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Silver anniversary sparks memories of adapting to farm life

Posted Tuesday, August 11, 2009, at 12:25 PM

Silver anniversary sparks memories of adapting to farm life

Last week my husband and I celebrated 25 years of marriage. That means I passed another milestone -- 25 years of living on a farm.

Although I grew up in the city limits of Kansas City, the pre-1900 era

home we lived in was the old house in a baby boomer neighborhood right on the east edge of the city. We were always told it had once been the "farm house" and the neighbor's yards and 1950's era homes were built over the family's farmland.

We even had an old-fashioned hand pump in our yard -- which still pulled up rusty water if you worked it long enough.

Maybe that was why I always wanted to live on a farm. Or maybe it was because of the answers my mom gave me when I asked to have a big dog, horse, dirt bike or, ironically, a John Deere riding lawnmower.

"You can't have that because we live in the city -- but if we lived on a

farm you could have a (big dog, horse, etc.)" she would often say.

So when I met a Saline County farm boy in college, maybe it was fate,

maybe it was luck or just maybe it was a case of "be careful what you wish for, you may get it."

I was young, idealistic, in love and thought I knew everything I would

ever know.

I left the land of holidays off, paid vacations, weekly paychecks,

shopping malls and city traffic. I went into the land of "What holiday?

The sun's out isn't it?" -- no pay if the rain's not falling or falling too

much, crop markets, yearly paychecks, debt, Wal-Mart and gravel roads.

My mother-in-law used to tell people, "Marcia doesn't know a thing about farming." And she was right. Even after three years of dating a farmer, riding a tractor with him during breaks from college and spending time at his parent's house -- I didn't have a clue.

The idealistic and simplistic view I had, and many others have, of farming is different than actually living it day after day, year after year.

That's probably why I get upset when people who have never lived on a farm write or talk negatively about modern agriculture based on untruths, Internet myths or just plain ignorance.

It seems to happen more everyday.

The truth of agriculture -- what I've learned in 25 years -- is nothing like what I thought I knew.

I've learned farming for a living is not for the weak -- of mind, body,

spirit or faith. I've learned there are days when everything looks bleak

and unmanageable -- when prices or rain keep falling, often followed by wilting crops because rain is not falling.

I've learned we have to make decisions everyday that will affect our

future -- and our children's future. They are based on lessons my husband has learned from the generations of farmers who came before him.

We take care of our farm and our animals with that in mind every second of everyday. Sustainable agriculture is not a buzzword -- it is our life goal.

I've learned that farming is better -- and worse -- than I ever imagined.

It's full of ups and downs, disappointments and triumphs, hills and

valleys, bumps and bruises, late nights and early mornings, worry and joy, laughter and tears, rain and drought, planting and harvesting, crunching numbers and cutting back, bumper crops and crop failures.

By no means is it the simplistic life I imagined 25 years ago. Like all of

life, the truth is much messier than the fantasy. However, going into the next 25 years there is one big difference -- this time I know I still have a lot to learn.

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

Marcia I don't always agree with everything you say, but I always appreciate the way you say everything. Another great job.

By the way, near the top of my list of memories from growing up on a farm was the drudgery that was a large part of it, in particular freezing half to death as I worked on a bitter winter day.

I recall in particular a below zero Christmas morning when my Dad, my Brothers, and I were picking, and shucking the last of the corn, and throwing it in the wagon. The only thing keeping me warm was my outrage at (from my perspective) the ignominy of being in the cornfield on Christmas morning.

-- Posted by Oklahoma Reader on Tue, Aug 11, 2009, at 11:50 PM

OR - Thanks as always for your comments.

It sure is nice to know people can disagree and still be polite. It's becoming a lost art these days, I'm afraid

-- Posted by Marcia Gorrell on Wed, Aug 12, 2009, at 1:50 PM

"The only thing keeping me warm was my outrage at (from my perspective) the ignominy of being in the cornfield on Christmas morning."

What was the reason you still had corn in the field at the end of December?

-- Posted by Third Child on Wed, Aug 12, 2009, at 5:10 PM


The truth is that was very normal in the days of shucking by hand. It took a long time to hand harvest everything, plus farmers planted much later and so the corn didn't dry down near as early as it does now. In addition to that- it had to be perfectly dry - or it would spoil. Now if we are willing to pay drying charges or have our own dryers, we can pick it much wetter.

I just interviewed a farmer who said in his childhood it was common to pick the corn up until April, so they could plant the field. He also said that they got the most done on weekends when he was home from school. That may have been why OR was in the field on that day -the kids were home from school. As my mother-in law always said: More hands make lighter the work.

Even with our modern technology, we have had a few times when we have been in the field on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve because of rain delays. The only reason we we weren't in the field on Christmas was because the elevator closed!


-- Posted by Marcia Gorrell on Wed, Aug 12, 2009, at 5:34 PM

I loved your article it has alot of truths in it we live the love of farmming are whole lives.

Congrats to you an Keith on 25 years was there on that great day wish you 25 more.

-- Posted by blueeyeddevil_2 on Thu, Aug 13, 2009, at 1:51 PM

Marcia, you were spot on with your answer to Third Child. You really have immersed yourself in the farming culture, even to the point of taking the trouble to learn farming practices looong before it became a part of your life.

When I first started picking corn (I was the oldest of three sons) we had a team of mules that pulled the wagon. The mules would stay in the rows, stop, and go on verbal command. It was not necessary to "drive" the mules while in the field.

Later when the old mules died, my youngest brother at age six drove the little Ford tractor while we picked. The mules did the better job. When my Dad, my other brother ,and I got going the corn would really rattle off that old side board. It sounded like a battle had broken out...bam, bam, bam.

My brothers and I kept our arms in shape for the corn picking season. Our spring,and summer training ocurred when we were destroying the cockle burrs with hoes. There were large clods of hard dirt laying all about the field. After warming up by hurling a series of insults at each other, we would spontaneously drop our hoes, and begin hurling clods. No quarter was asked, nor given. We took our lumps, and never appealed to a higher authority.

-- Posted by Oklahoma Reader on Fri, Aug 14, 2009, at 12:13 AM

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