It’s been a little over a year now since I planted both feet here on the dairy farm. It’s at this point, 27 years old, that I have realized that plans mean nothing. I lived in the future every day. I now live in the present. There’s no telling where my journey will take me. Because never in my life would I have dreamed it would lead me to a dairy farm. Out in the middle of nowhere. An hour and a half from my family, my friends, and my beloved Panera. An hour and a half from all my plans and the world I thought I was going to conquer. I’ve grown up a lot since then. Priorities in the right place now and all that jazz. I have learned to grocery shop once a week (kind of). I have become accustomed to cooking rather than running to the closest Chinese place. My domesticity has increased ten-fold. I now have culinary skills and consider myself a good cook, where all I used to possess was quick-wit and a goofy personality. This is how I won the farmer, because goodness knows I didn’t possess any traditional wifely skills. I still can’t sew. I’m not a fan of baking pies and other delectable treats.
(Less baking = slimmer waistlines, right? Can I argue that I don’t bake because it’s good for my family? Reaching? No? I agree.)
And this will be the first year I’ve ever tried my hand at a vegetable garden. But, I can clean my house to an absolute sparkle and I. Can. Cook. Never, EVER, thought I’d be able to say that. Another unexpected twist in my journey.
I digress. Moving on. I have encountered snakes…in my yard. In our buildings. And in my dreams. If I run screaming out of anywhere, the farmer doesn’t even ask. He just comes, shaking his head and chuckling. But, you know what, unlike last year, I don’t wish death upon them anymore. It’s only ever been black snakes that I’ve seen…so far. And my hatred of mice has made snakes my new, albeit revolting, bedfellows. And you know, it’s not that I’m afraid of mice. Not at all. They startle me more than anything with their scurrying everywhere and random “eee-eee-eee’s” while I’m trying to go through boxes in storage. Yeah, they need to die, too. You would think with two barn cats that the mouse population would be hurtin’ around here. ‘Fraid not. Just another aspect of a dairy farm that I have adjusted to. With a plethora of seed, feed, grain, and corn comes an infinite population of mice. They smell awful and they are just gross.
I have dealt with more bugs than I have probably dealt with in the 25 years before I lived here. And I hunt flies with a ferocity of which I am only just learning I possessed. They, also, must die. If I could kill one slowly and make an example of it to all of its fly friends, I would. And I would revel in it.
Rewind to my fear of snakes up there. I also have an unmanageable fear of wasps, dirt dobbers, hornets, etc. Basically anything that looks like what I think is a wasp sends me ducking, running, shrieking, whatever I need to do to get away from it. I have never been stung by a wasp. You know why? Because I avoid them like the plague. Yesterday, one was on the windshield of the tractor while we were driving. I said, “Leslee, so help me, if that thing somehow gets in here, I will jump out of a MOVING TRACTOR!” I didn’t have to make good on that exclamation, but it’s a good thing tractors go relatively slow.
Anyway, moving on, I have learned to not set trash bags on the deck for the farmer to take off. These little creatures with black and white stripes really appreciate that. (It stood there and watched me through the sliding glass door as I stood there, stunned. )
I have watched my husband artificially inseminate our cows. Also, stunned. (So glad I’m not a cow. So glad I’m not the farmer, too.)
I have watched the dog eat cow manure. (Grimace.)
I have asked incessant questions about cattle and the farm even though I don’t actually milk the cows. I have no desire to milk cows or be a dairy farmer. I’d rather just follow my husband around with a camera. But, I am very interested in the happenings of the farm and how everything works. How to be efficient and constantly improve our business model. And I can now sound fairly educated when conversing with other farmers.
I have become accustomed to the overwhelming odor of “dairy farm” as I exit my car after a long trip away. (Your senses acclimate when you’re here every day.)And I have had manure fumes waft through my windows as the farmer spreads it over the fields. My step-mom once told me, “That’s the smell of money.” It’s a good point, and I’ve thought differently about it ever since.
I have finally gotten past the point of caring what my car looks like. It will never be clean. Ever.
If I had known when I got married that my husband would now be a dairy farmer, I would never have gotten married in June. Hay takes priority over anniversary celebrations. However, I’m ok with that this year. At least this year, there is actually hay to bale.
On the positive side of things, the invention of Pinterest has helped me stay up-to-date on my wardrobe. I love clothes, but seeing the farmer in Muck boots, jeans, and a tshirt every day was very uninspiring. Feelings of listlessness and enui might have overtaken me if I wouldn’t have been able to make 54 boards of total and udder randomness. (Ha! “Udder”)
I have learned more about photography.
I have watched my dear, sweet husband berate himself for not being able to hit the vein the first time on a sick cow. She had milk fever and was not doing well at all. I held the IV bottle while he spoke to her with soothing words.
I have watched storms roll over the Ozark Mountains and, let me tell you, it’s a breathtaking sight. Looming thunderheads don’t look the same in the city.
I have probably spent hours, if you add it all up, just staring at the farmer’s muscles as he works. It’s captivating. (Unfortunately for me, he never makes it easy to capture a shot of them in action. Then, I could stare even longer.)
I have sweated and felt the joy of productivity after a hot, reviving shower.
I have listened as the creek roars or gently whispers over the rocks.
I have learned that a successful farmer has to have an excellent business mind. It’s a VERY risky business with no room for silly decisions.
I have watched my husband, after working like a dog all day, still find the energy to play like a child with our daughter.
I have learned about humility and what it is to feel so small and so young amid the vast blue sky and old, rolling hills.
I am learning what being content really means. It’s when you’re rolling down a dirt road on the tractor next to your husband and your daughter. She’s asleep in his lap and he turns to you, even amid all the stresses and worries of farming, and says, “This is the life.”
And I have watched my daughter grow from this…
I may not have planned this path, but there’s no doubt in my mind that this farm is where I belong. For now, at least. At first, I felt like I was losing the person I had worked so hard to become. I still had a lot to learn. Because, you know what, that wasn’t the point of all this change in my life. It’s about becoming the person I’m supposed to be. And I’m open. I’m ready to see what else life has in store for me, without making any plans. Because, so far, I have been so blessed.