One of my favorite parts of the farm, which really is one of my favorite parts of life, is learning the life lessons that seem to come up all the time. Some of these lessons are like low hanging fruit. They are easy to see and just begging us to learn them. Even if we don’t see this low hanging fruit, we run the risk of running right into it anyway. And some of these lessons are a little higher up on the tree, and if we want to enjoy the benefits of them we have to get a ladder or climb the tree and go up there to get them.
Of all these fruity lessons that are constantly ripening and waiting to be picked, I find myself frequently bumping my head on the low hanging fruits of delayed gratification. I always knew that delayed gratification was often a fine thing, noble even, but this farming venture has made me get up close and personal with it.
Our culture, when you think about it, is very much centered around our desires and immediately gratifying them. Are you hungry? Go to McDonald’s, or Burger King, or any other of a hundred food joints that can get your food out to you in mere moments. Want a new car? Buy one on credit and pay it off later. There are a hundred other examples, and I’m not saying that stopping at a fast food place or buying a new car is bad, but I am saying that our culture teaches us that we should get what we want when we want it. And I do think that an attitude like that… one that is centered around me and what I want and how the world can make me happy… is ultimately destructive to ourselves and those around us.
Back to the farm…. I will say that I have very much been raised in the roughly the same culture as everyone else, and it took me a bit of getting used to how things work on a farm… namely the idea that so much of all that we do is for the future. Take the gardens, where you spend countless hours preparing the soil, planting the seeds, watering the plants, and weeding the garden before you can even think of harvesting anything from it. Then, once you harvest from it, half of the stuff gets frozen or canned and put away for an even later date. Another example would be the goats…besides feeding and watering them twice a day everyday and cleaning the barn regularly, we built the goat barn for them. We got a buck and bred them. And we waited five months while doing prenatal care and finally(!!!), we got to have goat kids and goat milk. These are just two examples, but you get the idea. A farm is a place where you put a lot of work in for a long time before you reap the rewards. That is delayed gratification.
So, what is better about having something later as opposed to having something now. Let me tell you. I feel like a king every time I sit down with a cup of goat’s milk and sip it, and the great part is, I have more than I could ever drink. There is great satisfaction in working hard for something and achieving it, and failing along the way only makes the end that much better. Also, I know a lot about goats now. I am by no means an expert, but I am delighted to say that I have learned a lot of really fascinating things… mostly because we had to blunder our way through various issues. Finally, such work builds character. Hard, apparently unrewarding work is magnificent at developing self-control, patience, and perseverance, qualities which I think we all would admit we could use some more of.
Now we all have our projects and goals that try to teach us delayed gratification, and I am not at all trying to preach to people who probably understand the concept better than I. Instead, based on what our little farm has taught me, I want to encourage others as they undertake or are in the midst of their formidable tasks or are even considering doing something hard where the end is obviously to their benefit. These things have their own form of goat milk at the end, and it is rich and creamy.