Metaphors for life: instead of Oprah’s running, let’s try farming!

“Life is just a bowl of cherries” proclaims one song. And that’s just one example of a metaphor for life. You can find plenty of other suggestions, from a box of chocolates to running (especially that it’s a marathon, not a sprint) to a blank canvas. When I wrote about the suggestion of running as a metaphor for life, as suggested by Oprah Winfrey, a number of people replied with alternative ideas for metaphors for life, exemplifying challenges or goals to be met and overcome, all requiring perseverance and self-belief. Novel writing and other challenges as dissimilar as mountain climbing and ballet dancing were among the several thoughts.

Given the huge variety of offerings, clearly in some ways it boils down to whatever happens to resonate with you. One of the commenters pointed out that for him running is just running. He loves it, appreciates the fact that he can still run, but doesn’t see it as a metaphor for anything. I think I’m more inclined to agree with this blogging friend than with Oprah. Any activity we are sufficiently passionate about (typically involving a physical and/or creative challenge) to push ourselves beyond what we thought was possible is remarkably confidence-building and supremely satisfying. And to a certain extent when we are no longer able to carry out these activities to the extent we once were, they remind us of what is beyond our control. That teaches us acceptance … and possibly humility. Or not. 😉 But not necessarily a metaphor for life in everyone’s book

Let me suggest that a more complete metaphor for life is farming.  I haven’t written about farming for a long time now, so more recent readers of my blog won’t have read tales about the 9 years 2 city “kids” (my husband and I) spent farming! OK, so it was a little more than 40 years ago and, yes, we weren’t full-time farmers, but the lessons we learned have never left us. Never.  It was a privilege to have had that experience.

Our older son learning to take good care of the chicksChickens

The lessons are many, but it is the overarching theme of the lessons that make me believe that farming is such an appropriate metaphor for life. Because in life, there are always things that you can’t control. You have to figure out how to work around those impediments, or accept them and change paths altogether. Sometimes the best laid plans just don’t work out, through no fault of your own. We learn from these setbacks, and hopefully we pick ourselves up and move forward. Sometimes that’s easier said than done. Sometimes, sadly, we just give up.

When you’re farming, all these things happen. It’s guaranteed.  But you can’t give up, because there are animals that need you. You can’t give up, because it’s your livelihood. Your family relies on you finding solutions to these challenges, which can arise at any time.

Ultimately, Mother Nature is in charge. You learn that really quickly when farming.  You can have high quality livestock, the best possible equipment, and good access to markets, but if the weather doesn’t cooperate, you can have lots of problems. Lots. You can have early frosts, late frosts, heavy rains during planting or harvesting, droughts during the growing and grazing seasons, you name it.  When any of these things happen, your first feeling is, “we’re screwed.”  Then you have to stop and figure out what your options are, what IS within your control, and go for it. Innovate when you can, regroup when you need to, and accept that you won’t meet your initial goals for the year when that becomes obvious. Then plan for how to move forward.

Haying back in those halcyon daysHaying

You need to attend not only to your kids when they’re sick but also your animals. You may well have an emotional attachment to them (or to some of them, at least), but regardless you have a big investment in these animals. They’re in your care until they’re in someone’s freezer. And sometimes, despite all your good care, you have to deal with losing an animal, to a problem in birthing, an injury, disease, or an attack by wildlife.

Proud mama, Pebbles, with her newbornCows

You can find yourself in personally dangerous situations. You’re working with big powerful animals and big powerful (and very expensive) equipment. Both are unpredictable, especially the animals. So you always need to be vigilant in your actions and movement around both. You learn to respect the importance of paying attention at all times.

Farmers deal with all of these challenges and more. They learn to have enormous respect for Mother Nature. And despite so many things that can go wrong – including supply and demand changing their calculations, often due to global changes rather than local ones – there is no life that most farmers would rather have if it’s up to them.

These are the reasons why I believe farming is a very powerful, very complete metaphor for life. It’s filled with all kinds of challenges over which farmers have minimal control, so they must always be thinking of ways to mitigate potential challenges. It is a life of risk and reward, of hard work and perseverance, and yet provides an enormous sense of satisfaction. Having spent those few years all those years ago trying our hand at farming, there is no-one we have more respect for than farmers.

