Doing Has No Need of Wishing

Sharon April 29th, 2010

This weekend we attended an event at the library designed to get kids excited about poetry - each age level had a different writing and art project to do.  The project for first graders involved making  a list of wishes, and Isaiah set laboriously to writing down his most secret desire.  At six, he does not write easily or fluently, although his spelling is quite good.  And there, scrawled across a whole page, meant the long list of wishes that one assumes fill the dreams of small children, was this “I wish I had a farm.”

This occasioned some comment among the event’s organizers - a number of the adults mentioned that they too had the same wish, and expressed surprise that a child should wish for this.  There was amusement when I said that we did, in fact,  live on a farm.  But I also knew what Isaiah meant.

You see, Isaiah from as early as I can remember, took to this life in ways my other children did not.  They all love the animals and the open spaces, the creek and the gardens, the climbing trees and the woods to play in, but of all my children, Isaiah is organically, naturally, innately a farm child.  Of my sons, he is the most fascinated by plants and animals, most anxious to participate in anything domestic.  When he was younger, he hated to leave the farm, although he’s grown more adventurous with time.

Isaiah loves to cook and can bake a mean pan of cornbread almost by himself or a sheet full of chocolate chip cookies.  He can name more plants than Eric can, and when Asher scraped a finger recently, Isaiah was the one who ran to the lamb’s ears to make a bandage for him.  Every animal on the farm likes and trusts him, and he alone can pick up every bird on the whole farm.  He loves to build and mend things.  When he was two, as we left for a visit to his Grandmother in New York City, each child was allowed to pick something to bring with them for the trip.  My other children brought favorite books and toys.  Isaiah brought a salad he’d picked himself - sorrel, mint, lettuce, mizuna, arugula - as a gift for his grandmother.  I think that salad still says something deep about my child.

He’s not a perfect child by any means - he can be just as cranky and mean to his brothers as anyone else -  but he has an astounding generosity for a child his age, something that seems innate in him, since he has had it since birth.  When there isn’t enough candy to go around, Isaiah is the first to offer his up to a friend or a brother.  He likes giving things away so much that he saves up his money to make more donations of trees and animals to the Heifer Fund than the ones we subsidize.  If he does spend his money on himself, it is often for plants - while his brothers want candy or toys, Isaiah just bought himself a bamboo plant which he carefully carries out to the porch each morning and in every cold night.  I take no credit for any of this - it all comes from deep inside of him, and we are fortunate that he is so well suited to his place.

And I know, because he tells us, what Isaiah’s farm dream is - he wants more animals, more kinds of creatures.  He wants a tall, two story barn with a hayloft, and ideally, barn cats to chase and bales of hay to climb in.  He wants more of the animals to be his own special ones, his to care for and choose.  He wants to sell more things, be a true working farm with people coming down the drive to buy eggs and plants - and sometimes from him.  He wants it to be beautiful to others, beautiful to us, integral to the landscape and to the community - the place our neighbors come to buy what they need that we can provide.  He wants to be part of the diversified small farm of every child’s dream.

I admit, I dream of a hayloft myself, but I can’t give him that…as yet.  Our hay barn remains a small, low building.  But what we can perhaps give him is precisely the rest of it - slowly, slowly we are returning from days Isaiah can barely remember, to being a true working farm.  Over the years of my intensive writing projects, we’ve let many of things we did in our first CSA years fall apart - the gardens were enough to feed us but have gotten smaller, many maintenence projects were deferred for lack of time and energy as the computer took up more and more of my days.

I still have to finish one more book (by spring of next year), but the pace has slowed and I am able to focus on our next steps.   Like Isaiah, I have a “real farm dream” - but it is slightly different.  It has more perennials in it, and different animals, a hoophouse for winter greens, summer heat lovers and rapid solar drying of my herbs.  It has a small building for displaying our wares - the eggs, the bedding plants and herbs, the tinctures, salves and creams, salad greens and flower,  a list of other products for sale - rabbits, dairy goats, baby chicks. 

Eventually it has a two story barn with a hayloft and room enough for all the creatures that eat our good grass and grow fat and rich with milk.  Eventually, I dream there will be hayloft.

Someday I dream of  barter with the neighbors for pasturage, perhaps, for a pair of working horses to haul logs out of the woods for firewood and cut hay.  Or maybe we’ll finally break down and get a tractor, who knows.  I understand the horses better, though.

Eventually the young perennials I am planting right now will grow large and begin to produce, and I will have nuts and new fruits to sell, and elderberry syrup and currant and aronia juice to sell.  I’m waiting until the children have the fun of climbing up the trees to help the harvest - it is hard to believe that someday they will need to climb.

Eventually, we will begin seeing the fruit of our breeding and selecting of small backyard dairy goats for thrift and hardiness - and I hope we will begin to see them popping up in yards.  I find that the best advertisement for the goats is the goats themselves - it is not possible to meet them without beginning to consider ways you could bring these small creatures home to your own yard.

I’m still mulling over sheep in the long term, and a host of other projects.  My goal is a year round income - products that come and go with each season, workloads that move around the year, if not evenly, gracefully. 

I dream of a place to teach classes, to invite people in.  I dream of neighbors all sitting down to a homegrown thanksgiving turkey.  I dream of open-farm days and tomato tastings. 

