How to tell if you’re infected.

Certain people, myself included, are afflicted by a condition that’s difficult to describe. It’s not recognized by physicians or psychoanalysts (yet), but it’s really only a matter of time before it’s a household diagnosis. It’s a sharp, targeted depression, a sudden overcast feeling that hits you while you’re at work or standing in the grocery-store checkout line. It’s a dreamer’s disease, a mix of hope, determination, and grit. It attacks those of us who wish to God we were outside with our flocks, feed bags, or harnesses instead of sitting in front of a computer screen. When a severe attack hits, it’s all you can do to sit still. The room gets smaller, your mind wanders, and you are overcome with the desire to be tagging cattle ears or feeding pigs. (People at the office water cooler will stare and slowly back away if you say this out loud. If this happens to you, just segue into sports banter and you’ll be fine.)

The symptoms are mild at first. You start reading online homesteading forums and shopping at cheese-making supply sites on your lunch break. You go home after work and instead of turning on the television, you bake a pie and study chicken-coop building plans. Then somehow, somewhere along the way you realize that you’re happiest when you’re weeding the garden or collecting eggs from the henhouse. It’s all downhill from there. When you accept that a fulfilling life requires tractor attachments and a septic system, it’s too late.

You’ve already been infected with the disease.

This condition is roughly defined as the state of knowing unequivocally that you want to be a farmer but, due to personal circumstances, cannot be one just yet. So there you are, heartsick and confused in the passing lane, wondering why you can’t stop thinking about heritage-breed livestock and electric fences. Do not be afraid. You are not alone. You have what I have. You are suffering from Barnheart.

But do not panic, my dear friends; there is a remedy! The condition must be fought with direct, intentional actions that yield tangible, farm-related results. If you find yourself overcome with the longings of Barnheart, simply step outside, get some fresh air, and breathe. Go back to your desk and finish your office work, knowing that tonight you’ll be taking notes on spring garden plans and perusing seed catalogs. Usually, those small, simple actions that lead you in the direction of your own farm can help ease the longing.

At times, though, you might find yourself resorting to extreme measures — calling in “sick” to work in the garden, muck out chicken coops, collect eggs, and bake bread. After all, this is a disease of inaction, and it hits us hardest when we are furthest from our dreams. If you find yourself suffering, make plans to visit an orchard, a dairy farm, or a livestock auction. Go pick berries at a local U-pick farm. Busy hands will get you on the mend.

And when you find yourself sitting in your office, classroom, or café and your mind wanders to dreams of the farming life, know that you are not alone. There are those of us who also long for the bitter scent of manure and sweet odor of hay in the air, to feel the sun on our bare arms. (I can just about feel it, too, even in January, in a cubicle on the third floor of an office building.) Even though we straighten up in our ergonomic desk chairs, we’d rather be stretched out in the bed of a pickup truck, drinking in the stars on a crisp fall night.

When your mind wanders like this and your heart feels heavy, do not lose the faith, and do not fret about your current circumstances. Everything changes. If you need to stand in the slanting light of an old barn to lift your spirits, go for it. Perhaps someday you’ll do this every day. For some, this is surely the only cure. I may be such a case.

We’ll get there. In the meantime, let us just take comfort in knowing we’re not alone. And maybe take turns standing up and admitting we have a problem.

Hello. My name is Jenna. And I have Barnheart.

 

Excerpted from Barnheart © by Jenna Woginrich,

used with permission from Storey Publishing.

Now available.  Click here to read more

 

by Josh and Brent

Reader Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Ellen Kitty

So that's what it's called! Whenever I'm at the horse barn I absolutely HATE to leave, and I will willingly much out stalls, groom horses, or hand walk a sick one. When I do leave I feel like that hole in my center has been filled. A close friend, a real city girl, once told me that I would be happiest on a farm.

Reply
Grammy G.

My husband and I have always suffered from Barnheart and just found our therapy this past year. We bought a log cabin with 8 acres, added to our chicken flock and started an organic garden!! We are getting ready for more chicks, some turkeys and who knows what else???? Life Is Good for us Country Retirees.

