Lessons in life through the years

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

As a child, I hated August. It was hot, humid and represented the month summer ended and school began. For my children's sake, I still don't like the back-to-school part. Despite that, August has become one of my favorite months of the year, because it represents the calm before the "storm" -- also known as harvest.

Although there have been exceptions, normally in August the crops are planted and sprayed, most of the hay has been baled and the road banks have been mowed. Cows and calves have been worked, and, God willing, they have enough grass to keep them satisfied for awhile. August is the month many farmers take a vacation, visit the state fair or just enjoy a few hours of downtime.

I learned this lesson quickly when my intended and I began discussing our wedding date. I soon realized my fantasy June wedding would remain just that -- a fantasy. "We might still be planting, putting up hay, etc, etc.??." I naively asked about July. I soon learned, we could still be planting, putting up hay, etc. With that discussion, and realizing the only other non-busy farmer months included snowstorms, we picked Aug. 4, 1984.

As we celebrated 30 years a few weeks ago, I realized I've learned at least 30 things about farming and life. In fact, most of what I learned as a transformed city girl, I never knew I didn't know.

The first thing I learned was perhaps the hardest of all -- dirt is our life and would be for the rest of my years. Since that first week, I learned dirt had an important role in our work. But I also learned dirt would be an integral part of my life, as well. It would coat my car, my clothes and invade my home. At first I resisted, and dusted and vacuumed and fretted. Eventually, I embraced my fate -- maybe too well. I realized this last week, when unable to find a pencil, I absentmindedly balanced my checkbook on the kitchen table writing in the dust ... oops.

Through the years the lessons have continued.

2. Harvest is long, try to look up a few times and admire the fall leaves -- it helps.

3. Spiders, snakes, mice, flies and a variety of other creatures live on the farm too. And I've mostly learned to live with that in a general sense. One rule they need to understand -- don't let me see you in my yard and especially my house -- ever.

4. Animals smell, learn to like it.

5. After a long day of harvest, it's not a good time to bring up the broken dishwasher to Hubby. Morning, or perhaps sometime in December, is a better time.

6. The barn buys the house, the house doesn't buy the barn. I've learned it's the truth, even though I don't always like it.

7. If it's tax deductible, it's apparently part of the above-mentioned "barn." If it's not, it's the house -- non-negotiable.

8. Weather is constant but always changing. And it takes 37 weather apps, 7 satellite channels and 3 radio stations to know what the next day will bring. And usually they are all wrong.

9. Never talk (or breathe) during the weather broadcast. (See above.)

10. Color matters when it comes to farm equipment, crops and hats.

11. The free hats are important. Never throw any of the 2,492 away or your farmer will need that immediately.

12. The free hats aren't really free.

13. The "market" doesn't mean Safeway. And by the way, don't talk when they are reporting the markets on the radio either.

14. Although they call it working cows, the truth is they work us. And it's messy and tiring and did I mention - messy.

15. Newly-mowed hay and silage both smell really good.

16. There is no better place to raise a child than on a farm. Farm kids don't get bored, or if they do, they learn to not say anything and keep playing video games, lest someone find them a job.

17. Everyone, including most of the animals; dogs, cats and yes, even snakes, have work to do on a farm. (Note to hard-working snakes -- please see number 4 above.)

18. Farm work is never done.

19. Answering invitations should always be done with a disclaimer: If we aren't in the field, if the cows aren't delivering a calf, if the creek doesn't flood or if we are done with harvest.

20. People in the country know what "in the field" means. They also understand the difference between sow and sew, call the noon meal, "dinner" and the evening meal "supper."

21. A picnic in the field next to combine will be more of a special memory than any meal in a five-star restaurant.

22. Some of the best and perhaps most-needed conversations with children and husbands take place in a tractor cab.

23. Shag carpeting make the best "fields" for farm boys and their toys.

24. Humor is important -- on the farm and in life. (Important note: when Hubby is stuck in a tractor or has a breakdown or other mini-disasters, delay the laughter. It will be funny in a little while, like 10 years from now.)

25. A cool, wet summer, which brings abundant crops and green grass in August is a gift. Learn to savor it.

26. Food should be abundant and taste good. Presentation isn't very important. And breakfast is important.

27. Customer service, honesty, morality and loyalty are still alive and well in the country.

28. Farm people have been eating "naturally" for generations. They are the original "foodies."

29. There is no greater sight than a newborn calf learning to walk; a redbud brightening up the brown woods of winter, or a long row of green corn spiking through the warm soil. So enjoy the simple pleasures, they are the best.

I've noticed almost without fail, long-time married couples always talk about "the good times and bad times" and the "ups and downs" of married life. They usually end the speech or interview, with claiming it's all worth it. The most important thing I've learned in 30 years, is those people know what they are talking about.