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Sunday, November 4, 2018

The Good Farm Wife

This might come as a surprise to some of you, but I didn't grow up on a farm. I was transplanted from Kirkman – the tiny little hamlet located on the other side of the county. My husband and I grew up ten miles apart not knowing each other. But our childhoods were more like ten thousand miles apart.

I'd like to point out that there were similarities. We both walked beans as kids. My experience wasn't as vast as Doug's. You see, I had this exercise routine which conflicted with the bean walking schedule my father had proposed. You get it. So, I wasn't as knowledgeable about crops as most Iowa kids are by the time Doug and I met in college. How was I supposed to know that those beans we walked were soybeans and not green beans? Or the corn in the fields wasn't the corn we eat? But stuff fed to animals or made into fuels?

So, I had a learning curve by the time we married.

I had always pictured myself as a career woman much like Claire Huxtable – easily navigating her roles as sassy wife, sage mother, and savvy lawyer. Once I fell in love with Doug, I realized these goals would need to be integrated into a farm setting. No big deal. So I thought.

Okay. It's taken 25 years for me to learn a few things. Here's advice I'd give to my younger farmwife self:
Ferocious Cows.
  • Baby pigs are not nearly as sweet as they appear. They don't care how cute you are dressed. They bite.
  • Following recipes is only important if you want food to taste good. And introduce exotic foods (like onions) slowly and in bits. Avoid tofu completely.
  • Farm cats might have nine lives, but those lives are typically very short. Naming kittens is a full-time and often futile job. Be prepared for one or two to die on your lap as you speed to the vet.
  • Farmers don't like to be found. Before cell phones... actually even after cell phones, I'd coordinate full-blown search parties as I imagined my husband pinned to the ground by a ferocious cow. I was eventually instructed not to call his brother or parents anymore. Thank God for FindMyiPhone.
  • If you want your farmer to be pleasant on vacation, never ever ever plan a trip in September, October, November, March, April, May, or June. You can hardly go wrong with February.
  • If you choose to defend cows who meandered to a greener pasture, be prepared not to talk with your spouse for a few hours.
Harvest deserves a paragraph on its own. It's a beautiful time of year. It's a stressful time of year. It's the climax when all the work of planting, growing, and caring for the crop comes to fruition. I used to think of it as a time when Doug was gone a lot and the kids and I planned Halloween costumes. But my perspective is different now. I'm older. Maybe even wiser. (The kids plan their own costumes.) And as I expected Doug to support my career, I need to support him. Really support him.

I'm no longer upset when he doesn't shut the combine down early to go out as he says he will. (It only took a couple of years to understand this – years of falling asleep on the couch after getting dressed up as I waited.) I'm no longer cranky when he calls me for a ride just after I crawl into bed. I'm just happy he hasn't been injured by a cow. And finally, I don't bitch about bringing him supper in the field. Admittedly, I used to be a little indignant about this food thing as I heard how good farm wives prepared feasts for their hubbies and crews. Let me clarify: Doug never expected me to do this. He knows I get home later and have stuff to do like laundry and write blogs. (He was also acutely aware of my cooking limitations.) But I'm different now. I'm no Rachel Ray, but I have Pinterest. If I can show him a little love by bringing out a roast beef sandwich with a splash of ranch dressing, why wouldn't I? It took me a long time to realize that.

The other morning, Doug looked at me with his tired, harvest eyes and gave me a hug. "Thanks for being so helpful this year." It made me a little sad. Not that I've been sitting on my ass eating bon bons for the past twenty-five years. But I definitely could've made a few more roast beef with ranch sandwiches. It might not be the most magnificent feast a farmwife ever made. But he doesn't care. It's not really the "what" I do to help, but the "why" I do it. Because I care.

That's the key to being a good farm wife.