Reply
Casie

I'm anxiously awaiting my signed copy of Barnhart, direct from Battenkill books!!

I've been reading Jenna's blog for over a year now and love how real she is. Nothing about living her dream is sugar coated that's for sure.

Reply
Roger

I think I recognize this condition – in reverse. Both of my parents grew up on farms and we lived on one for the first five years of my life after I came along. But then my Dad was forced, for reasons of health, to quit farming and take up an occupation in town, and then we moved to a big city. The rest is history. But as I have observed my Dad over the many years since I can tell that "you can take the man off the farm, but you can't take the farm off the man." He has always been a farmer at heart and it affects him to this day even though he is now in his 80's. He is happiest … not at the World Series, or on a golf course, or even in a fishing boat. His big joy during the whole year is the county fair, where he can be found in the stock barns, or looking over the displays of farm equipment and machinery. And at home he works tirelessly in his large garden out back. My mother still keeps about a dozen chickens and she's always canning something or working in her flower beds. I've learned that it just doesn't wear off.

Reply
Cathy

I've been following Jenna for awhile now. She is an excellent writer, very open and fresh. I followed my "Barnheart" six years ago and now the pitchfork is my buddy!

Reply
Connie Wedding

Loved that! Made me cry for some reason. Must mean I am inflicted with the same condition. LOL

Reply
Linda Schoener

I believe it's also a romantic thought to have my own farm….a few sheep, ducks, chickens, a Llama or two…..but I'm too old to go for it, so I watch and read about Brent and Josh and their lives on the Beekman, and I'm content to garden in my 24'x 12' plot, and tend my herb gardens and flower gardens….and by the end of the day when the body aches and I'm so tired I can't get out of the chair, the romance is gone and I'm glad I don't have to go and close up a barn door or feed any animals….Maybe in my next lifetime, I'll be a farmer, for now I'll eat Blaak cheese and read the Fab Beekman Boy books, and dream………

Reply
Luann

I have been infected for years (20+) and this year I finally acted on it. I have followed Jenna's website and now I will be following yours. In the spring I intend to add a couple milk goats, some differnt chicken breeds and a couple turkeys to my homestead. I LOVE this life and I thank those who write about their experience because I continue to learn and grow.

Reply
Linda Turner

Finally! A diagnosis and name for this wonderful affliction…

and it's so good to know we're not alone! A great story.

Reply
Kimberly

I have all the symptoms and knew the cure – just didn't have a name for it. However, I don't want to be completely cured. That desire and drive is who I am and defines my dreams and ambitions.

Reply
Sara

YAY, Jenna! I'm so excited to see her featured here! She's the person who introduced me to the two of you two autumns ago when I was visiting her and it led me to an impromptu stop at last year's Harvest Festival and my first time meeting Brent! She sure is one hell of a lady – everyone needs to read her stuff!

Reply
Leigh

I have it too. I was just vaccinated yesterday with my own John Deere 2040 40 hp diesel 2 wheel drive tractor.

More doses have been prescribed by my physician.

Reply
Lorrie

Barnhart….I can finally put a name to this state of melancholy that I have been experiencing. I, too, long for the comforting smells of cow manure and pig manure or the smell of hay bales in the barn. I envy those that have the guts to leave everything behind and pursue their dreams and the challenge of everyday farm life.

Reply
necee

Hello, my name is Necee and…I have suffered with Barnheart for years. At first I suffered from denial of Barnheart out of an irrational fear of persecution from the cubicle people I worked with.But I learned to overcome my fear by immersing myself in herb gardening,shopping at farmers markets, and reading Martha Stewart Living on my own time. Now that my own time, is "all" of the time,I have developed a tolerance to Barnheart and happily accept my disability 🙂

Reply
Irene Garner

I'm into herbs— big time! I find that I need to be doing something with them at all times. Drying, making teas, herbal infused oils, looking on the computer at sights for herbs and aromatherapy and making soaps. Can't get enough!!!!

Reply
Kathleen

My name is Kathleen and I too have barnheart! I find planning next years garden is soothing.

Reply