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Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Fourteen years and counting!

In the late summer of 2007, I became an accidental farmwife. And by that I mean I was so busy trying to keep track of three daughters that I barely had time to imagine what life was going to be like with my new husband. Yes, I knew he was a farmer. But he was also a university professor. He was pretty much always washed up and free of any residual farm detritus when he came a courtin’. He didn’t smell like sheep poop when we dated. All of that changed when we married. Soon I too had a strange funk about me.

Approximately twenty-four hours after we put the wedding d├ęcor away, I was properly introduced to my new charges: two hundred sheep and a loud, ornery and mischievous attention freak of a donkey. I was alarmed to hear that he didn’t have a name, so of course I gave him one. Donkey. You had to say it in a Scottish accent though, like in Shrek.

I very quickly fell into step in the farming life. I took care of the animals and assisted my husband the Farmer when he would allow me. Mostly he prefers to do things himself – but he let me take care of the babies. I got to know the different characters on the farm: the ewe who would head-butt me if I came too close, the ewe who might squash her own babies if you didn’t separate them; the sheepdog who was a bit crazy, and the Gordon Setter who would take off if left off leash for more than about thirty seconds.

The Farmer taught me how to rub a newborn lamb to life, to assist a ewe in childbirth, and to feed the young a bottle. There was no guidebook – we were both learning by doing. Before long I was writing stories about the animals. Those stories became a weekly column in the local paper.

I am always thrilled to hear that a story touched someone in some way. Many times I have received letters from readers, saying that they cut out a particular column and stuck it on their fridge or tucked it away in a scrapbook, because it meant something to them. Maybe they were farmers themselves – or married to one.

Some of my most loyal readers are in seniors homes. The stories bring them back to when they were learning how to mend pants and the fence that ripped them. When they were crying over a tiny lamb or calf that didn’t make it. When they were struck dumb by the beauty of a newborn foal.

If you are a farmwife, I would love to hear your stories. Here’s to the farming life. Live it well.


I'm not a doctor; I just write like one


I have kept a diary since I was a little girl. I filled one little hard-covered journal (the kind with the lock and key) every year. Mostly they were notes about what we ate, where we went, and then which boys I thought were cute, and plans for my clothes and hair and other such banalities. When I got married, I brought them with me in a suitcase of their own. As an adult, I continued to journal. I planned my perennial garden. I recorded my favourite bible verses (don’t laugh; I did. This one was particularly helpful to a 25-year-old mother of 3: Philippians 4:13). I developed a habit of burning those journals at the end of every year, as a therapeutic sort of exercise.

I started a new journal the day I married the Farmer, on August 25, 2007. Basically, I record the BIG events in the lives of our family members: births, deaths, engagements, marriages, new jobs, health concerns, etc.

I picked up my pen to record our youngest daughter’s engagement the other day and realized I have lost the physical ability to write. As a writer my typing skills are pretty strong, but I guess I haven’t been writing longhand for a while because my penmanship is absolute crap. I used to write all the time – in school, in long letters to pen pals – but when do I write these days? Grocery lists are about it.

Does anyone else have this problem or is it just me? I try to write, and my fingers fail me. I can’t seem to keep the cursive flowing. Good luck to anyone who finds this particular journal after I am gone. It appears to be filled with the style of hieroglyphic shorthand my mother used in the ‘70s.

I’m working on a novel – my first – and thought it might be nice to do the first draft in longhand, in a notebook. A favourite writer, Elizabeth Hay, told me that is the way she always begins a new book. The idea appealed to me because it meant I would be leaving something behind for my descendants, in my own hand. Now I see that hand is illegible.

I will go back to typing out my story on my laptop, disconnected from the Internet and its distractions (which was the secondary appeal of the notebook). I will continue to record family events in my journal, but I might switch to printing instead of cursive. I guess if you don’t use it, you lose it. If I feel the need to record something scandalous or salacious, I will do it in my busted-up handwriting, like a code that must be broken, to protect the innocent.