Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Life on the Farm

I didn't know how good I had it. I was born a dairy-farmer's daughter and lived that life until college days took me away. In all those years I never truly appreciated what I had, and to be honest, I didn't appreciate it very much more in the many single pre-marriage years I lived.  It's only been more recently that I have thought about it.

My boys are now almost-12 and 13. We live in a nice house in a nice subdivision with nice neighbors. We are very comfortable and for that I am grateful. But I can't help but wish at times that my boys had what I had growing up.

Our dairy farm was in the beautiful, west (and wet!) side of the state of Washington, and boasted 265 acres. It was a family farm, the kind which was not unusual to see in the '60s and '70s when I was growing up. Indeed there were several other family farms in the area whose fence rows we shared as their property butted up to ours. In our most productive years we milked 90-100 cows three times a day/night on our farm. Though the term wasn't yet coined, it was certainly a 24/7/365 operation. Every year we raised corn to fill two large silos and we filled our hay barn with the grass hay we harvested each summer for feed for the herd.

Besides the milking and crops there were the calves and heifers to care for, the breeding of the cows, the ever-present veterinarian needs, and countless other tasks that were part and parcel for running the farm. This my dad did daily along with his partner-brother and sister. But where there is a farm, and kids, there are certainly chores for those kids!

Over the years my three older brothers and I, along with our two cousins, had to help out on the farm. Driving cows from the pasture, feeding them, milking them, working in the hay, plowing fields, cleaning the milking parlor, these were some of the chores we had to do, or help do as we grew up. Of course I didn't do the heavier jobs like my brothers did, like bucking bales of hay, but I did a lot of yelling "Come boss!!", calling and driving in the cows to be milked, and early morning and afternoon weekend milkings were normal routine for all of us kids to help with.

I didn't enjoy those chores at the time. As a teenager I remember envying my school friends who lived in a subdivision and whose dads worked a "normal" 9-5. Sleeping in on Saturdays, never a worry about the weather, what a life! Not so on the farm: We need more rain for the corn! Oh no, too much rain has ruined the hay! A snowstorm and loss of power meant cows slipping on icy concrete and difficulty milking--my friends knew nothing of such concerns. And boy how lucky I thought they were.

But for all the work, and there was plenty of it, now I look back and remember those things that I experienced that were second nature to a farm kid, so many things that my boys will never know.

I always enjoyed watching cows birthing their calves, or the slaughtering (yes, slaughtering) of cows. If it was going to happen after school Dad would call up to the house and let me know. One time he called to let me know there was going to be a C-section on a cow! I rode my bike down to the barn lickety-split and  got to watch it from start to finish!

And there were the non-chore times with my brothers and cousins. Hide and seek in the hay, picking the best green apples from our Gravenstein apple trees, fishing down at the creek (pronounced "crick"!) that ran through our property, shooting BB guns, riding motorcycles. And we lived to tell about it all! Riding in the scoop of the tractor, Dad putting the scoop up as high as it would go (scared me to death!), riding in the corn wagon down the huge hill of our corn field as Dad chopped corn and blew it into the old wooden wagon. The smell of the whole area when Dad freshly fertilized the corn field with manure and the groans of the kids on the bus as we rounded our street for my bus-stop, "Eeeewww!!"

It was a good, healthy upbringing! And how I wish my boys could run in those fields, wear big farm boots so they could slop through the cow barns and not be grossed-out by a little cow poop, climb apple trees, build hay forts, choose their favorite from a dozen farm cats, bring home a prize rainbow trout for dinner, and shoot the most pop cans off the fence posts, all without leaving our property.

Life is so different today, with our small-ish backyard, the constant lure of another screen, and the concern that would stand in the way of letting the boys ride very far from the house alone on their bikes. I want my boys to be boys, and they are. But it takes more thought and creativity today to keep them occupied whether at chore-time or play-time, and it's a challenge, especially during the hot summer.

We can't go back to the farm, it's been gone for many years now. But I can reminisce about my childhood days, share those stories with my boys and hopefully impart to them an appreciation for what life was back then, even without screens at our fingertips. I can't help but picture them there; I think they'd have fit in real well.

God bless you!


cmziall said...

I didn't have what you had growing up, but just having more FREEDOM was nice. We did grow up in a house where there was a HUGE FIELD behind our house - it's still there, although now soccer fields ;) I, too, which I lived on property to let my "boys be boys" - guess I didn't realize what I needed to be praying for early on in my marriage when we were looking for a house. *sigh*

Rory said...

Hey Jill,

Nice post. I remember it just like you do. I am sure I didn't know what we had either. For that matter, I am not sure our parents did. Anyway...good memories...I now avoid driving by and seeing all those houses that replaced it. I hope I am not overly attached, but the sentimentalist in me doesn't want to see it belonging to other people who have no idea of what it was.

Thanks and love,

Big Brother

HSMom said...

Thanks, Rory. :)

In re-reading the post the one thing I think I white-washed a bit was the picking of the "best" Gravensteins. Best, nothin'. We always picked them way too early in the summer when they were small, under-ripe and very sour. Then we'd have to listen to Barn Grandpa yell at us, "You're gonna get a belly-ache!!"

Little Sis