My SO is, and always has been, very typically suburban. He really truthfully had no freaking idea what he was getting into with me, although bless him, he’s been pretty patient about it. He was raised in the suburbs of Chicago, then lived in the suburbs of DC, and then moved to Austin. He’s definitely never lived in the country, or even spent much time there, aside from attending a few polo matches when he lived near Middleburg (do those even count?).
He’s not TOO much of a prissy city boy though. He was originally a mechanic by trade, he’s handy, and he likes hiking and mountain biking. Although his experience with animals has been mainly limited to pets, he definitely loves them and has a bit of a bleeding heart. Like he won’t even kill a cockroach, he’ll catch it and take it outside.
Granted, it’s taken me YEARS to get him comfortable with being close to the horses. At first he would stand as far away as possible, extending his hand with a treat in it, yanking it back several times out of fear of being bitten before the horse could manage to snatch it fast enough. And then once the treat was successfully administered, he’d pretty much immediately go wash his hands.
He’s always said he’d like to live more out in the country, though. But he hates driving very far, especially regularly, and a store being 15 minutes away is relatively horrifying to him, so I was never sure how that would quite work out. When the farm-living opportunity came along, it definitely took me a while to talk him into it. Mostly because of the tiny house aspect, not because of the farm aspect. He has a lot of stuff and loves having a lot of stuff, so I know he’s going to have a hard time with 400 square feet. There’s not much I can do about that part, he’s going to have to struggle through it and figure it out. BUT, I have been using this fall/winter to slowly ease him into the farm life side of things.
For now he lives at our house in the city most of the time, but comes out to the farm every Friday after work and stays through Saturday afternoon. Naturally, I save all of the “bigger” projects for Saturdays. Partly because some of them are easier to do with two people, and partly because I want him to start learning this stuff. If he’s going to be living here in the near future, he should understand how to do things and be able to contribute.
It started very very simply. His first official farm helper job was to dump and scrub all the water troughs and water buckets. Turns out this is also his least favorite job, for reasons unknown. Since he hated that so much, he quickly volunteered for other things, like driving the manure spreader (I didn’t warn him about the dust factor when it’s windy, so the first time he came driving back up to the barn covered in dirty shavings dust was only funny to one of us), moving hay from the storage barn to the main barn, fixing the lawnmower, changing batteries/lightbulbs, etc. Each weekend it’s progressed more and more.
In introducing him to all of this stuff I’ve realized that certain things are NOT inherent to all people. Like… how to lift/carry a hay bale. That very first day we had to move hay he looked at the bale, grabbed it in a big bear hug, and crab-walked it over. I died. It was hilarious. It never would have occurred to me that people don’t know to grab it by the twine. I don’t know that I’ve ever had to explain some of these tasks to the totally uninitiated, so this is a learning experience for me too. Also apparently normal people don’t have tons of calluses on their hands, because he tossed about 3 bales before I had to go find him some gloves. Who knew.
He’s done it all without much complaint, though. He painted Chew Stop on the fences, and only complained a little bit when it got all over his hands (even through his gloves, which he wears pretty much at all times when he’s outside) and burned his skin. He’s gotten good at moving hay bales now, and it doesn’t make him sore anymore. I can’t even describe the delight I felt the first time he texted me on a Thursday and said “I just found a ton of hay in the pocket of my hoodie”. THAT is the true mark of initiation, for sure.
He’s learned to drive the tractor, and learned the proper pattern for dragging the arena, which he does every weekend. He airs up the perpetually cranky tractor tire. He re-stapled all of the ceiling insulation tiles that the storm blew down, and fixed all the bushes, and helped me pick up the scattered branches. He even volunteered to help me clean stalls, which… I draw a hard line there. Let’s be honest, he will not clean them to my standards, and he’s not ready to learn yet. That wouldn’t end well. I did let him pick the poop out of the stall runs, though, since that’s easy enough, and he didn’t hate it.
He’s even learned the difference between coastal and alfalfa hay, and what a flake is. I’ve instilled the concept of ALWAYS CLOSE THE GATE BEHIND YOU to the point where if I go through a gate and leave it open he asks if he should close it. I mean, that’s never the case, I never accidentally leave a gate open, but it’s impressive that he’s now aware enough to ask.
He’s even slowly gotten more comfortable with the horses. One time at night check he actually KISSED one of them. He’s pretty confident at giving them treats now too… I mean he still washes his hands immediately after and definitely looked a little green the night Henry laid a big sloppy wet lick on my open mouth, but he no longer yanks his hands away or backs up when they get close. He’s also starting to see and appreciate their personalities, laughing at the silly things they do. Last weekend I gave him his first official big horse task – turning Henry back out while I babysat Presto for the farrier. I did explain how to take the halter off (he’s learning how to do things, I’m learning how to explain things better) but otherwise he completed the task with no issues and no further instruction. That’s the first time he’s ever had to lead a horse anywhere or be solely responsible for one.
He’s also realizing just how much work it is, and that the labor ain’t no joke. There’s always something more to do. But, like me, he gets satisfaction out of it. There’s something really great about doing relatively simple basic labor that’s really rewarding, especially when you spend most of your days behind a computer screen. You can easily see what you’ve accomplished, and that it means something.
We’re making progress. I think there’s hope for making a farm boy out of him yet.