City Man Turns Farmer: The Not-So-Simple Life

A city man decides to trade in his workaday routine for a new life as a farmer...and gets more than he bargained for.

| September/October 1989


Buying the cow I always wanted led me into matrimony, blasting, geology, pig-raising, window repair, plumbing installation, and a whole host of new responsibilities as a small farmer.


Well, sir, the other day MOTHER reader Pete Manzolillo was going through a box of old books, and he found the November 1940 issue of the American Mercury. (It was headlined, "Farley for President! The Mercury Presents Its Candidate for 1940.") The inquisitive Mr. M. found one essay in that dusty old magazine—"written by an ex-farmer" funny enough to send along to us. And we liked it so much that, for the first time ever, we're going to let "Last Laugh" eat up more than one page just to get it all in. So sit back for a piece of rural wit that, somehow, seems just as appropriate today as it did 49 years ago. 

I used to be a timid thin man. I never got on very well in the city. When I was talking to people, they tended to drift away, or they turned to someone else and said, "Having nice weather, aren't we?" I didn't see in my job any of the heroic aspects my superiors were always glorying in, so probably I wasn't very good at it. For a while I turned to poetry and wrote a beauty about the song of the hermit thrush, but everybody in the office thought it was la-di-da. I didn't like noise or smoke or subways or hurrying or playing golf or getting drunk Saturday nights, so I began to think there must be something wrong.

I went to a psychoanalyst who told me I disliked everything too much. For this I took a great dislike to the psychoanalyst. I refused to pay five bucks for this new hate, and the psychoanalyst ended by hating me. So I decided to Get Away From It All—to move from the city to the great quiet of the country and simplify my life. I bought a farm far up in New England, and I bought a cow, too. I had always wanted to own a cow and watch it cropping my grass while I dreamed the days away.

At five o'clock the first afternoon I went to the pasture to milk my cow among the daisies and buttercups. The flies seemed to bother her a lot, and she wrapped her tail around my face three times with a loud crack. A good deal of milk went up my sleeves and over my knees, but there remained an additional two gallons in the pail. When I had achieved this result, the cow placed one hoof in the bucket, turned it over and walked thoughtfully to a patch of clover.

The next day I hitched her in the barn for milking, and then she  gave two pailfuls and I didn't know what to do with it. One of my farmer neighbors suggested I get a pig, make butter of the cream, and raise the pig on the skimmed milk. This idea fitted in very well with my simple plan for a simple life. I would be a self-sustaining unit in the good old-fashioned way. So I bought a pig. I also bought a cream separator, a churn and a cream can, a butter worker and some wooden paddles, besides numerous buckets.

I discovered promptly that making butter was a terrific job. The neighbors, however, told me a man couldn't make butter the way a woman could, and that I ought to have a wife. There was nothing else to do; I got myself a wife right off.

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