The modern world wants to understand itself in terms drawn to a large extent from the dismal science of economics and from a materialistic scientism. Even in the country those boundaries seem inescapable. One cannot speak of oneself as a farmer if one does not "make a living" from the farm. What’s more, we are schooled to see our world through narrow slits of "survival of the fittest" and the operation of random chance, and we see through those slits a purposeless field to be explored for our benefit, a field neutral at best, hostile at worst.
We do not “make our living” from this place, we live here. We have had to find other ways to bring in the money no-one in this day can do entirely without. Although our methods have been rather other than the ones bank managers and financial counsellors are used to, we have been able to some extent to live a life that has also avoided many of the constraints the modern world imposes on its votaries. I have no idea how we achieved that, except that we have been fortunate in finding sympathetic advisors in the mysterious world of business even though they experienced some difficulty in understanding what we were doing.
When we left the city, with two homemade and four adopted children, we had a big house in a good part of town, ate regularly, and were quite comfortable, but according to the proclaimed standards of the city’s Social Services we were, as a family of eight, living below the poverty line. I guess we have continued living that paradox.
In spite of our odd ways or maybe because of them, we are continually discovering wonders, like the way the seasons unfold themselves along the year, or, at another level, the way water will pursue its own agenda in re-arranging a stream-bed across a bit of interval land--whether you agree or not.
Most of what we have done is very small scale. What we have is food that is as free as we can contrive it to be of chemicals and poisons, and animals who, while they had their role in the domestic scheme, were not "steamed up," pushed, regimented, or numbered. They did respond to care, they did, all of them--right down to the ducks--turn out to have their own personalities, and if they were occasionally infuriating, well, I have my off days too.
That great saint of the early Church, St Augustine of Hippo, commenting on the miracle of the changing of water into wine at the marriage feast at Cana pointed out that we live among daily miracles. "The greater power is in the creation and governance of the heavens and the earth and the fact that rain water is daily changed by means of grapevines into wine and that from a little seed fruits are created. But because these things happen naturally they seem unimportant...."
Eight centuries before Augustine, the author of the Book of Ecclesiastes wrote: "There is nothing new under the sun." It reads like a condemnation, but it is really an affirmation, though perhaps one more apparent in the life of the countryman than in the life of his urban counterpart. We are offered over and over again the same experience, and the same opportunity to see through that experience to the meaning that lies behind it and informs it.
What comes may be good or bad, or (most often), neither one nor the other. We have had our share of ups and downs here. A few years after we moved here we lost all but one of our small herd of cows to a stroke of lightning. That was a dark day!
Closer to home, bringing up the children we had gathered around us has been a turbulent experience. The Roman poet Lucretius said that "having children is giving hostages to Fortune." He had a point. One of the children we adopted we had finally to admit we could not handle and that failure darkened our life for a long time and will always be a matter of regret. The others are now all grown up and out on their own. The storms and stresses of their growing up were real, but the joys were, and are, real as well. The problems they face now are real but gradually we find the ground of our relationship amid the stresses and strains of difficult times.
And in spite of times of storms and stresses , we remember, looking back, many good days when it seemed a kindly God, all unawares, had calmed the rough waters of life's tempestuous sea.