I’ve often said the difference between my older sister and me is that you could eat off of her floor and not even think twice about it; but you could eat off of my floor and get full.
For all these years I could have blamed it on the fact that I had more children to clean up after than she did, or I could attribute the difference to the fact that I live on the farm.
There are so many ways a farm house can get dirty.
People naturally dirty up a house, but sooner or later everything about living on the open prairie can wreak havoc and cast a dark shadow on your housekeeping skills.
My sister – an immaculate housekeeper – used to secretly leave me notes in the dusty furniture and wait to see how long it took me to find them.
For her it wasn’t a matter of whether or not she would find the dust; it was simply of matter of where to write the note.
It took me two weeks to find one of her notes – it was on the headboard of the bed.
I must not have spent much time up there during daylight hours, snoozing or dusting, or anything else, apparently.
Good thing she didn’t leave a secret call for help.
My housekeeping skills were targeted one day when our (then) elementary-school-aged daughter asked me what that yellow can was in the cupboard, as she pointed to the furniture polish.
Apparently she had never seen me use it. Oh, how ashamed my mother would be.
I made up for my lack of dusting skills by using my time to hang our laundry out in that great-smelling country air. That is, when it wasn’t manure hauling day.
I think my nose hairs have grown back in. Those were some beak-breaker days.
Now we live in a different home and live on the north side of a gravel road. That means when people drive past the place, the prevailing southwest winds blow the road dirt right into the yard.
If conditions mimic the Sahara and a Siberian-like wind is blowing, it looks like the Dust Bowl days here at home.
Amana’s Living History Farms has nothing on us.
It also means our house is not only filthy on the inside, but on the outside now, too.
An urban friend of mine told me this past fall she was delighted to open all of her windows to let the fresh, cool breeze in.
I was a little jealous. For us, corn chopping and fall harvest mark the end of open-window season.
If we opened the windows during that time we could be buried alive right in our own home.
And as for drying the clothes these days, they don’t see a clothesline any more than my husband sees the dentist.
The gas company must love our prevailing winds and dusty gravel roads.
At our previous home it was birds with bowel issues that gave me the most angst about hanging clothes out to dry. I guess manure of all kinds will find its way onto farm clothing.
Farm women have a lot of resolve – whether they grew up on a farm or married into that life.
Every year they can resolve to stay on top of the house cleaning by doing a little bit every day, but it lasts until her husband needs her help outside.
Often, by the time she comes back in she’s an accomplice to the dirty crime that is already well underway.
But the thing is, having a spotless house isn’t necessarily at the top of her list either, because by helping on the farm, she’s contributing not only to the family business, but to something greater – she’s helping to ensure that the farm will continue on.
So she resolves all year that she’ll clean the house when she has the time.
After all, it’s the world’s next oldest profession and boy is it a dirty one.
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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