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The joys and discomforts are many on the farm

Posted Wednesday, June 8, 2011, at 10:11 AM

"For I know the joys and discomforts of agricultural life and hold an inborn fondness for those associations which, even in hours of discouragement, I cannot deny."

--from "The FFA Creed," written by E.M. Tiffany, and adopted at the third National Convention of the FFA. It was revised at the 38th Convention and the 63rd Convention.

Every time I hear the creed (I heard it thousands of times when my sons were learning it as high school freshman) and I've heard it many times at FFA banquets, I can't help but think about those "joys and the discomforts of agricultural life."

The interesting thing is, though, the same thing that can give us joy on a farm, can also give us discomfort.

For instance -- dirt, which we have an abundance of, is often a joy. Especially, the smell of a newly planted field on a warm day. I love to look at the long fields as the corn is popping up, bringing a line of green, to the dark brown soil. However, the dirt that comes into my house by the bucket full becomes a big discomfort at cleaning time. It also is a problem when I want to see what color my car is, because unless I wash it, it usually is brown.

Of course, if I wash it, then it means it will definitely rain within 48 hours.

Rain is another of those double-edged swords on the farm. Without rain, of course, our crops don't grow. I can remember (although it has been a few years) many times when we rejoiced at the sight of much-needed rains on our thirsty crops. Yes, definitely rain can be a great comfort.

However, in the past few years, rain has turned overly abundant in our area. Wet fields and flooding, coupled with cranky farmers, makes it definitely a discomfort.

The joys include the vision of a mother kitten and her babies and a newborn calf finding its first meal.

Of course, in discovering the joy, I've also learned something I never really knew before but learned here on the farm. Nature often can be cruel.

The same scene of a beautiful nest of kittens can turn to discomfort and sometimes anger when occasionally a barn cat decides she may have too many babies and hand picks which ones to move and which ones to leave.

Countless hours I spent with our boys, hand feeding kittens, climbing steep stairs and moving the kittens ourselves to convince the mother that "survival of the fittest" wasn't allowed under our watch.

Through the years I've seen mother cows -- who decided they didn't want to be a mother after all -- kicking the calves they just bore each time the baby tries to nurse. That too, has been a discomfort as we moved the unwilling mother into a chute, milking her and feeding the hungry newborn before putting the two together in a smaller pen.

That, too, often turns into a joy, when the once unwilling mother decides her new job -- and new baby -- aren't so bad after all.

One of the first joys I had as a new farm wife was watching all the wild animals.

In fact, according to statistics, in the U.S. over 80 percent of wild animals live on privately owned land. The view of a bald eagle hunting, a glimpse of a rare bird and the sights and sounds of wild turkeys "strutting" their stuff are delights I see almost every day. They are definitely a joy.

I even enjoy the overabundance of deer in our area, especially in spring when we'll catch a sight of a new mother and its spotted fawns grazing in a pasture below our house.

However, it turns into a discomfort and a fear when the same deer seem intent on running out into my path every time I drive down the road. And calling my husband after an apparently suicidal deer "ran into me" and my then-new car several years ago was definitely a discomfort.

The joy of the deer also turns into a discomfort when we see the damage they do to our corn crop each fall. I wish I had a camera when the deer darted in front of my car one sunny afternoon last summer with a fresh ear of our field corn hanging from his mouth. He was happy -- but for me -- that was definitely a moment of discomfort.

Growing up in the city, I saw the occasional turtle, frog, toad and even small garter snake, but they always lived outside our home. So imagine my surprise one day many years ago when I started walking down to the basement with a load of laundry in our old farmhouse. Looking up, I came face to face with a 16-foot (okay maybe he was 6 feet) black snake coiled up on a ledge, hissing intently just a few feet from my face.

The laundry went flying as I ran back up the steps. Needless to say, that was the summer my husband learned to do laundry.

As Indiana Jones once said, "I hate snakes." Definitely a discomfort.

Other discomforts of agricultural life through the years have been the skunks who thought our old shop, or under our house, were good places to have babies; the water snake who thought the gold fish in our water garden were fair game and the raccoon (or was it a possum?) who fell through the netting of our water garden sometime this winter, only to be discovered -- rather petrified and covered in green moss -- when I cleaned up the pond this spring.

Through it all, I've got to admit, I "hold an inborn fondness for those associations which, even in hours (even days) of discouragement, I cannot deny."

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Another nice piece Marsha. I have also experienced, and hold in my memory many joys of life on the farm, though it was much different than farm life today.

-- Posted by Oklahoma Reader on Sat, Jun 11, 2011, at 11:43 PM

Yes, Marsha the joys of looking over the river bluff into the bottoms has always brought such pleasure but as of late the water soaked fields the yellow young corn plants bring such a heartache. But now when the color of the corn is a healthy dark green I still look over that area with a dark foreboding feeling. When will the levy fail this time? When will all the politics actually be on our side and the corp. release the water when it is needed for agriculture rather than for recreational fun. How many more 500 year man induced floods must we endure!

I look over the bluff I do so with such a remembrance of 93 that it brings back the real physical illness we so endured that year.....and so it, begins again. Lord please be with us it is so hard to look North today!

-- Posted by salinemg on Mon, Jun 13, 2011, at 9:22 PM

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