When I was growing up, I wanted to be beautiful. I wanted to be intelligent, and interesting, and funny. I craved feeling self-assured, put together, chic.
I never thought to work towards being scrappy. That one is coming much, much later in life.
When some think of scrappy, they think dirty, untidy, or all over the place. For me, however, scrappy is the epitome of being a true farm girl by leveraging what you have to create what you need.
There is a woman who lives across the country in upstate New York named Jenna Woginrich. She has redefined the word scrappy – if you look it up in the dictionary, chances are her photo will be a gleaming beacon of all things scrap. She, a single woman in her early 30s, has managed to create a thriving farm with all sorts of livestock and pays her mortgage without having a traditional full-time office job. Of course, she works something like 100 hours a week to maintain her animals, do graphic design, and teach workshops on everything from playing the fiddle to making soap, as well as writing a truly magnificent blog (Cold Antler Farm – one of my all time favorites). However, she mostly does it, I’d argue, by having an overwhelming amount of scrappiness.
Our friends down the road who own Stoneboat Farm, also have just a crapton-o-scrap. In the time that we managed to plant a few tomato plants and have a baby, they launched a thriving CSA, sell at several large supermarkets, and have their gorgeous vegetables at a dozen restaurants…and also have a baby. Again, it seems like half of their methodology is simply by being scrappy and using what they have. (As well as tons of passion and knowledge and experience…but that’s not the point of this particular post.)
As a New York City girl, I never had to covet this quality. If a shoe was wearing out, you threw it out. If the handle broke off a mug, you threw out the mug. Buying consignment was only done if it was by a designer, and thanks to my parents profound generosity, do without wasn’t a concept I had around anything I needed, or many things I wanted.
Now that we own a farm, however, scrappiness is a premium trait, as HOLY CANOLLI, a farm is an expensive place to live. Raising animals is a mind-blowingly expensive proposition if you want to raise them safely, on pasture, and with local and organic feed, which we do. And it only gets more expensive if you buy all the infrastructure that they need new.
So, slowly but surely, we’re building up our scrap appeal. Instead of buying new tin to cover their chicken tractors, we’re using scrap metal from a barn roof that was being pulled down up the road. Instead of buying a tractor, we’re making due with wheelbarrows, a 10 year old ride on mower we’ve named Stu, and a lot of walking. Instead of buying new furniture, we’ve mostly gratefully accepted family and friends cast-offs and loans (a new bookshelf, however, is definitely on the way.)
Don’t get me wrong – we are a long, long way from ever being able to call ourselves scrappy (Anthony is much closer. I still look to Amazon before Craigslist. <— working on it). However, at least now I have a clearer sense of what I am working towards – a life of sane and happy usefulness, with much scrap and less waste.