite far away from the villages. Perfect.

In the meantime things were changing fast in the company. It was the era of mergers and takeovers. I stayed on and helped integrate employees from various backgrounds and cultures so that the new entity could function well. After that it was time to throw in the towel and pursue my personal dream.

I sold the first orchard, at almost double the price I bought, to help me finance and concentrate on the new one. This new place was then without electricity or piped water. I was going back some fifty years.

To get water I stationed a water pump by the river. A hundred foot fire engine hose was connected to it, then to pvc piping which carried the river water into two 200 gallon concrete culverts. From these tanks there were outlets connected to a network of smaller pvc pipes which irrigated the newly planted seedlings.

For lighting I bought two kerosene lamps, and much later, a generator set.

Then I had to leave for Australia where I spent a couple of years living and having a great time in Perth, Western Australia (a story for another day, perhaps?).

I had fertilized the farm well before I left. With our abundance of rain and sunshine, but no looking after, the farm turned into a secondary jungle upon my return. It was difficult to walk around with bushes and lalang (Alang alang in Indonesia, or Johnsongrass in the UK) chest high. Some young trees were either gone or were hidden amongst the bushes. Fences were down. Buffaloes had trampled their way in.

I spent a considerable amount of time and energy chainsawing the jungle trees that grew side by side with my durian and other fruit trees, clearing the weeds and bushes, treating diseased and dying plants, and planting new ones. After the weeds were cleared I planted the Axonopus or carpet grass to prevent erosion and more weeds growing. The fences had to be mended.

Then the farm house was built, and the animals brought in. First was the four month old rottie and mongrel, then the goats, and the chickens. In December last year electricity came in, and just before that the water supply. So I am quite civilised now, more at ease in welcoming family and friends to my home.

For those desiring to make the transition, make very certain this is what you actually want to do. Or this is the life you want to lead. It is not instant paradise. You have to turn it into one. I have seen many abandoned orchards after their disillusioned owners found it tough going, or they couldn't stand the sound of silence and the solitude.

You must have the passion. You must have the money, too. You'll be spending to buy stuff, to maintain or repair them. You need to buy food to feed the animals. Income is not a certainty, especially if it's a hobby farm. Work are plenty and endless. In case you missed that: they are plenty and endless. But your passion (or insanity) will take care of that.

I am normally up by 6 a.m. If the weather is good and I don't expect any rain, the first thing I do is set up my four gallon knapsack sprayer for a few rounds of weeding. Not that I have much weeds. But you have to keep at it. The lalang especially. Slashing or mowing will just make this weed spread its underground rhizomes even more.

By 10 a.m I would be back at the house for a light breakfast - toast and a cup of tea. If I feel like it I'll cook a pot of rice and then mix it with tin food for Ella and M. They just love this. Otherwise it'll be just a bowl of dry pellets each.

I then let the goats out. While they roam about feeding on the grass and brushes, I'll feed the chicken and replace the drinking water. But I have to keep watch over the goats too, to prevent them from eating shoots off the young trees. Ella tries hard to be a shepherd too.

One of the goats has an infection on the chest. If I don't treat it it will spread deeper, becomes septic and the goat may die as a result. I use hydrogen peroxide to clean the wound, spray a wound dressing to prevent flies landing and laying eggs on it, then inject an antibiotic.

A quick clean up for lunch, which has to be simple - may be sardine sandwich - since you don't  have the time to prepare an elaborate one, and are not in the mood to change from your dirty and smelly clothes into something cleaner to spend time in the kitchen.

After lunch is inspection time. I'll walk the entire fence perimeter to see if the wild boar is at it again. If during the night the dogs had been barking their heads off and you could hear them chasing and panting, chances are you'll find gaping holes somewhere. These need to be sealed back, at least temporarily before the more permanent work of putting concrete is carried out. That'll be for another day.

I also inspect trees for disease or insect attack. These will have to be treated sometime. Did I tell you it's a lot of hard and never-ending work? At this time I will also prune all water shoots and unwanted branches. This will reduce vegetative growth and encourage flowering, which is really what you want at this stage of those trees.

Towards evening I'll clear the pond and its surrounding, and feed my Tilapia. Today some friends are coming over, so I'll catch a couple of big ones (not the breeders) for the barbi. An otherwise lonely night will be quite a noisy one tonight.

 Yes, it's not all hardwork, we have some fun too.

So you still want to be a farmer? Why not. You will be away from all the pollution and traffic jams. You will be physically very active, which will do your aging body a lot of good. It's good for the soul too, by the way, if you are into praying or meditation. And of course you can WRITE! The tranquility of your surrounding is just perfect for these therapeutic activities.

The English may not be quite right, but I think
you know what this guy wants you to do

I want to pass this on to three others who may wish to share their day in the slow life:

Thank you all for taking the time to read my stories. And thank you OFG for giving me the opportunity to tell them.


Rachael Harrie said...

Great post Grandpa, lovely finding out more about your day. Australia, woot!!! :)


Ohiofarmgirl said...

What a glorious life! Thank you, Grandpa, for sharing your story and your wisdom. I loved that you said that its not an instant paradise, but that you can make it that way. And also that you pointed out how good this life is for your soul (and your body!).

I'll be looking forward to hearing more about your goats! Maybe you'll tell us what their purpose is (keep the brush down? meat? do you milk?) and how they do in the tropics.

You have a wonderful story, Grandpa, and I'm so glad you shared it!

Maria Zannini said...

Good for you! This was terrific.

