Since I started my job at the Sierra Foothill Research and Extension Center in January, I've received lots of congratulatory messages. I've also heard lots of good-natured envy - statements like, "Wow - you get to ride a horse and get paid to do it?!" And while I'm absolutely loving my job - I am getting paid to ride a horse, after all - I've realized that the actual work involved in making a living by caring for livestock is incomprehensible to most people.
Part of this relates to the nature of the work. I work outside in an incredibly beautiful environment. I ride a horse and do a fair amount of walking. For most people, horseback riding and hiking are strictly recreational activities - something they do in their leisure time. I think the assumption is that my work activities must happen at the same leisurely pace. The pressure of getting cows and calves paired up before moving them back to pasture, or of building fence around a new pasture for my sheep before they run out of grass, isn't part of an outsider's frame of reference. The riding and hiking is all they see.
Which brings us to economics (seems like everything relates to economics for me!). While I'm so fortunate to be making a living doing work I love to do, it is work (as opposed to recreation). During our lambing season this year (which is now wrapped up), my work day started at 6 a.m. when I left for the Field Station. I typically left for home between 3:30 and 4 p.m., which put me at our sheep operation by 4:30 or 5 p.m. If I only needed to check on new lambs, I was done in an hour. If we needed to build fence, I might be working until 7:15 or 7:30 p.m.
I write this not to seek sympathy for how hard I work (hard work is certainly not unique to agriculture!), but to try to understand my own reaction to friends' envy about my job. Sometimes in the twelfth hour of a 14-hour day, I find it difficult to remember how lucky I truly am to be doing work I enjoy! I hope my friends will keep reminding me of this!