Our three grown children have just left our farm with a baby calf in their truck.
They’re headed into town to delight the residents of the local assisted living facility with the wonder that a baby calf is.
And the quiet has given me a chance to really think about what it means to live and raise a family on the farm.
For us, there was never any question about it. I have lived on the farm almost my entire life – with the exception of college years and my first few years of being a single working girl.
My husband, on the other hand, lived on the farm until he was 8 years old before his family moved to town.
But he lived on the farm long enough to become hooked. It was always his goal to get back to the farm, and once he did, he never looked back.
It was always the place where he wanted to raise his family.
For a farmer, there simply is no other place on earth.
There is no other vocation.
There is no other purpose for his life than to nurture, feed and care for that which God – and only God – can give him.
And that includes his children.
Farmers grow up learning the same things that their children do, learning many of those lessons earlier than most kids.
One of the most important things that surfaces as they grow livestock is the fact that sometimes animals die on the farm.
What tremendous insight comes from seeing an animal die – or one which has already died – and understanding that nothing and no one is meant to be here forever.
Once a farm kid understands this lesson with farm animals, it helps them to understand the circle of life, and that the circle of life is the same with people.
They see it on the farm at a young age, before they have to see it at the funeral home.
They learn compassion, and they know from early on that death is another part of life.
Farm kids understand what it is to be loyal and a true friend; in part, because most farm kids have a dog.
Someone is always happy to see them, help them and run with them. Man’s best friend is by their sides as they get older and feel sometimes that their friends have gone in other directions.
And when that dog gets old and dies, it’s a painful experience, somewhere between the loss of a best friend and a hired man.
But it’s one that helps them understand unconditional love and true friendship.
Spring is always an exciting time on the farm at the Schwallers, with baby lambs and calves coming in.
My husband says he never gets tired of seeing a baby calf born and begin to stand up.
Seeing new life come into the world on the farm is always a miracle, if only in the fact that the farmer, who has a long list of other things he should be doing, will sit in the barn for as long as it takes with his children, quietly watching the calf be born, and muse in wonderment about the gift and the miracle that life is, whether it’s human or animal.
That time together for the farmer and his children is invaluable, and is bonding.
Farmers teach their children the miracle that it is to plant a seed in the earth and in turn, receive a bounty from the land.
Farm kids grow up knowing that their family “has” some years, and “doesn’t have” other years.
They know what it is to work until the crop is planted or harvested, to get that hay baled when the hay is ready, and the time it takes to nurse sick animals back to health.
They understand the need to measure time by the sun and calendar, and not by the clock.
They grow up with dirt and grease under their fingernails, the earth under their feet, and the sun and rain coming from above – all helping to create that bounty that God blesses them with.
Nothing in life can prepare a child for responsibility like farm life can.
Children realize early on that animals are completely dependent upon them. They also know that any job needs to be done when the job needs to be done, and not necessarily when they feel like doing it.
Farming doesn’t work that way. Life doesn’t work that way, either. The lessons of “getting it done” are invaluable.
There are easier ways to earn a living, but when the farmer removes his cap and wipes the sweat from his brow following a job well done, it is then that you see the true heart of a farmer.
He doesn’t do it because it’s easy. He does it because it’s a calling – to care for the earth and all who inhabit it under his direction.
Farm kids either love the life or hate it. At our farm, the kids have caught it, with all three of our children either farming, or pursuing a career in agriculture.
My husband couldn’t be more proud that our kids love what he does. The lessons he has worked so hard to teach will now be passed on to the next generation of farm families.
As a farm wife, I could do without having to power wash manure off of jeans before they go into the washing machine, stepping into an obnoxious, odiferous farm truck after our boys have been loading hogs; sweeping lamb’s tails out of the basement that young kids smuggle in as farm treasures, or holding on through years when commodity prices are low.
But by comparison, farm life has given us a lifetime of memories and a special place to call home for us, and the next generation of farmers.
For the farmer and his family, there simply is no other place.
It’s the place where their hearts live; there’s no place like home. Even if that home is in the middle of a corn field.
Schwaller is a Farm News correspondent from Milford. Reach her by e-mail at email@example.com
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