It Pays To Stay Home


One of the unsung advantages of being in love with a garden or a farm is that the lover doesn’t mind staying home and by doing so, saving gobs of money. In fact most of us land lovers much prefer to stay home. A back forty even as small as an acre can be an exciting, fascinating adventure into the farthest reaches of the earth. The great entomologist, Jean Henri Fabre, spent much of his life making amazing discoveries about bugs on the few brushy acres behind his house and writing about them. With 30 acres, I never want for a changing world to travel through, a journey not far in miles but almost infinite in terms of material wonders and splendors deep down into the earth and high up into the ever-changing beauty of the sky.

Staying home has to be one of the most unpopular ideas in America where the whole culture embraces faraway travel as essential to happiness. Many of us don’t really have homes that can provide as much enjoyment as travel promises. Rather than spending our money to acquire such a property, we are taught to buy such enjoyment with far away travel. Perhaps what we need is proper publicity. To advertise traveling at home, a documentary could open with unbelievable close-ups of ants herding and milking aphids on an apple tree, a raccoon destroying a bluebird house, a hawk dive-bombing a mouse, a flint arrowhead sticking out of a creek-side cliff. Then a roll of drums and a voice sonorously introduces the docudrama:  “Today we are going where no explorer has gone before— YOUR BACK FORTY.”

Also, in earlier times, a home could not electronically provide all the connections with the outer world that now make travel almost obsolete. You can visit just about everything now in your living room. It may be true that nothing beats seeing a tourist attraction in person, but today you can get really close-up and intimate sights and insights into such attractions on the Internet without being strip-searched. Just this Sunday, my dear friend, Wendell Berry, was speaking in the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. and will be receiving at the John F. Kennedy Center today (Monday), as I write this, the National Endowment For The Humanities Award, the highest honor given by the government in this field. I was able to watch and listen to him from our living room, closer and more vividly on our computer screen than if I had been there in the audience.

Another advantage of being a farmer, if not a gardener, is that you can often use your work as an excuse not to attend meetings and social affairs you do not want to attend anyway.  We used to have big, loud family gatherings at my grandparents’ house on holidays.  Along about four o’clock in the afternoon, I would assume my standard, long-suffering countenance and with a sigh say that I had to go home and milk the cows.  Everyone understood. The cows had to be milked. Poor Gene.  Poor Gene would then shuffle, downcast, out the door but with a big inward smile.  At least I knew the cows were not going to get in an argument over politics.

Another time, not so many years ago, I politely declined an invitation to give a speech faraway. I hate to give speeches and am not very good at it anyway.  The fellow who was inviting me protested. “You aren’t going to give me that guff about how airplanes are environmentally destructive, are you?” he said. “That plane is going to fly here whether you are on it or not.”

“I can’t come because we will be lambing at that time,” I said, which happened to be the truth.

“Oh!” he said, much more contritely. “I understand.”

Even pulling lambs has its advantages.


I drive a semi for a living. I try to get runs so i stay close to home and still cover about 2500 miles a week so whe i am off. i either head for the farm to try to get it liveable and started or am home not wanting to leave except for food or things that cant be avoided.

Eric, oh that is a thorny problem for me. So many times really great, well-meaning people want to help me out and I don’t know how to tell them no without hurting their feelings. It takes more time and work telling other people what and how to do my farm work than just doing it myself, and I worry myself sick when someone does help out (they are so eager to please) that they will get hurt. I want to tell them that it would be like me offering to help out a group of scientists about to launch a rocket into space. But that sounds overbearing. Gene

And what do you do with those people who want to help you with those animals?

I get it, I get it! Home days are good days. Also, my husband and I spent our honeymoon on a 10-day camping tour, never more than 3 hours from home.

Thank you for this post, Gene. Since my wife and I finally found and bought our dream farm this past October, I’ve only spent one night away from it (with great reluctance). I simply have no desire to be anywhere else. Of course, this means I’m likely shirking responsibilities to friends (17 miles away in town) and family (downstate). I think about that paradox all the time. I don’t know if it is possible to meet our responsibilities to farm, family, and friends without giving too much of ourselves along the way.

