Think twice about the Green Acres life

Austin American-Statesman - - AUSTIN360 DAILY - Carolyn Hax

Dear Carolyn: My hus­band and I are look­ing to move out to the coun­try and grow our food, have chick­ens, and a few other live­stock (goats, ducks) once we learn what we’re do­ing. He’s in­cred­i­bly ex­cited and has started plan­ning things like how he’ll raise crick­ets to feed to the fish and then the fish will fer­til­ize the garden and we can feed garden scraps to the crick­ets (and worms, which we al­ready raise) — and while I don’t be­grudge him his plan­ning and ex­cite­ment, he also has a job where he is away for three or more months at a time.

That would leave me to take care of any­thing he brings into this equa­tion. I feel like I have some veto rights since I don’t want to have crick­ets as pets while he’s away and have to take care of ev­ery­thing my­self. He got up­set and said I can’t tell him what he can and can’t do.

I agree with that to a point, but at the same time I feel like mar­riage is a com­pro­mise. I’m al­ready will­ing to take care of goats and maybe fish — and that’s push­ing it for me, since I’m not ex­actly a farm girl. At what point do I have to back off be­cause it’s also his homestead too? (I swear this is a se­ri­ous ques­tion!)

—Feel­ing a Lit­tle Chicken Dear Feel­ing: At what point does he have to back off be­cause it’s also your homestead, too?

Ac­tu­ally, I’m turn­ing around the wrong one of your sen­tences. This is the nut:

He can’t tell you what you can and can’t do — in­clud­ing weed the crick­ets or fish for goats (third-gen­er­a­tion sub­ur­ban home­steader here) while he spends three months on the road.

Both of you know this, which is one of two red flags un­furl­ing in your let­ter: When he pulled his petu­lant you-can’t-makeme! stuff, why didn’t your mind go straight to call­ing him, in the warm­est of ways, on the fer­til­izer in his logic? Why did it go in­stead to won­der­ing whether you’re wrong and he’s right?

Par­don the phras­ing, but you sound cowed by him. Red Flag 1.

The sec­ond one is that your mar­riage has left the “ours” phase and en­tered the “mine” vs. “yours.” That means a true res­o­lu­tion to the an­i­mal-care mat­ter will re­quire at­ten­tion to the give-and-take bal­ance within your mar­riage. Yes, a strong mar­riage must be flex­i­ble enough to ac­com­mo­date the evolv­ing in­ter­ests of its mem­bers — but that’s not the same as say­ing the mar­riage needs to serve up com­pul­sory, un­com­pen­sated farm la­bor to the mem­ber who de­cides to be­come a farmer.

If you and he can achieve a suf­fi­cient level of calm, then please dis­cuss this cru­cial dis­tinc­tion; if not, then sug­gest tak­ing it to mar­riage coun­sel­ing. Use your veto power here.

In the mean­time, I hope you and he both are spend­ing a great deal of time talk­ing to peo­ple who have ex­pe­ri­ence wran­gling more than worms. You will have lives in your hands, and you have a mo­ral obli­ga­tion to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for no more lives than you’re ca­pa­ble of and com­mit­ted to sus­tain­ing. Please don’t let his ex­cite­ment mo­ti­vate ei­ther of you to in­tro­duce into your port­fo­lio more than one life-form at a time.

Contributed photo by mozart’s cof­fee roaster

The hol­i­day lights show at Mozart’s in Austin.

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