Having it all
A few years ago as I celebrated my birthday with friends at work, someone handed me a beautifully wrapped package. She wished me a happy birthday and said, “It’s so hard to know what to get you because you have it all.”
I was quite stunned at her statement, especially since I had always thought the same thing of her. She was a stay-at-home mom who didn’t have to pinch pennies, had a beautiful lake home, a boat, and even had the time and inclination to go to the gym several times a week. She drove new vehicles, and she and her husband owned a time-share in Aruba.
She’s never even had to powerwash a farrowing house out. Ever.
It was shocking to hear that she thought I had it all as a farm woman. Farm people deal with animal smells and animal poop on a daily basis-inside and outside the house and even in our washing machines. Vacation time is hard to come by. The work day goes from sun up until sundown, every day, seven days a week. We get hailed or flooded out some years. Operating costs are frightening. Any extra cash flow goes back into the business-or to the banker. Many animals depend on us every day to care for them with food, water and shelter, regardless of weather conditions or our own personal crises we may be dealing with.
But living on the farm, you also get the chance to see life at its basic core level. Baby animals are born, and leave this earth in much the same way people do. Our children see that from the time they are very young.
We grow food that feeds, clothes and fuels the world, and we see it progress-literally-from the ground up. We plant those seeds and watch them grow into tall, productive plants that are as strong as they are fragile in the face of Mother Nature. Young children learn the cycle of life and of farming. They grow that grain to sell and to feed the animals, which in turn, they can sell to feed the world and earn themselves necessary cash flow to keep going.
Plant and animal health can be time-consuming, especially in light of new diseases.
Our busy season is all year long-as we progress from spring tillage and planting to spraying, swathing and bailing, silage chopping, harvest and fall tillage, holidays, taxes, and then to lambing and calving in those often chilling months following Dec. 31. With machinery and equipment preparation and repairs in the midst of that, there isn’t much time for leisure. Everyone in the family needs to help, because their help is necessary.
Television time is scant since there is too much real life happening under our noses. Young children learn more from hunting for newborn kittens in the barn and exploring the farm anyway. Older kids learn from Dad and Mom how to farm and keep things going, and dream about owning their very own tractor someday.
A farm work ethic can only be earned by long hours, and sweating and freezing through the work that needs to be done every day all year long-even in spite of public scrutiny about what we do today as farmers. We still feed, clothe and fuel those people, too.
At the end of the day, we don’t always have great cash flow, the luxuries of a boat, a time share or exotic vacations, new vehicles, or even much of a social calendar.
But what we do have is a breathtaking country view, the sounds of the farm gracing our ears, machinery in the shed, grain in the bin, family around both the table and the work that needs to be done-and even family in the hot seat some days. We have purposeful work, our own physical workouts in the barn and on the hay rack, the next generation to teach, and the freedom, peace and quiet that comes with life in the country.
My friend loves her life and she has it all, by my standards. But she was right-so do I.
It just looks different than hers.
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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