This last 4 months or so have been rough...I know I haven't had it as bad as many, but none the less, some days it has been hard to just get my butt out of bed and get on with the day. You see I've been struggling, not just with the farm, but mentally. Something that I'm seeing more people talk about is the mental health crisis that is affecting Farmers. I'm not sure where this tid-bit of info came from but I remember reading somewhere that Farmers have one of the highest suicide rates. That blew my mind. But then I also got it. I could see why. No, I am not suicidal, thank God, and I don't farm on a big scale or rely on it to make a living. But I've been depressed and my anxiety has been higher than it has ever been. I have gotten really good at faking it. Putting on the happy face, becoming the fake it till I make it Cassie. Depression is not something I ever thought I would deal with. How could I be depressed when I have so many things to be thankful for and make me happy!? In many peoples eyes, I've got it all! I have been trying to fix this issue since about February and I feel like I am just now starting to get a hold on it and really figure myself out. This is why I have been THE. WORST. about getting back to people, staying in touch, remembering events, posting on social media, etc. I feel like it is a stupid excuse somehow, but I have just not been able to handle it. It has been an overwhelming feeling of suffacation, dread, exhaustion, and disappointment.
Pigs kind of put me in this icky place. Which may seem odd because I freaking love pigs. But put together the crappy farrowings, sickness, an insane demand for piglets, and the longest winter I can remember in the pacific northwest, I got myself into a real bad place. In the midst of all of that, I had people constantly messaging me about pigs, pork I need to collect money on, chores that need to be done, children and a husband that need my attention, working the the vet clinic that can be so rewarding but so draining, and meanwhile, I feel like I am drowning. Every ::ping:: on my phone sends me deeper into my hole and I just want to hide there and cry. I keep telling myself, "It's ok, I will be able to deal with it tomorrow." Well, now it is nearly May and I still have yet to get back to people or collect money that we really do need for pig feed. Many days I wish I could just run away from it all and start over new. Run away so I can find myself again.
It should be pretty easy really. Why wouldn't I want to talk to people about pigs and get paid for what we are working for? For one, I get major anxiety asking people for money. Not the greatest when you are trying to sell something. Then tack on a high demand for piglets that you can't fill the orders for due to those bad farrowings. I HATE saying no to people. I am a people pleaser by nature so telling people no also gives me major anxiety. Really I have created this monster. I have grown our operation to try to be able to please everyone when the reality is, I can't help everyone. If I had 100 acres and a few giant barns, I think I could do what I had truly invisioned. Maybe. Instead, I have 10 lovely acres and 2 very old, but lovely barns to work with.
The pigs are the hardest on the land and these buildings. Downsizing is going to need to happen. Something I am dreading but also looking forward to. How do I get rid of my girls? Do I sell them and risk them going to a home that may not take care of them well? Do I butcher them and end their lives on a happy note? I really just want to keep them all and downsize when it's their time to truly go. We currently have 7 sows and a boar. We are thinking we need to get down to 2 to 3 sows and a boar. It sucks. I don't want to. But I need to. For the lands sake, the barns sake, and for the pigs sake really. I feel like I can do better by my pigs if I reduce my numbers. It's just a matter of picking who and when.