I have no idea how many of these dreams will come true, or whether Isaiah will ever get the farm he dreams of.  I hope he does - at least some of it - with us. I hope as he grows bigger, we are wise enough to let him make as much as he can of our place in his image, so that he doesn’t feel he has to go off, seeking a farm that he could never find at home.  I tell him that we can try and make our farm into what he wants - that it will take time and determination and work, and if he’s not afraid of those things, it may well happen.

The old saying “Doing has no need of wishing” is only partly true, you know.  It is true that you need not stand about in hopeless desire for something that seems so far away an unattainable if you set to making it happen.  But there is a time and a place for wishing, for the innocent dreaming of what could be.  I’m glad my son wishes a farm, and I’m looking forward to a long future of doing the work of making both our wishes come true.


13 Responses to “Doing Has No Need of Wishing”

  1. MEA says:

    Sharon, like so much of what you write, this is both deep and moving.

    And yet, it brings to mind a recent incident with my younger daugher. She loves to write stories, which are, in fact, a list of people in her family (a term she uses in include anyone she loves) and information about them.

    The last one was about people’s dreams.
    And after each one, she wrote, I hope _______’s dream comes true — except for the bit about me.

    “My mother is MEA. She is 48. Her dream is to have chickens. I hope this dream does not come true. Her dream is smelly and extra work. Also my sister does not like farm fresh eggs.”

  2. Cpcable says:

    Oh, Sharon! This brought tears to my eyes. My dad is a farmer and I and all my siblings were never, ever encouraged to follow in his footsteps. We grew up in a time when getting the kids off the farm and into “real” jobs was the ultimate goal and now I’m an adult who is struggling to get back to the farm and lacking the skills to do so. Isaiah is so blessed to have been born into a family that supports and nurtures his dream. It’s a beautiful thing.

  3. jen says:

    I also have tears in my eyes from this - so beautiful. I’ve been thinking this week about my own childhood and wishing I had parents who understood my dreams. What a great story - what a wonderful boy, with such a great mom. Best wishes for the hayloft!

  4. Mama Bean says:

    I like your and Isaiah’s farm dreams. We’re still living in a city, but we have little farmlette dreams, too. Thank-you for sharing and inspiring :)

    I met some baby goats this spring, and I totally know what you mean about instantly thinking how they could fit into the dream…!

  5. Brad K. says:


    Reading what you see as Isaiah’s dream, says so very much about you and his adoration for you. Your family has built a very beautiful little person, with a wonderful mother.

  6. kathy says:

    This is my second most favorite piece ever. The first is your story of the farm ark. Lucky children-lucky mother.

  7. Samantha in Oz says:

    This post warmed my heart, just when my heart needed warming.

    We have some miserable neighbours who treat their various animals like dirt, and not five minutes ago I watched one of them chasing a squawking, flapping chicken down our shared laneway with a large net. I wondered: why can’t these people understand that animals treated kindly are *much* easier to handle than ones treated cruelly?

    Then I came inside and read your comment about Isaiah, that “Every animal on the farm likes and trusts him, and he alone can pick up every bird on the whole farm.”

    This brought tears to my eyes. Please tell Isaiah “Thanks” from me for being such a kind and generous person.

  8. Kim in SD says:

    What wonderful virtues to nurture, and what a wonderful thing that his mother (and I’m sure, father) recognizes them. Your words flow across the paper & give such feeling to this piece. My wish is for Isaiah to find his farm, as well. You are all on a wonderful journey.

  9. Kris says:

    Sharon, this was lovely. I think your kids are so fortunate to have the life you and your husband are providing them, and your farm family (animals) so lucky to have caretakers that truly care about them. I hope all your farm dreams come true and I look forward to reading about your progress as you make them a reality.

  10. Rain23 says:

    No matter how harsh the news is, no matter how hard the day, somehow there is always a small light. Today it was reading the words you wrote and knowing the next generation wants to carry on those things that make life really worth living.

    Isaiah will have his farm. It may not look or run like the farm I dreamed of, or even the one he envisions right now, but it will bring food and clothing, hard work and happiness together in one place. Isaiah’s dream gives the rest of us hope, maybe not for ourselves, but for someone so sweet who will work and make a good life in the future. Blessings upon him.

  11. Apple Jack Creek says:

    I love Isaiah’s farm dream … it’s like mine, only with brighter colours and the beauty that only a child’s vision can call up.

    Thank you (and Isaiah) for sharing the dream. When the work of making our farm dream a reality is hard, and tiring, and I want to give up, I will remember these words - the picture that this calls up in my head - and keep on doing the things that make the dream real.

    Thank you both for helping to shape my wishes, and so guiding my actions. :)

    “When I grow up, I wanna be a farmer”
    (and the fact that I’m over 40, city raised, and live on only 6 acres is not gonna stop me!)

  12. dltrammel says:

    Very nice post. It put a big grin on my face after a long day at work. The young man sounds like someone who will do well in the coming days of scarcity and no doubt will listen to his Mother in her old age…:)

  13. Silvia says:

    Thank you Sharon and Amen!! A few of my children are like Isaiah and I cherish how each of them connect to our farm. Our youngest son is the one who will take over here (maybe he will have to fight his youngest sister for it or they will have to share) and he appreciates the land, the animals, the gardens, the perennials, the fruit bushes, plants and trees more than the other boys, and yet I know that this will always be “home” for all of them no matter where they may settle.

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