Carolyn Hax: Raising chickens, goats, ducks and red flags

Carolyn Hax
Columnist December 5, 2012

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.

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

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


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-make-me!!! 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 expand your portfolio by more than one life form at a time.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Subscribe at www.facebook.com/carolynhax.

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