Do Homesteaders get depressed too?

As I was scrolling through FB this morning, I came across a post by The Bloggess who was talking about an article on CNN/Parenting’s site titled Xanax makes me a better mom.  Now, I think this is probably a hot button issue on all sides, but I do have to say that I felt like the original Parenting article took a pretty soft approach to a very hard problem…sometimes it sucks to be a parent.  And sometimes the level of “suckage” is just too damn much for some parents.  I like what Jenny (The Bloggess) had to say in regards to getting through the day-do what you gotta do and no one should judge you for it.

However, it also made me realize that the challenges might even be harder for those of us trying to homestead, or at least move towards a more homesteading-like life.  Let’s face it-this lifestyle can be isolating.  I went from being in a very large city with friends just a short car ride away.  Now, I have to drive 40 miles just to get into town in order to even get to friends being a short car ride away.  The distance makes building lasting relationships a bit challenging.  Sheldon works in that city 40 miles away and right now The Blueberry attends school there a few days a week.  It makes for a quiet house during those days.  Sprinkle in the fact that while we have neighbors on our dirt road, they are almost all bachelor men, it makes for a bit of a lonely day alone on the farm with just the animals for company.  Sheldon hears that and thinks I’m crazy…if he could go a week without ever uttering another word to a human, it would be his best week ever.  For me-I’m more of a social creature, so I crave my interactions be they on the phone, via web or when I do get to drive into town.  It’s those little things that keep me going through lonely, blue times.

I think to those stuck in the city but longing to be free, our lifestyle can seem idyllic.  Wide open spaces, plenty of honest work to do around the farm and house, and no neighbors to see you when you sit nekkid on your back deck (not that I’ve done that or anything), but just like everything else in life-it’s not all sunshine and roses.  I would love to see more homesteading/hobby farming families talking about this.  How to balance a person’s need for social interaction with a more isolated way of life.  Blogging is a great way to tap into a wonderful and supportive community, as you’ll see in a later post of mine talking about a Liebster award.

I’ll be frank-I’m not sure how to wrap this post up.  I’m still happier here than I would be shoved into a tight little neighborhood where I can hear my neighbors and smell the traffic.  However, I still struggle with the loneliness at times and frankly, there is not much of a fix for it most days.  It just comes with the territory.   I guess I’m just going to put this out there to anyone who might read this blog…let’s be honest about it as farmers/homesteaders/parents/people.  Sometime it ain’t easy being us!

Picking a farm dog

Ever since The Blueberry was a wee Blueberry, we have been promising her a dog. Once we moved to Blueberry Acres, that dream became a reality and we rescued our puppy, Kya. Kya was originally thought to be an Australian Shepherd mix by the shelter that we adopted her from, but come to find out, all of us (vet included) think she is some kind of Rottweiler mix. All the same, she is still working hard to be a good dog although we have since discovered that Rottie pups are apparently more bitey than the average dog. And considering that a full grown, full bred Rottweiler has a bite force of over 300 pounds, you gotta shut that down quick.

I'm cute, but bitey

I’m cute, but bitey

Because Kya is going to be a hybrid working/family dog, she spends all of her time outside of our home. Now, before you animal lovers tell me how cruel that is, let me remind you that Sheldon is a “cat lady supreme” which means that all of our barn cats (and farm dogs) have luxurious sleeping accomodations that include heat, air and complete protection from the elements. However, unlike the cats who have each other, Kya is alone outside when we are not with her…and for pack animals, that is simply not a good plan. Enter dog #2.

Both Sheldon and I are experienced dog “havers”…I hate to say owners because let’s face it-these little boogers own us, not the other way around. We’ve both rescued all of our animals except for the ones who have rescued us. And getting another farm dog to complete our pair should be as simple as going into a shelter, picking a dog and bringing it home, right? Nope.

Well, to start with, we have pretty specific requirements. We need a male dog (better fit for Kya) who is older than Kya, who will not eat cats, can at least be trained not to chase livestock and won’t try to bite our child’s face off.  Sheldon has very specific breed requirements.  Not that we want or need a full-bred dog, but rather that he wants to avoid those breeds that he believes will be more likely to chase cats.  Oh, and the dog needs to be large enough so that it can’t be carried off by the bald eagles that fly over the farm and Heaven forbid, can hold it’s own until we can get there if a random bobcat and/or coyote decides to pick a fight. And then if that’s not enough restrictions, telling some people that this will be an outside dog makes them absolutely seeth with indignation for the dog. I recognize that for so many of these organizations, they are trying to do right by their dogs and for them that means absolutely no outside dog adoptions. But to take such a blanket approach, it’s unfair to us and the dogs who need loving, responsible homes. Outside does not always equal unloved.

So, what’s a farm family to do? Lie about keeping the dogs outside? I’m not going to do that. Although it has meant that some people won’t return my calls or emails, others instead won’t allow me to come visit the dogs and others still have lied to me about a dog’s status until they can find someone they like better.  However, it’s also led us to some bad fit dogs. Like the place that told us how sweet a dog was just to have him bite our 4 year old in the face without any provocation. We’re still convinced that he was a good dog, but a bad dog for us.  This is where I want those long-term shelters (who obviously know the dogs well after they have spent a year there) to be responsible in saying “he isn’t going to want to share you with your kid.”  Or the other sweet dog who was wonderful with our child, wonderful with Kya, interested but cautious with the chickens…but also seemed to have a sweet tooth when it came to our cats. It’s not easy to pull a 70 pound dog away from a cat when they are hell-bent on ingesting it, but thankfully, we did.  I would have kept him in a second, but the fit has to be right:

Sweetest Dog Ever, if you don't have cats!  If you are local, please consider visiting him at the Rogers, Ar Humane Society!

Sweetest Dog Ever, if you don’t have cats! If you are local, please consider visiting him at the Rogers, Ar Humane Society!

So, the journey continues.  We are supposed to go see an Australian Shepherd mix on Saturday morning.  We have had a very candid conversation with the person fostering him and she believes he would be a good fit for us.  He sounds like a great dog, but I cannot tell a lie.  My little heart can’t take much more.  I’m a dog lady all the way.  I love and enjoy our many cats, but I’m just simply a dog person.  My dog Kya needs a brother and I am very much hoping that this one will be the one.   But, if not, I have at least learned a few things along the way:

1) be totally transparent when communicating your needs

2) go to multiple shelters if you need to

3) get on sites like Petfinder, Bing/Google searches looking for local rescue groups.

Bottom line is don’t adopt a dog who won’t be the right fit for you because you won’t be the right fit for him/her either!  Good luck and happy farming!