As I sat at the computer trying to find a way to explain what farm life, and by some extension this blog, is all about; and failing for the most part. Charlie, the Boston Terrier, interrupted, whining at the window, because Java, one of our best young doelings, had gotten her head caught in the fence. Again.
And so, I stopped mid–type to follow Charlie, who is prancing happily along now that his Lassie-like communications are understood, to Java who may or may not be happy to see me as I push, shove and otherwise contort her head back through the fence. She is ecstatic in her freedom and I feel a sense of accomplishment knowing that I have saved her. Again.
And at that moment, I am certain she plans never to stick her head through that fence again. But she will. And I will stop whatever I am doing or postpone the mad dash to school to fight both her and the fence to get her back out. Have any of you ever tried to explain to the school office staff that you are late because a goat was stuck in a fence? You should try it one day. Fair warning, though, it’s not on the list of approved tardy excuses.
But as I returned to my computer and the blank page staring me in the face, I realized that moment is what farm life is all about. No, not stuck goats. Although let’s be honest, there will be some of that too. Farm life is about giving care to the things I am blessed to watch over. The goats, the dogs, the chickens, the garden, all of it.
God has blessed me with the opportunity and the ability to be a steward to so many things. And yes, sometimes it is inconvenient, or messy or even heartbreaking. But most of the time it is an amazing blessing. And I love it.
I imagine that if you were to ask a farmer, like my father-in-law, who is a third generation farmer; he would tell you that farm life is about work, hard work. He would probably tell you that he does it because it’s all he knows and all he has ever done. But, as the first-generation member of this farming family, standing on the edges looking in, I would tell you that while what he says is true; it’s not the whole truth.
Because I know that he is capable of other work, amazing work that brings a steady paycheck and lets him stay home when the weather is terrible. But he chooses to farm.
Because I see my husband, the fourth generation, who chose to take an outside job too better support his family; return to the farm on nights and weekends to repair equipment and plant fields.
And because I see my daughter, the fifth generation, who has never been an early riser, get up before daylight so that she can go with her granddad to pull corn or plant beans or disc a field.
And I know, they do it because it is in their blood. Even, more importantly, it is in their hearts. They do it because, like me, they love it.
In his book, “Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food,” author and farmer, Wendell Berry addresses the question:
“Why do farmers farm, given their economic adversities on top of the many frustrations and difficulties normal to farming?
And always the answer is: “Love. They must do it for love.” Farmers farm for the love of farming. They love to watch and nurture the growth of plants. They love to live in the presence of animals. They love to work outdoors. They love the weather, maybe even when it is making them miserable. They love to live where they work and to work where they live. If the scale of their farming is small enough, they like to work in the company of their children and with the help of their children. They love the measure of independence that farm life can still provide.”
And as a first-generation farmer looking in, I have to agree with Mr. Berry.