There is nothing pretend about putting hay in the barn when it's 85 degrees at 11 a.m. The hay is dusty and scratchy. Hay chaff that sticks to the sweat coming off your brow and your chest is about as real as it gets.
So what brought up this idea of pretend farming? Two of my "elder" friends are retired. One operates a small cattle farm and makes hay. We will call him Mike. The other travels and volunteers some. Let's call him George. The names are changed to protect me -- I'm almost as old as they are!
When George is not traveling or volunteering, he helps Mike bale hay or whatever needs to be done.
The whole "pretend farming" bit started when George told his wife he was going to help his friend again. "Oh, you're going to 'pretend' farm!" Joan laughed. That's not her name, but we will use it anyway. Since both George and Mike are retired, she thinks it's more of a chance to get together than anything else.
Not so, say both of my friends. And I must agree. On Labor Day, one of the hottest in years, Mike was supposed to bring me a hundred bales of hay for my sheep. He said that George was coming to help, but I must admit, I thought he was kidding. I didn't know the two were 'pretend farming' together.
As it turns out, a tire blew on the wagonload of hay, and all three of us took pickup trucks to offload hay and bring it to my house. That was a very real blow-out, Mike would assure Joan!
We unloaded hay inside my stuffy toolshed. There was hay dust flying, dust swirling up from the gravel floor and bales bouncing everywhere.
When I put the last bale in place and staggered outside, George hit us with his wife's "pretend farming" comments. I hadn't heard them until then.
Dripping with sweat and still ailing from sore ribs from a fall a couple weeks earlier, I looked at him funny. "Pretend," I asked. "What is she talking about?"
"Oh, she thinks we just do it for fun, we're not in it to make profit like 'real' farmers."
I have news for Joan. Just because I don't always turn a profit on our small sheep flock doesn't mean I'm not trying to make money. Sometimes one too many dies, sometimes the price dips more than expected -- need I say more?
"There's nothing pretend about this," I chortled. "The hay is real, the sweat is real, and see those sheep, they're real too! Go stand in front of the ram and see how 'pretend' it is when he charges.
"Now what my wife does is 'pretend' farm," I continued. "It's some app on her phone that lets here act like she's farming. She grows corn and oats, and has chickens that lay eggs.
"The game even texts her when it's time to milk or gather eggs! That's pretend!"
Now George looked at me funny. "Is it called 'Hay Day'?" he asked.
"I think that's it!" I responded. "How did you know?"
"Oh, Joan plays it all the time!" he answered. Really. And she thinks we 'pretend farm?'