I hope to get goats next spring, so I'll be looking forward to hearing how your goats are.

You are right about one thing. This does take passion and money.

compostpyle said...

Grandpa I sure enjoyed your story. Your life adventures have been a treasure for you and your family. Thank you for sharing.

I'm sure it will inspires those that want to make that leap. It is wonderful and all that you say. Plus those of us that have taken the slow life knows exactly what you mean, work and money! But a labor of love for sure.

Beautiful pictures to add to your story and you know it makes us want more : )

I'll be checking out those other links you shared as well.

I like that little drawing. Most will say jump right on in feet first but you took the diving , see the view right from the start, I like that.

As for sardines, I like mine on crackers : )

Take good care

Grandpa said...

Hi Rach, thanks for dropping by - woot! despite your busyness - what with NaNoWriMo, PiBoldMo and what not... Australia is the nearest to us where we can get the four seasons!

OFG thanks to you for starting this, I'm now following those links. Those goats are for meat, and African/Australian Boers are supposed to be good. But I never really thought that far, just enjoy watching them graze! They seem to do well under the tropical sun. In fact I only let them out when the ground dries up (towards mid-day) so as to avoid parasites or infection.

Hi Maria, thanks for dropping by - I know you are busy with the blog tour. Good luck with your plans for the goats

Compostpyle, thanks for dropping by. You have a lovely cabin in the woods yourself, and a happy family too. You are right it is our labor of love, and we get to enjoy the fruits of our labor. My sardines are always on bread - must try them on crackers now. Btw your pumpkin pies and candy yams must be delicious!

Melissa said...

This was fascinating! Thank you for sharing.

The pictures were a great addition.

Kelle said...

Wonderful and thank you for sharing a bit about your life. I always feel good when I know someone can relate to the amount of work, sweat and love goes into a small farm( homestead) and I know you can relate*wink*

Your farmhouse is lovely, especially love the covered porch.

Your goats look good and happy, of course I know very little about goats other than by observation. Thanks for tagging our blog and I hope others enjoy and are truly inspired by all the "Day in a Slow Life" posts :o)

Grandpa said...

Melissa, hi thanks for spending time here, I know you are busy with the blogfest. I took photos of the 'jungle' and when the house was being built with my old camera, but couldn't upload them, otherwise it would be nice to show the 'before' and 'after'

Kelle, thanks, good to see you again. Words can never fully describe the amount of work that went into establishing, then restoring the farm. It took me more than a year to bring it to its present condition. But I'm happy,
and thankful that I had the strength to do it.

Blessings to you too

Naturegirl said...

Oh my dear man Grandpa! While I sit and ponder how blessed I am to be living my dream away from the busy city life to my life in a Whispering Oaks cottage in the quiet my dear friend are slugging it out at the farm! I suppose we have chosen our very different journeys but we have one thing in common..we chose to live this new peace filled life.
I loved to see the smile on your dogs face! I have always wanted to have goats and chickens! Mother Nature has sent me wild chickens..and the goats..well she may surprise me yet!
Have a great day my friend...your kindred spirit..naturegirl!

Grandpa said...

Naturegirl, it was a struggle through it all, but at the end of it I rejoiced with a great sense of achievement and gratitude.

You are truly blessed with a quiet and peaceful life at the Whispering Oaks cottage. And Mother Nature has been kind to you in return for your kindness to those around you.

You have a great day too...

small farm girl said...

Great blog!!!! Thank you for visiting mine too. Yours is very informational and entertaining. And, I agree, owning a farm IS hard work, but, it's worth it.

Chai Chai said...

Never a dull moment over here. I love reading about all the different animals that you have to deal with, like a water buffalo stampede that knocks down the fences.

Are those Boer Goats?

Grandpa said...

small farm girl, WELCOME! Thanks for following me. It is a lot of hardwork but very satisfying, I'm sure you know this already :)

Chai Chai, great to see you again! I'm glad now this blog is up and running properly again. Yes, those are Boer goats. I see that you have problems with fallen leaves, we do too. I've written on it here:

Hope all's well over at your place

secret agent woman said...

I put in my years doing farm work as a kid. I can certainly see the appeal, but also know from experience it isn't for me. I'm glad it brings you fulfillment.

Linnea said...

Thanks Grandpa for a glimpse into your life as a farmer. I know it's a lot of work, but the rewards must be seems so romantic too coming from my end! Thanks for stopping by at my skies. Enjoy the week, my friend.

Grandpa said...

secret agent woman, of course it's not everyone's cup of tea.

Linnea, I enjoyed your beautiful skies. You have a great week too!

Chai Chai said...

Grandpa, Could you stop over at Hapless Homestead and see if you could give Nancy a bit of advice. She is having issues with heavy rain forest type rain is Hawaii and has some questions on how often to worm in a wet climate as well.


Grandpa said...

Hi Chai Chai, just been there and dropped a comment. Poor lady she has so much to do, live her life and take care of the family too!


Jennifer said...

Loved reading about your day! I especially liked seeing pictures of your goats!

Grandpa said...

Hi Jennifer, thanks for dropping by. I know you like goats, and your 'space' is much much bigger than mine

masterwordsmith said...

Dear Grandpa

This is such a fantastic post!! Thank you so much for sharing straight from your heart.

I have always longed to live a life like yours on my own farm but alas, with no experience and at my age, the best I can do is to go for farm stays :-).

Hopefully, one day, I can visit your farm.

Take care and God bless you for your love for the land.