P.S. Furthermore, farmers can also be excellent bloggers, just like runners. Thanks to Country Girl and DM for being two of my earliest blogging friends. ❤

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28 Responses to Metaphors for life: instead of Oprah’s running, let’s try farming!

  1. dfolstad58 says:

    I have never farmed but I used to visit my grandfather’s farm in the summer and sometimes in spring when there were lambs. I am glad as it allowed me to know my grandfather well. He was a hard worker, had a huge heart, a wonderful sense of humor. I would tell you a story here but maybe it would make a superb blog post and I need the inspiration. But definitely there are many metaphors and I often think cycling would be a good metaphor for life. Another might be a box of laxatives. LOL – metaphors are flexible. ha ha (i hope you chuckled) – – David

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Wow, I’ve always appreciated farmers, but you’ve upped my respect for them 100 fold! Thank you. I’ll add them all to my prayer list!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I didn’t know you were a farmer, Jane, and I’m curious about why you left the life. Perhaps other career opportunities came knocking? What I didn’t quite appreciate about farming until your post is that this career teaches one how to become a problem-solver, a skill that everyone needs but which too many don’t have.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Debra, you have hit the nail on the head with problem solving being a continual feature of farming. It’s an integral part of that way of life, innovating a solution on the fly and then coming up with a more solid solution once the immediate task (or catastrophe) is over. We were never full-time farmers, we were hobby farmers who learned so many lessons from our F-T farming neighbours. As is explained in my link to an early blog post, we bought the farm because my husband wasn’t convinced that he wanted to buy a small bungalow in which to welcome our first child, so asked if there were any farms for sale! There’s a strong BC connection to how we got into farming per se. We visited Stanley Park in Vancouver when said first born was a baby and fell in love with the Scottish Highland cattle in the zoo there. A year later there was an ad in the local paper that a judge in Moncton was selling a bull calf and a heifer. We could have our own Highland cattle! It grew from there. The reason we eventually decided to move into town was because all our kids’ friends lived in town, and their activities. It was the right move, but we wouldn’t have missed those years for anything.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Can’t say I farmed, but I grew up in a farm town, and I love a good metaphor. My brother-in-law is a farmer, and my nephew, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow, Jane, you never cease to inspire! So many lessons for living are all around us if we allow ourselves to be open to them. Lovely post and photos! Thank you for sharing 💜

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Margaret says:

    A very enlightening post Jane, as well as powerful. No wonder you wouldn’t have missed those years for anything! The powerful message for me is “you can’t give up”. Such an important message for us in so many ways especially amidst OUR current state of shite, literally and metaphorically!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Margaret. You’re right, in the current state of the world we’re all in need of reassurance and positive reinforcement, but we don’t seem to be getting much of that from the top! We have to figure out what’s within our own control and come up with ways to be change agents, individually and collectively.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Wynne Leon says:

    What an interesting metaphor, Jane. I love the resilience needed to face so much uncertainty that your list suggests. And of course also the respect for Mother Nature. You make a good case!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You just keep surprising when you share a little more about yourself, Jane. A farmer! My wife farmed for over 20 years — goats, sheep, chickens, and cows. She said more than anything it was the wildlife attacks (foxes, coyotoes, raccoons) that made it emotionally difficult for her. You never knew what you’d find dismembered from overnight when you’d step outside in the morning. – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jane Fritz says:

      20 years, wow. We started with 2 Highland and ended up with 16 cows, a horse and then her colt, a few pigs every year, chickens, and bees. We were lucky never to see a coyote. A fox got a chicken and some visiting ducks, a rat got several of our baby chicks (ewww), and 2 of our cows got too curious about a passing porcupine, leading to the unique project of removing MANY quills from the faces of reluctant (and big) cows.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I grew up in farm country and helped out in the summers. I had to laugh at your use of the words hobby farmers. I don’t care how big of farm you had — it’s a full time job. A tough one too. I have nothing but respect for farmers. Fascinating stuff. Thanks so much for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Lol. Thanks, Brian, you’re right! I think the term hobby farmer is more to mark the distinction from farmers whose main livelihood comes from the farm. But as far as your animals, crops, etc. are concerned, they’re not a hobby, they’re an ongoing responsibility. But so rewarding.

      Liked by 1 person

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