Wednesday, December 3, 2014


            I remember learning in a Lamaze class many years ago that the most difficult stage of labor for a woman is the one called “transition.” I don’t remember anything else about “transition” except my feeling of gratitude that I did not have to experience it. Lamaze substitutes the word “discomfort” for what the rest of humankind calls “pain,” and I think that’s a good thing. In any case, I am now, at
last, experiencing some discomfort with my current transition.
            Many people anticipate that as we trudge through our 70’s we will be called upon to learn new things – such as how to make decisions about long-term care, how to shift investments away from long-term gains, how to deal with neighbors in a condo, what are the signs of a stroke or Alzheimer’s, how to avoid driving like an old person, or how, finally, to operate a smart phone. But it’s looking like my journey through my 70’s will demand that I learn a different set of skills, things like how to drive a tractor or how to milk a goat.
            Kim and I have decided that we no longer want the expense and hassle of owning two homes, one in Michigan and one in Florida. So we decided to sell them both. (This is where the word “transition” skulks just out of sight.) Does this mean condo living – no more weeding the garden, struggling to start the weed-whacker, or scraping paint blisters off the windowsills? No, not if you are married to Kim.
            She has always wanted to live on a farm. She spent years living close to nature in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and she recalls dating a cowboy. I grew up in the Connecticut suburbs, where the closest I came to farming was mowing the lawn, and then I taught for years in Ann Arbor, where my farming experience consisted of teaching Walden. I do enjoy watching movies about farming, where other people do all the work.
            Another complicating factor is that my stepson Scott wants to buy some land for hunting, and he needs at least 40 acres. Adjoining the farm property we are looking at is an 80-acre woods. Scott has a full-time job – more than full time, since he owns the business. This means that I would probably have to add chain sawing to the list of learnings I need. Maybe I can reserve a half-acre for my own private Starbucks.
            Of course, I would not actually be farming all those acres. No, we’d be leasing them out to real farmers. These are the people for whom, in a sense, I’d be the boss, providing leadership and motivation using the skills I learned editing a couple of business books for my brother. I’d also generously share my insights into farming.
            Kim, meanwhile, is deeply immersed in planning our new home. She’s designed a meadow, selecting a half-dozen wildflowers she would establish to attract birds and butterflies. She’s rehearsed instructions to our farmer-tenants about reducing the use of pesticides. Inside the barn will be a separate building, perhaps a studio, with its own source of heat and water, and part of it will be a deer camp for Scott, complete with a poker table and U.P.-themed décor. The farmhouse, if we don’t have to build it from scratch, would retain its original wooden floors and cabinets, though the plumbing would have to be upgraded. We’ve looked into the cost of installing a ground-water heat pump (expensive!) to replace the propane (also expensive!). She seems especially drawn to farms with silos, and though I don’t know how she plans to use them, I suspect that I will be spending some time in a silo.
            Though Kim has borne two children, she is more than willing to look beyond the “discomforts” of transition. And I’m willing to follow her lead. Kim has always led the way in making significant creative changes in our life, and she’s an artist where Our Home is one of her best media. Call it a labor of love.

            By the way – does anyone know the best way to milk a goat?

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