02 January 2009


One of the things that originally attracted me to Mrs Yeoman Farmer was her utter lack of pretension. And her disdain for status symbols, and her preference for the practical over the luxurious or the merely decorative. She never wore makeup, and she didn't even like jewelry very much. Though she earned a good salary as an attorney, she lived in a tiny apartment with almost no furniture. Her preference was to spend every extra dime paying down her law school loans, rather than buying the status items her peers were snapping up. With her, what you saw was what you got --- and I very much liked the person I saw and was getting to know.

I can see now that these qualities are essential for making a successful relocation to the country. Her diligence in reducing the principal balance on her loans meant we saved a fortune on interest...and were able to scrape together a down payment for our first house all the sooner, which put us on the path of building the equity we later needed to get into our first farm.

It's impossible to count all the ways that practicality must trump appearance or luxury if you're going to make a successful go of small farming. We certainly do take care of our property's appearance, and keep it picked up, but we above all strive to keep it in good repair. And when the time comes to choose something like a wood burning stove, our number one priority is function rather than beauty.

I'm also convinced that one's attitude toward material goods is a huge factor in whether one will ultimately be happy with a small farm. I've met many people who look at our farm with stars in their eyes, but who I doubt would really be happy when the time came to opt for practicality over luxury. And that's fine. This life isn't for everyone.

An amusing illustration of this came at Christmas. Mrs Yeoman Farmer and I were annoyed to no end by all the television commercials for luxury cars, spas, pajama grams, and jewelry. This particular J.C. Penny video, while very funny, is a perfect illustration of what we mean.

Anyway, even as I laughed at the J.C. Penny video, I wracked my brain to think of a gift that MYF would find practical --- but also fun and enjoyable. (In other words, a new vacuum cleaner was definitely out.)

Fortunately, it didn't take long. MYF enjoys firearms, and has been a member of the NRA since before we met (or either of us even owned a gun), but hasn't had the chance to do any real target shooting in a very long time. She'd mentioned this in recent weeks, and I'd replied that once the weather warmed up in the spring we could set up some targets and a backstop out in the pasture. Then it occurred to me: why not give MYF the gift of a day at the pistol range at our local gun shop?

Homeschooled Farm Boy and I went up to the gun shop on Christmas Eve, and picked up a gift card that would cover a range session and plenty of paper targets. I then put this into a nice Christmas card, and wrote up everything that was included: the range time, the targets, the use of both of my pistols, up to 500 rounds of ammo for each pistol (I save a small fortune buying it in bulk from an online dealer), and --- most importantly --- a full afternoon out of the house while I entertained the children.

So...how did she react on Christmas morning when she opened the card? She laughed. She beamed. And she called her father to excitedly detail what she'd get to be doing. And she said in no uncertain terms that she planned to go through all 1,000 rounds.

As MYF has continued to tell her friends about her upcoming day at the range, I imagined the television commercial we could put together:

  • One session of range time: seventeen dollars.
  • Several packages of paper targets: fifteen dollars.
  • One thousand rounds of ammo, including shipping: three hundred and three dollars.
  • Having a wife who prefers the pistol range to the spa: Priceless.

Here's hoping that all of you had as happy and blessed a Christmas and New Year as our family has had...


JimmyV said...

I thought that this would be key to living the farm life. I am probably one of those people who would look at the farm with starry eyes yet never be able to forego my Wii.

Does your extended family support you in practical living or do you receive many impractical gifts from overly-generous grandparents and the like>

TYF said...

The extended family has gotten into the spirit. My mother, in particular, has helped with decorating by finding beautiful country-themed artworks at rummage sales. My father-in-law gave us the gift of lots of time helping fence the pasture this summer. (And my father also helps a lot with projects when my folks come to visit.)

The grandparents either give our kids cash or consult with us ahead of time for practical-but-fun gift ideas (usually bicycle-related or some other outdoor toy).

Zach said...

I understand (and approve) the philosophy, although I don't know how well we embody it ourselves. At least well enough to feel out-of-step with consumer society.

I keep trying to get this through the head of Son #1, but (being a teen) he's not quite hearing me. :) Every so often, he drops the hint that he'd really like a copy of Guitar Hero ... and my consistent answer has been "I'd get you a guitar before I'd ever get you Guitar Hero."

You'd think he's pick up the hint and ask for a guitar one of these days, but nooooo...


Julie said...

While I understand the practicality aspect and appealing to MYF's interests, I'd rather my husband spend the $335 on a day at the spa. Given my physical condition and the stresses of my job, a trip to the spa for relaxation, massage and "me-time" definitely fits my definition of "practicality". That's one way to appreciate our individual differences, don't you think?

TYF said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TYF said...

Julie - Definitely agree, particularly if you're the Julie who I think you are. Each individual situation is different, and there is nothing inherently better about a pistol range than a spa. And for an individual with certain physical conditions, or who has a stressful job, a spa can be a very practical place indeed.

Perhaps I should have said "jewelry" instead!