No Rose Colored Glasses: The Harder Realities of Farm Life
As someone over at the “I Grew Up Country” Facebook group commented, “It takes someone being off the farm for many years to remember only the romance,” (or something like that): the magic of fireflies on a late May evening, the walks through fresh smelling woods and pastures, finding refreshment and renewal from the hard hard work that is true farm life.
I shared my egg gathering “fight in the hen house” story here in the early days of my blog, a trip back to the farm during my mother’s 90th birthday days celebration last summer, and special memories here. But the actual labor, well, it is anything but romantic.
This picture takes me back there, and in ways I don’t even want to think about: our chickens in their pathetically small cages over rows of manure. Dad cleaned the crap out frequently but 10,000 chickens make a lot of you-know-what. The stench was so bad you either had to wear a dust bonnet to keep your hair from reeking, or always shower and wash your hair before going somewhere. When you gather eggs twice a day, showering after each time isn’t always possible. I think about that when I whiff “dairy farm” in the local hardware or Walmart sometimes.
And here are the egg gathering carts I mentioned but didn’t have a photo of when I wrote about egg gathering–the way we did in the cage layer house. Lifting cases with 30 dozen eggs in it—that’s 360 eggs—wasn’t easy. Doable, but it could get to your back after awhile.
In summer, bailing hay and straw was the hottest, heaviest, sorest-muscle inducing labor there was: no wonder most farmers use the huge round bales nowadays and move the bales by tractor.
We’ve been behind on our garden work this year due to an early beach vacation, extremely long hours for my husband, and my own horribly hectic work and evening meeting schedules. So this past Memorial Day weekend, we buckled down and whipped the yard and garden back into shape. I was so bushed and almost staggered with fatigue. I remembered summers helping Dad on our farm in Florida, where Deep South unrelenting sun and heat—especially after nine months of being spoiled by the sheltered life of a college student—made me almost faint after getting up from the tractor seat.
I’ll take office work any day over baling hay or hefting egg cases, and find it mildly interesting that my three daughters, at this point in their lives, have also ended up being office workers in various capacities. They have good, interesting jobs, but it boils down to a computer, a desk, and a chair.
But, at day’s end or week’s end, there was rest. My father built a cabin in our back pasture in Indiana and we’d retreat there for Saturday night hamburgers. Here’s one of the first picnics we ever had back there. And on Sundays, we only did the work we had to do—gathered eggs and fed animals. Everything else would wait.
Here’s another way we wound down after gathering eggs or even catching chickens, shooting hoops. Notice the brightly painted rectangle around the hoop, the better to train my hoops-star sister. Here is also where we stored our garbage and trash until it was either burned or (yikes) cans dumped in the woods. “Slop” (food leftovers) went to the hogs, of course. Not so much romance here, either.
Life on the farm? I’ll have to say I’m happy to be surrounded by green hay fields, but I’m glad I’m not farming them.
Did you grow up on a farm? Do you remember the work or the fun times? Anything specific?
If you didn’t grow up on a farm, did you ever wish for that life? Why?
Dinner on the farm as a family? Of course, every day, either at noon or in the evening. I’m pleased to know people still value keeping family dinner, as I wrote about in this book, available from the MennoMedia store and elsewhere on line.