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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Whatever would possess someone to do that? The love of farming.

It was 32 degrees today. The Farmer went out “at the crack of sparrow fart” as my dear father used to say, before it got too hot, to sow a field. I kept thinking it was a bit warm to be expecting seed to grow. And a bit dry. We have been in a semi-drought condition all spring. But what do I know? Do not question the Farmer. I have learned, even if you do point out the obvious, he needs to decide for himself. He smiled, gave me a kiss on the cheek and headed out into the dusty back forty.
A few hours later he was back to fill up his coffee. The man doesn’t eat before noon but at least he hydrates. He also took a jug of lemonade and a bottle of water. Back out into the heat. What was I doing while he was toiling in the summer sun? I ventured out to refill the dog’s water. I checked on my turkeys. I pulled a few weeds in the vegetable garden, took note of the plants that will need to be replaced due to the drought,  and then I decided it was much more comfortable in the farmhouse.
I spent the morning cleaning floors and doing laundry. The first muggy heat of the day took over the sunny side of the house and tried to push its way inside. I pulled the blinds and closed the windows on the east side. The smell of bacon filled the kitchen, for I planned to tempt the Farmer with a BLT at lunch. I heard the ATV pull up at the gate, then the heavy footfall up the steps to the back deck. The patio door slid open and I saw a dirty arm reach in to grab a towel off the hook. Next I heard a splash, and a yelp. Seventy-six degree water is a bit of a shock when your skin is scorched. Good thing he has a strong heart. And good thing no one can see into our backyard. Farmers rarely take the time to don a swimsuit.
I carried a pitcher of Arnold Palmer (iced tea and lemonade) to the pool, handed it to him and watched as he drank the whole thing. “Are you hungry?” “Yep.” He’s a man of few words when he’s been using every ounce of energy to get a job done in extreme temperatures. I pointed out that he had a completely black face except for the eyes, and he dunked his head and gave it a scrub a few times.
Probably at least once a season I find myself wondering, whatever would possess someone to do that? Working a field in the sweltering, blistering heat of summer. Plowing a path to the barn in the life-sucking, aching cold wind of a winter blizzard. Well, at this point, he’s committed. He has lives depending on him gaining access to the barn no matter how much snow has fallen. And this season, we have realized our cattle herd is outgrowing the pastures. We needed to turn and re-plant a couple fields so they would be happy with their hay again come winter. That will help them make good milk and grow healthy babies in the spring.
But what possesses a city boy to get himself into this position where animal lives depend on him and he will be forced to get off the cozy couch by the fire or out of the cool shade poolside to go and do some muscle-ripping, sweaty farm work? For my husband, it was a summer spent on his uncle’s farm near Winchester. I believe it was a dairy farm. He got bitten by that bug that makes you see the weather, the seasons, and life a different way. The farming bug. Some people are born into the farming life; others come across it by accident. We need more of the latter because we are swiftly running out of the former. Farm families, like all families, just aren’t having as many kids as they used to. Not every kid raised on a farm wants to farm. So this lessens the chances of the family farm tradition continuing to the next generation.
As I set up my stall at the Kemptville Farmers’ Market it’s awfully nice to see so many first-generation farmers embracing the lifestyle, accepting the hard work and hardship, and sowing the seed.


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