Folks often ask me how I balance being both a farmer and a pastor. Mostly I quip that farming is essential for my mental health. The truth is some days finding a balance between the two can be quite challenging. Throw in being a parent to two young kids and life can be downright exhausting!
As we began gathering for Dinner Church we only met once a month. Seems reasonable to expect that being away from the farm a couple of hours once a month would not prove difficult, but that would be wrong. One Dinner Church Sunday I was getting ready for worship, bread was baking in the oven, soup simmering on the stove, everything packed a ready to go, so I decided to slip out and check on something in the garden before I left. Walking past Mickey’s pen (our sow)I noticed a wet, squirming piglet next to her. Then I saw another! It took a minute to dawn on me that she was farrowing (farmer speak for pigs giving birth). Of all the days! I called Bones and the kids over to watch. While we looked on she had 7 little piglets.
Looking at my watch, I worried that she wouldn’t finish before we needed to leave for church. Not that she really needed us there to help, but the occasional piglet can end up in the wrong place and get crushed while mama pig is in the throes of delivery. So I called the friend we bought Mickey from and asked her to come. We drove off as piglet #8 was entering the world. As church began, my phone in my pocket was still buzzing from texts as each new piglet arrived. We came home from church to a quiet farm, mama pig nursing her 11 piglets and our friend had returned home. Satisfied that all was well, I laughed about how I might be the only pastor who gets ready for church by calling in a friend to take over pig midwifery so she can get to worship on time.
Another day was a bit more hectic. I sometimes help out when my friends are butchering poultry, so leading up to Thanksgiving I spent several days with them processing birds. The first day was the most miserable weather day of the year – high winds, driving sleet and rain, bitter cold. I had planned to get there just after dropping the kids off at school and feeding my animals, but school was delayed 2 hours. So instead, I headed out early to get my animals fed and watered before bundling the kids up for school. I arrived to help with turkeys but kept my phone close figuring it was likely school would get called early due to the rapidly deteriorating weather. I did get a call from the school, but it was a message that they were on lock-down due to a threat of gun violence at the high school. Freezing cold, worried about my kids, I continued eviscerating turkeys until I had to leave for an appointment in town to counsel someone. I changed pants and shoes to at least try to look presentable. After the appointment, I raced back to pick kids up from school. I had planned to return to help with the turkey processing when I got a call that our boar was on the main road near our house. I dropped the kids at the house and went back out driving up and down the road looking for him. No luck. Soon Bones arrived home and we set out walking in different directions to find him. Finally, I heard her coaxing him down the old logging road between our two properties. With him back safely (thankfully not having caused a car accident!) I had just enough time to shower and change into “city” clothes and head back to town to lead Eucharist/Vespers at church. As I walked out the door, Jake reminded me about some items he needed for a craft project at school and it had to be there the next day. So I led worship in town followed by a quick run into the craft store on my way home, where I crashed. A big day of playing mom/pastor/farmer!
Most days are not quite so crazy, but there are moments when ministry and farming collide in interesting, surprising, sometimes difficult, but often wonderful ways. Like talking with someone about faith and life and God while standing at the evisceration table processing chickens. Or having to ask the host for Dinner Church to please cover up the dead lamb in the back of his pick-up as people begin to arrive for church. Or talking to potential new church folks across my table at market when they find out I’m a pastor as well as a farmer. Or providing support to my fellow market vendors, because they call me pastor too, as they go through the same ups and downs of farming that I know so well. Or watching a parishioner’s farm when they go away. Or being able to feed people with really great food that I’ve grown myself and inviting them to the farm to share the peace and tranquility I find here.