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Discovering the secret of the elusive 'normal year' on the farm

Posted Monday, January 18, 2010, at 12:46 PM

Since I abandoned city life for the country several years ago I heard at least 815 farmers use the term "normal year" a total of 2,193,243 times.

My hubby alone has used the phrase 1,733,294 times. (You know I've counted.)

The problem is I've never once understood what any of these farmers were talking about.

What the heck is a "normal year" anyway? I looked it up on the Internet hoping to find something that said, "Definition of a 'normal year' for Missouri farmers."

Believe it or not I never found one.

Through the years, though, I have been able to figure out a few things about this elusive "normal year."

It always seems to be the opposite of the current year. Obviously, the last two rainy summers are not "normal years." Instead, in a "normal year," it won't rain at all.

If our tractor breaks down 25 times or our planter acts up, then in a normal year, it wouldn't have broken down at all.

Of course, if everything goes well in planting then I'll hear my husband tell a neighbor, "In a 'normal year,' we would have had all sorts of problems."

If harvest goes off without a hitch, then that too isn't "normal." Of course, a harvest full of breakdowns and rainouts is also not a "normal year."

During calving, a year without any calls to the vet, calves born in the mud or other "emergencies," isn't considered "normal." However, a year without any of these things wouldn't be a "normal year" either, I've discovered.

Of course, a winter like this one with big snows and Artic temperatures is certainly not "normal" for Missouri. However, listen to farmers talk about a "normal" winter and you know the mild winters we've had the past two years aren't "normal years" either.

After all these years of being eluded by this deep guarded secret, I've longed to be a "normal year," farm wife.

If you can't beat them join them, I finally decided. So last week I started my quest to be "normal." (I realized I had my work cut out for me.)

The first night of my experiment the boys came home from a long day of working cows and immediately asked "What's for dinner?"

"Well," I started slowly. "In a normal year I'd have supper ready, but right now supper is still in the freezer -- uncooked. It's just not a 'normal year,'" I said, sticking my hands in my pockets while staring at the ground and shaking my head.

I realized I was mocking the "farmer" stance I've seen at least three million times.

I think they were in shock. They didn't say a word as I tossed them salami and bread for their gourmet dinner.

The next morning, the boys were running around looking for clean jeans.

"Well," I started slowly, "in a normal year you'd have clean jeans, but," I stuffed my hands in my pockets and assumed the "normal year" stance, "it's just not a normal year."

This time I heard some grumbling and at least one moan -- I'm pretty sure that had something to do with hubby trying to put on jeans he hadn't worn since high school.

I, though, was really starting to feel "normal."

The next day I had one of those days: My refrigerator stopped working, the dog scattered the trash from one side of our breezeway to the other and I got my car stuck on a gravel road on the way to work. (And of course, I was running late anyway.)

As my boys wondered why I managed to end up in a mud hole, I realized I had a great excuse. This just wasn't a "normal year." In fact, "in a normal year" my bad day would never have happened.

During the realization I broke into a goofy grin, which was met by my husband's puzzled look. (Not the first time he's wondered what the heck I'm thinking.) It was then, though, that I knew a "normal year" isn't really a thing at all.

Instead it's a state of mind and necessary tool for farmers. The picture of an all-around "normal year" pushes him to put his life blindly into the land year after year. It goes hand in hand with two other important tools for farmers -- optimism and faith.

I stuffed my hands in my pockets. After all in a "normal year" I wouldn't have had any problems understanding this. Right?

Showing comments in chronological order
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In a normal year we would not have had the pleasure of reading this piece. One of your best.

It had me laughing out loud which is not normal, at least when I am by myself at the computer. My laughter startled my old dog who sleeps on the floor beside the computer, and that is not normal, especially because he is nearly deaf.

There used to be Normal schools in Missouri (my mother attended). Obviously they failed in their named mission. I have yet to meet the Missouri farmer who has declared "this is a normal year".

On the other hand, having spent my career in cities, I have only rarely met the urban dweller who would concede that they experienced even a normal day.

-- Posted by Oklahoma Reader on Tue, Jan 19, 2010, at 4:11 PM

Thanks OKR! Glad to help you laugh - they say it helps us to live longer!

-- Posted by Marcia Gorrell on Thu, Jan 21, 2010, at 8:58 AM

How funnny, I truely loved it! Being a farm girl since I was knee high to a grasshopper, I too have heard that same endearment! Once again nicely done!

-- Posted by litlmissme on Fri, Jan 22, 2010, at 5:14 PM

Thank you litlmissme. Glad you enjoyed it!!

-- Posted by Marcia Gorrell on Fri, Jan 22, 2010, at 6:48 PM

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