Sometimes, the life we live everyday becomes ordinary to us. It is when we see our routines, daily tasks, and even fun through the eyes of someone else that the novel can be found. In talking with people, I’ve discovered there is a certain idyllic romanticism imagined around farm life. Actually, living on a farm does have its enticing features and definite blessings. I love that my kids can roam free and be outside without my hovering watch. There are beautiful opportunities to learn about God’s creation; the birds and the bees - without the awkward, “So, Son…” manufactured moment; and, of course, the good ‘ole hard work ethic. Interestingly, someone told me recently that country kids have all the ways to make money. My kids would beg to differ. They think city kids are set up for financial loaded-ness because of lemonade stands! Sure, we can sell pumpkins, eggs, and rock collections (that last one hasn’t made much yet, but it keeps building in my son’s room anyway); however, I’d say it’s an even wash that comes down to this: creativity, discipline, and entrepreneurship. Without those, it doesn’t really matter where you envision your future, you’re gonna be living in your parent’s basement for awhile. (We’ve actually kept our basement pretty uninviting to discourage this.)
Back on the topic of farm life - as I contemplated what amazing farm stories I could share this time around, I realized something. Perhaps, I could just share life….invite you all in to our home and lives for an afternoon of helping with farm chores. My real purpose here is to make chores sound so inviting, that many of you will want to come and experience the refreshing nature of..well, nature…first-hand. And, just like Tom Sawyer, we will be happy to let you help….if you give us $5.00 and that apple in your hand. (If you don’t get that last line, re-read the classic.)
On a typical winter evening of doing chores together, Daron and I bundle up good with lots of layers: insulated overalls, coats, hat, face scarf for me (Daron has his buddy, The Beard), insulated leather work gloves, and our trusty Muck boots. Next, we waddle across the acre of backyard to get to the main barn. Daron fires up the old John Deere 2020 and I climb up to stand beside him as we set out. (Date night!) First, we have to putt our way across the road to grab a couple of hay bales from our stash of 120 that we put up for winter feeding. Every once in a while, Daron turns the wheel over to me to practice running the tractor. The last time one of these lessons took place, I javelin-ed a round bale when I confused the clutch with the brake.
With the bales loaded up, we head back through the green gates, rumbling over the alfalfa stubble, and we steal a glance at each other. This is not the life I expected. It’s the life I’ve chosen. As the executive driving assistant, my job is to jump down and unhook the electric bungee gate so the tractor can pull through, then reattach it so the cows can’t get through. The Beard waits for me to catch up and we continue on down to the back pasture of our 40 acres. The cows can hear us coming and start getting excited. Think the feeling you get when you smell that garlicky goodness as you walk up to your favorite pizza place. That’s the giddy reaction we get when pulling up with a delivery-service of fresh hay. In fact, they are so eager to get at it, we have to fend them off while using a pocket-knife to loose the baling twine, lift the bale high up over the feeder and tip it off squarely into place.
Darkness has definitely settled in around us now. I don’t like the dark. But, when I’m with Daron and we are being productive, my mind doesn’t seem to notice the same. We leave the ladies to their munching and tool back up the hill – reversing the pattern from earlier: bungee, gates, barn, tractor parked. And now to do the close-by jobs, so back into the shadowed darkness of the barn. For awhile, we were working on electrical issues so we did chores by the beam of a flashlight. Those were interesting days that made me thankful I could watch Dr. Quinn be the pioneer on Amazon instead of actually having to rough it like her. Days that I would have been happy to have the quiet steady strength and focus of The Beard as he systematically works through his routine. I, on the other hand, would walk purposefully through the darkened barn entry, faking confidence by flashing the beam around the room where we keep dog food and supplies…proving to all corner-lurking animals that neither I nor my Mag-Light were worth the trouble. Scoops of food for the Dogs and Barn Cats. Scoop for the Rabbit (who is enjoying a free pass on life…and working towards a world record on lazy large allergens). Out to the water pump to fill a bucket of water. Break the ice out of a bunny bowl, and two dog water dishes. Refill, but not too far. It will begin freezing again before I get inside. Daron’s been out breaking up the frozen surface of the cow’s water tank. Using a pitch fork or a shovel, we scoop off the ice that dips in and out as the cows drink around them, then we make sure to top off the water again.
Our heavy boots thud as we walk down the ramp to the lower level of the barn. We have creep gates at the doorways so the calves can come in out of the higher temperatures. (Creeper gates would have a totally different meaning if I were still a city girl writing a city girl blog. Instead, this term just refers to gates with openings big enough for calves, but small enough to keep the larger animals out.) We spend the next 10 minutes or so forking hay over the gate into the feeders for the calves. They are shy, but eager to eat. They will nose around in the hay picking and choosing the best parts first. Not unlike my own kids who will wolf down my homemade biscuits and gravy by the mouthful, but pick through their “no thank you” bites with slow etiquette that would impress the most discerning of proper adults.
With a quick check on the laying hens, and a general “okay” through the other out buildings, we walk back to the house satisfied with a job well done and thankful for the blessings of stewarding this corner of the earth. The ground crunching beneath our feet, our fingers beginning to tingle from the cold now nipping through the thick gloves we’ve been wearing, the stars twinkling overhead, and the warm glow of the house lights beckoning its warmth.
And then we open the door….4 kids. A cacophony of noise and pepperoni by the fistfuls. Diapers to change; pjs to put on; episodes to end without completion; and teeth to brush and floss. Chores aren’t over…they’re only half-done!
Cause being a farmer is beautiful and has its idyllic moments; but truth is…life is life. You can only see it through the lens you choose. Sure, there are moments when Daron and I tease-fight about who gets to go do chores to escape the craziness of the bedtime routine! At the end of the day, though – quite literally – when those chubby arms give hugs, and the older ones ask ever-maturing life questions, and the 16th glass of water has been taken upstairs, and the Adventures in Odyssey episodes are turned off; this is when I am able to see that it is the beauty of the little moments that build character into my kids. It is in the consistent example and instilling of discipline and self-motivation into their tender hearts that will give them wings…and keep them out of my basement.
So, idyllic and romantic? I’ll let you decide. To me, it’s just another day at the farm. Why not come see for yourself? I’ve got a shovel I’ll let you use for just a dollar!