I wonder if Marie Kondo has ever farmed? I wonder what the Japanese author and queen of organizing (who’s taken Netflix and The New York Times Bestseller list by storm) would think of me, and just about every other farmer I know, who keeps a stash of discarded hay bale twine hanging in their barn. A twisted jumble of orange and purple, reminding me, as I pass it, of the various farmers I’ve bought hay from. There was a pre-existing hook nailed into the wall, already full of twine when I arrived, carefully collected day after day, chore after chore, by the family who farmed in my little valley before me. Sometimes those twines go unused for years, then just when you least expect it and could not have planned for it, there is suddenly a dire NEED for them. To hang the water feeders for the new day-old chicks. Or when you’re trying to jerry-rig a thingamabob to a whatsit and don’t have any rope on hand.
I wonder what Marie would think of the old piano parts stacked up in one part of my barn, with no current use for them, but surely with a latent one brewing, as decided by the original farmer who put them there. Or those two old, dusty headboards that were lingering up in the hay loft for years, until a girlfriend and I dragged them out, scrubbed, cleaned, polished them and then used them at my Airbnb as the finishing touch in the attic bedroom. There are a multitude of old windows in my barn. One day a spell will be cast allowing them to fly seamlessly through the air and assemble themselves into the greenhouse of my dreams. There’s the stack of window screens I stumbled upon while cleaning out another part of my barn last summer. I gasped with delight when I saw them, because when I do grow herbs in bulk for organic teas, salves and tinctures, the screens will make the most excellent (and free) drying racks.
And if I don’t, if I don’t do all these things, it might be that someone else does. Or someone else realizes their own, very different, farmer dream, with the same materials on hand. Not all stuff needs to “spark joy,” unused does not equate to useless, and not all surplus should be tossed out and upon the “unwanted” seas lost. Frugal farmgirls know that “sparking joy” exists across a different time-space continuum than the one that other folks might use. Especially when even just the musing, and the dreaming, about the greenhouse and the herb drying brings joy.
So why not let things gather dust and wait? For just like spring bulbs resting underground, they will delight us when we didn’t know we needed them, bursting forth into our lives as a riot of color, ideas and infinite options. So, let’s surrender ourselves, to an outcome that cannot be measured with certainty. Let’s believe there are “joys” in existence that are impossible to calculate before they reveal themselves to us.
Etienne White lives where the land meets the sky on a farm in Iowa County where she raises grass-fed, Old English Babydoll sheep, as well as pastured chickens, a happy farm dog, a wily barn cat and her two spirited children. She runs a consulting business working at the intersection of sustainability and marketing, and is a sought-after speaker on sustainability in the United States and Europe.