It’s hard to capture the wonders of this life in a short blog post, but some things are worth the attempt. This is one of them.
I’m turning 22 tomorrow, and I’ve lived all of those 22 years on our family farm.
If I look back, I see snapshots.
Standing in the back of a pickup truck after a long day of work eating cherries from the tree. Sitting on the top of our wooden fence to watch the bats swoop overhead. Chasing mice through the hayfield. My eyelashes covered in ice when it gets down below zero. Feeling my horse’s muscles stretch and compress as we barrel through the woods. Standing bleary-eyed and swaying in the barn at 3 a.m. with a new lamb. Eating cucumbers and watermelon in the shade of our tractor. Walking along a fence line trying to find where it’s shorting out. Working with my 4H cow every day in every sort of weather. Watching dark storm clouds roll in as we scurry to get everyone in for the storm. Warm water streaming over my hands as I scrub the dirt and mud out of all the lines and cracks.
There are only a few things that tie all of those snapshots together: my family, the land, and hard work. It’s those things that have made me who I am today.
My family has stood there for me through thick and thin, through the ups and downs. We’ve stood by each other in the joy of new life and in the sorrow of death. We’ve kept each other awake through long nights with sick animals or shivered together through cold chores. We’ve danced in the sunlight, ridden through the pastures, sprawled out in the hayloft: all of it together. You could say we’re pretty close-knit. Not without our problems, but doing our best together anyways.
Sometimes people say that the land is always there, but it’s not true. I’m pretty young, but even I can remember the land disappearing. The pasture where we used to eat cherries is a disc golf course now; they cut down the cherry trees. One of our pastures has been split in half and is unused. One of our old hayfields is being turned into a warehouse. We drive past the “Preserve” when we go grocery shopping; instead of a hayfield, it’s a housing lot. But, also, I think that people are right: the land is always there. I can drive past places that aren’t farmland anymore and remember the water rippling through the stream, or the wind through the bushes, or picture a cow looking at me through the tall grass. Then there’s places where we still farm, and every time I go there, I feel my soul revitalize. It turns out, you can’t take the land from a farm girl: it flows through her blood.
When people think of a farm, they automatically think of hard work. Because it is hard work. It’s hard and long and sometimes dangerous, but it’s rewarding. My sister, who just turned 13, sums it up well: “After the day, you’re pretty happy.” I say that, too. It’s a rare day when you come in from the barn and feel down. Instead, you stand at the sink and wash your hands, and in watching the dirt run into the drain, you feel a sense of accomplishment: I did something today. I did something that matters. Someone is eating today because of the work I put in.
“Farm kids just have a different way of thinking about things,” a professor once told me (and simultaneously the class). I think it’s because we get our hands dirty, we see life in all its stages, we learn to put in the work, and we learn what is out of our control.
I’m turning 22 tomorrow, and I hope to spend another 22 years doing exactly this: being a farm girl.