Farm families have, for generations, been a people of great tolerance. After all, there are so many things to tolerate – weather, markets, bugs that work hard to kill your crops before they can be harvested, farm animals with their own plans, machinery that breaks down at the least convenient time, and visitors asking you if you’ve been saved, to name a few.
But something farm families tolerate the most are the smells that come with the job.
I maintain that only a farm mom would pick up a pair of compression shorts from the floor of someone’s room during wrestling season, give them a suspicious whiff to determine the caliber of cleanliness, and with the flick of the wrist, decide what to do with them. Even if they’re not clean, she’s smelled far worse than that in her role as the woman of the farm.
How I remember the days of working in the hog house and farrowing house.
It didn’t matter if you were in there two minutes or two hours, you smelled the same either way when you left.
Those coveralls and clothes make their way to the house eventually to be washed or to be worn a few days more, and washed later, so even the farm wife who doesn’t work alongside her husband with the livestock still gets a good dose of what he smells all day long.
If we can turn a blind eye to ignore obvious things going on around us, then the farmer is good at turning a blind nose to those smells that would otherwise send a skunk running for cover.
There are certain unmistakable smells such as – manure. The farm family can tell the difference in the aromas between the manure of all farm animals, a talent that I’m sure will be worthy of its own reality show someday. They know the smell of rain and can smell it when it’s coming; let alone bask in its smell after their crops have been watered, and they know the smell of death. Hardly a farmer goes career-long without death loss.
Around here we’re trying to outsmart a skunk that has decided to plunk down roots and homestead.
I was feeding the cats in the machine shed recently and as I was watering them, I looked underneath the hay rack and saw that familiar white stripe not 10 feet from me. I’m not sure who was more surprised, but I was thinking that the wrestling underwear I smelled over the years would be a tiptoe through the tulips compared to what I was about to do in my own unmentionables at that moment.
Farm families are part coon dog. They’ve been known to do battle with rodents around the grain bins. They can smell a rat a mile away and come up with all kinds of concoctions to catch them. Sometimes the rats they smell are two-legged ones. Something else to tolerate.
Daily walks are part of my regimen, or whenever I feel like it. And in the summer time you can hear the corn growing out in the fields. During the fall when the corn is golden, crisp and being gobbled up by combines, you can smell it on those walks. It’s a little slice of heaven.
I went out to the sweetcorn patch one day last summer, and was pleasantly surprised for once by the smells I encountered as I made my way there and back. I could smell the field corn and then the sweetcorn as I picked and husked it. As I made my way back I could smell the sweetness of the nearby alfalfa hay, and as I passed the machine shed I picked up the aromas of grease and exhaust fumes, as the guys were working on a tractor.
Some days our guys tolerate the smell of dinner; good thing for that blind nose.
Yes, there are farm smells that are less than desirable, but tolerating them is worth the chance to get to smell those really great ones. It’s like getting the last gift under the tree.
People with big noses-be proud. We may smell more of the bad stuff, but we also get to suck up more of those great farm smells that help make life worth living. And that womps.
Schwaller is a Farm News correspondent from Milford. Reach her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and at www.karenschwaller.com.
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