Anyway, the one thing I do know is that I’m staying home and cutting firewood today!

Thanks again!

Steven Monserrate April 27, 2012 at 7:15 am

I’ll tell Ken you said hello,and the next time you see him, ask him how his tomatoes are doing.

Take care,

PS. That wildcat was “caught” in Hardin County just outside of the reservation at Fort Knox.

Er, Beth, just a minor point…Kiwi refers only to New Zealanders not Australians…unless Americans and Canadians are all Yankees!

debbieyoungartist April 26, 2012 at 9:28 am

Your comment goes deep. I especially love “Right here, watching the leaves emerge on the same trees out the same windows”. The investment of time, even centuries is worth it.

“…work as an excuse…” Yes. Exactly. It’s easier and politer than saying I don’t want to do something. But I don’t get sympathy. People just suggest that I “get rid of” the animals. No. I want to get rid the people who want me to get rid of the animals.

Pasterizing, huh? So that’s what I’ve been doing. According to my father, it was called loafing and was to be avoided like the plague. I like your definition a lot better, Betty! Nice post, Gene, from one homebody to another. On the small world front, my husband, who worked at the South Pole for three years in the 1980s, became friends with a group of “Kiwis” (Australians and New Zealanders) at a nearby base. Twenty-odd years later, my father, fishing in New Zealand on a vacation (he lived in California), got to talking across a trout stream with a local. It’s easy to do that in New Zealand because lots of the good trout streams are only a few feet across. Dad mentioned his son-in-law, the heavy equipment operator, who had told him about the pig hunting in New Zealand. Yep, the local was one of the Kiwis who had known my hubby by his call sign of “TrackRoll.”
I wonder if the idea about travel being such a good thing for culture and education comes from the fact that in centuries past, travel was difficult, dangerous and uncommon. Many people never went more than 10 miles from home. Travelers brought new concepts, products and foods into an otherwise limited existence. And the pendulum swings…

Steven, another great small world story. If you see Ken again, say hello. I haven’t gotten to know him too well yet, but his Dad was one heckuva guy. His Mom is also wonderful. The wildcat story is interesting because in this case, you have proof. Wildcats are often seen in this area, usually after the observer has had too many beers. Gene

“Pasture-ize,” to sit in one’s pasture enjoying the wonders thereof.
–from the BettyWorld Dictionary

I probably spend way too much time alone but my farm is just such a great place to be. And my back 40 is way more than 40 acres so it never gets boring.

I’ve always been a bit more of a homebody myself, though I do enjoy traveling and do it now and again. The thing that amazes and sometimes disheartens me is the sort of pedestal that traveling is put up on, especially foreign travel. It’s sometimes assumed that if you haven’t traveled to other countries, you’re obviously not as worldly or cultured as those who have–and there’s a decent chance you’re a xenophobe, to boot. While I certainly agree that experiencing other cultures can be quite beneficial, I hate the implication that staying home and learning your own culture is somehow less legitimate, or that there isn’t typically a wide variety of cultures right in your own home town.

I also dislike the way it’s just seen as normal and expected to travel long distances. The commonality of it today is actually quite an aberration in human history. That doesn’t mean travel’s bad, but how silly to assume that a person is in some way lesser because they haven’t done much traveling. It’s a massive luxury when you take an honest and comprehensive look at it.

Thanks for the link to that Wendell Berry lecture. I’m now going to happily check it out.

When we move from the front porch to the back deck in the evenings, we call it “changing the channel!” So much to see and learn!
And I’ve used the old “gotta take care of the critters” line more than once to get out of going to town. Although I have to admit, that we really enjoy visiting the Great Smoky Mountains! That’s one place that I love to see and feel in person.
Congratulations to Wendell!

