Jake’s Dilemma: Finding Life’s Balance on a Farm

I was asked what I’d do if I won the lottery. The answer came readily – I would find life’s balance by continuing to live and work at Topsy Farms.

Snowy, blowy, cold day with Jake on open ATV, taking grain to sheep flock

Feeding the flock at – 30 with snow and wind

I can’t imagine living anywhere else.  The land, animals, and very air are as much a part of me as my skin and fingernails.

Driving our ATV every morning through the woods doing chores is the best part of my day.

There is utter peace and stillness inside and out.  You can’t put a price on that. This small Ontario sheep farm life doesn’t fit into any neat box that any career counselor could understand.  I get bored too easily by static routine; I wasn’t designed to sit in an office. Here, every day there is something different:

Jake, using scanner to check ewe's ear tag

Checking Ear Tags in Barn

Today I’m a mechanic, yesterday a vet
The storm is getting closer, 60% chance of getting wet
Tomorrow its construction; repairing the old barn
Everyday is a little different, when you wake up on a farm

I saw a Dodge commercial the other day that featured a Paul Harvey monologue. I dare you to watch that and not want to work the land – it’s a powerful piece.

We are surrounded by the things we fixed the day before.  That’s a potent thing, a reason farmers keep getting up and digging out of snowstorms or rebuilding machines that others have discarded.

Jake, wearing Fire & Rescue shirt, working on tractor engine

Rebuilding a tractor engine

As my farm apprenticeship continues, I get more independent, picking my own tasks and timing, which increases my ability to lose myself in a job.

There have been no hassles with the generation relations, probably a tribute to them.  I feel I am respected as a man now; and for skills learned elsewhere.   The older farmers are surprised and amused when I know how to do something they didn’t expect.

Corner of the barn that Jake rebuilt of salvaged wood

Rebuilding a corner of the barn with salvaged wood

However, ultimately I struggle with idea of struggling – a small independent sheep farm will never make a decent return on labour. It makes me wonder, can a small farm be profitable?

Can I find life’s balance on a farm?

Some folks may continue a mindless struggle all the time, working 10 -12 hrs/day and never getting ahead financially. I need to seek a way to balance living and work; to find a better business model that isn’t just dependent on numbers of sheep or blankets sold. I want the mental freedom, life’s balance, of occasionally playing golf or going to a concert.  I need not to feel that a dollar spent on myself is a dollar less for the animals.

It’s such a huge commitment.  I won’t consider taking on the farm without my brother’s involvement and at the moment the farm can’t afford to pay us both.  The decision to become a farmer feels sort of like joining a monastery: giving up most of my worldly possessions for the betterment of mankind.   Lots of days I don’t feel that generous.

And yet, I want to raise my boys the way I was raised.  There is zen in this as we improve the land and the buildings and the animals and machinery – they improve us.

portrait of Jake Murray

Jake Murray

 Jacob Murray is the son of Topsy Farms’ owner, Ian Murray, and was raised on this independent sheep farm on Amherst Island, considered local to Napanee and Kingston, Ontario. Topsy Farms produces beautiful wool products including sheepskins, pure wool blankets, sheepskin mittens, cotton-encased wool bedding, and some of the finest local lamb in Ontario. Natural farming methods without pesticides, growth hormones, chemicals, or animal by-products, produce animals of the highest quality. The lambs, finished with grain, are available for private sale from early November through February.

 

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