I would be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed in myself. Because really, I am fucking devastated. I have wanted so bad to make something big of this. The term "Making It" is all relative really but I had dreamed of selling large amounts of eggs, pork, and lamb. Having our own beef and dairy. Having an amazing Gloucestershire Old Spot breeding program. Possibly going to farmers markets and becoming a well known member of the Skagit agriculture community. Instead I feel like I have become an unreliable mess of a person who no one will want to deal with. My reality may be that I focus on feeding my family first, do things small scale, and any extra that is sold is a bonus. My husband, God bless him, is a major help to me with this, but it isn't his dream. His dream is to have a happy home, family, and good food in the freezer. I so wish I could be as content as he is! When I stop and think about it, I am a one woman show with help 2 weeks out of the month. For the grunt work really. We do have fun making plans for the farm but 90 percent of the dreams come from me and my husband is nice enough to come along for the ride. Not to mention support it. This is also why I think I have gotten myself into this black hole. I am trying so hard to be a good wife, a good mother, a good employee working 3 days a week at a Veterinary Hospital that I love, and also be a farmer. Spreading myself too thin over too many things. I want to be a full time farmer and be that "dream farm" that I see so often on the world of Facebook and Instagram but it just can't happen right now. Oh, and that Facebook/Instagram thing, I have wanted nothing to do with that because of all of this and then some. I can't help but compare myself to others and then feel like a failure when I see other people who are "Making It" and I am over here being an emotional, stupid mess of a person who can't seem to get her shit together. It has become exhausting and not fun but at the same time a safe haven where at times I don't feel alone in this. Hence all of my ramblings that I am sharing currently.
How do you fix it when you really just want to do all the things?! I can't imagine giving up anything but that is obviously selfish. And if I am miserable doing all of things, what is the damn point anyways??? Now I am trying to find that balance. I think it will be a slow process but I am praying to God that I can find it. Some of that is being found in unconventional ways like New Age Spirituality mixed with my Christian beliefs, and refocusing on what is best for myself and family. I am no good to my family when I am a crying, angry, flustered, forgetful, depressed mess of a person. And my animals suffer for it too. There are so many things I would love to do better for all of the living beings in my life but I am not freaking Super Woman. As much as I would love to be. I am a woman with passion, stubbornness, and dreams that will get me through it, but I can't do it all by myself. And I am no longer willing to put myself into a emotional and financial hole to make it happen either.
Money is the root of evil when farming. And I think it is why there is so much suicide with farmers. I don't know a whole heck of a lot about the Big Ag world but I do know it is insanely expensive, riddled with mass amounts of debt, some how equaling out to cheap food. It is pretty freaking messed up. We are getting closer to being debt free, which we have been a few times in our lives, besides our mortgage, but if we keep going like we are right now, we will fall right back into debt. Being a slave to our farm in all aspects. A vicious cycle that will only consume me more and be of zero benefit to my family. To truly do what I want right now, it would cost a lot of money up front. With a big gamble of not getting it returned all the way. Things could go well and I could have a nice chunk of change in the bank, or things could go bad like they did this winter with having 3 piglets on the ground instead of the 24 plus like there was the potential for. At $130 to $150 a piglet, you do the math on the loss there. Not fun at all. The amount of emotional ups and downs takes it's toll on people like me, trying to make this work. Some have better luck with it then others or are just more cut out for the job but I don't think anyone is stress free in it. The fact that you have to work so hard, put up so much money up front, go through so much emotional stress, for minimal return, makes you wonder why the hell anyone does it.
Those days when you get the rewards, its like the best high ever. Watching your kids run through the field, laughing and playing hide and go seek in the tall grass. Listening to a momma pig grunting to her 12 roly poly piglets while they nurse on her. Collecting a still warm chicken egg from a nesting box. Eating your homegrown bacon for breakfast with a good cup of coffee. Having a nightcap with your husband, watching the sheep, goats, and cows graze. Those are the moments when your heart tells you, this is where I need to be. When you know its not about the money. Where you want to do whatever you can to save your lifestyle.
Now to find the balance. I am trying hard to not fall into that deep, dark, black hole again but instead slowly crawl myself out of it. My husband and kids are my driving force behind that. Words can't describe my love and need for them. I'd give this all up to keep them. I want them to be happy here. To have fond memories of this way of growing up. For Nate and I to not regret these years farming and raising our kids. I am blessed that we can have this way of life. That we have jobs outside the farm that support us. I have so much to be thankful for. Now to just open my eyes, take in the good with the bad, and make this a happy place. The sunshine is coming back, in more ways than just in the blue sky. Here's to hoping I can catch it and hold on tight.