Well I learned a new word today, I first thought ‘back forty’ meant backyard, but it actually means the undeveloped wilderness in your property. 40 comes from 40 acres of course, which was a quarter of the settlers’ allotment in the 1862 Homestead Act. 40 acres, a quarter of a quarter of a square mile ‘section,’ was a common subdivision.

Even more interesting about that number 40 is that at the time, one acre was supposed to represent 40 days of work. What is the figure now? 40 acres is one day of work? ^-^
Not sure how it was computed though, it apparently comes from 4 square ‘perches’ representing one workday, but I also read that one acre was conveniently the amount of land that can be plowed by an ox in one day.

In any case, the back forty is indeed the New World’s new world.

Love the reference to Jean-Henri Fabre. I have this 1,160 pages book in French (“Souvenirs entomologiques”) but I haven’t been able to find an English equivalent to share with friends. It’s not just a book about nature observation, it’s a literature masterpiece as well.
And it’s tome 1 out of 2 of all his collected work. Well, on entomology only, as he also wrote many other books such as teaching books for schools.

Steven Monserrate April 25, 2012 at 1:32 pm

Dear Mr Logsdon,

Please pardon the public format of this message as I would have preferred to send this directly to you but I could not find a direct email link. Over the past few years I’ve enjoyed reading your posts as well as those Wendell Berry, a fellow Kentuckian. Despite currently residing in Dallas, Texas, I was born and raised in the Commonwealth and I remember my life there fondly. The other day I met a good friend whose family is from the Louisville area. As typically happens we traded inquiries about our families back in Kentucky since there are usually good stories to trade. I told him about the wildcat my sister’s son hit with a truck and is now storing in her deep freeze, and he told me about his Aunt’s husband who writes about farming. I asked him for his Uncle’s name and, well, you can guess the rest.

Jean’s son Ken sends his best from Dallas.

Steven Monserrate

Good post, Gene, except for that whopper you told about not being very good at public speaking. You’re more informative and entertaining than 99% of the speakers I’ve ever heard!!

Those who get the farthest and own the shiniest stuff are held up as exemplary. I haven’t that sort of energy. The season’s changes, heck, the day’s changes in pasture, stream, and garden are enough to fill me with wonder. Right here, watching the leaves emerge on the same trees out the same windows, are lessons so exemplary that I’d need to live centuries to understand them even a bit.

I hate to give speeches and am not very good at it anyway.

^^ I don’t think you give yourself nearly enough credit, my good man. If your speeches are anything close to your writing -you’re doing the public a huge disservice. While I may silently protest your assertions on speaking, I can privately revel in your readings, ponder life’s dilemmas and live my life vicariously through you -I’ll keep this our little secret.

SO so true! We LOVE to be out on the land or sitting on the porch watching all the critters around us. Right now the swallows are building their nests in the barn so we get to watch them everyday, new piglets are exploring the pasture as God intended them to, calves are being born, the hens are sitting on their eggs and so much more.

debbieyoungartist April 25, 2012 at 6:44 am

I’ve traveled the world and staying home is a healing balm for my head and heart. So rich and satisfying!

so glad I am not alone in this. I love to be home. So many great moments.

For the second year now I watch a raven come flying to my neighbors – that feed the songbirds (and occasional black bear).. Then, two crows from east, chase the raven relentlessly away. When tackle is imminent the raven flips upside down to counterattack. I’ve seen this less then 6 feet above ground level. Raven takes a wider flight path in each time to get a few pieces of bread to bring back to the nest. Dodging the crows.

Crows also mob any hawk that comes near thinking about taking one my ranging chickens. I have no fear of aerial predators.

One year walking up from the small duck pond I dug A juvenile Great Blue Heron, came in and followed us to the house. Eyeing the ducklings. An adult duck went over to it and they both spiked mohawks. Duck backed down. Finally when the reality of the situation struck me that the GBH wanted to EAT the ducklings I approached it and chased it away. It was only 10 feet from me anyway. Juvenile for sure. Adults learn to stay away from humans. I watch ‘farmvision’ all the time.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s