When A City Slicker Writes a Dairy Blog

15 May

Sometimes I feel like a terrible blogger. And a terrible dairy blogger. And a terrible dairy wife.

I started this blog as a coping mechanism to grapple with the realities of dairy life—a life I knew nothing about before meeting my handsome Dairy Man.

But somewhere along the line, I became perceived as a dairy “expert.” Inexplicable.

As we all remember, I did not grow up on (or even near) a farm. I spent my formative years in a suburban land of city water, sidewalks, and neighborhood parks.

The closest I ever came to agriculture was Teusink’s Pony Farm. It was basically just a petting zoo with horse rides. Though I was surrounded by ducks, bunnies, and goats, I could hear honking car horns. I was within walking distance of ice cream. I could place one foot on the farm and the other in the asphalt parking lot of a nearby church.

TeusinksFarm

Teusink’s did not prepare me for farm life.

I didn’t experience true rural isolation until I moved to our old white house on the dairy. I didn’t experience the reality of farming until I was painting our laundry room by myself or trying to keep a barrage of black flies at bay.

I’m getting used to it.

The longer I live this dairy life, the more assimilated I become. It makes sense to use my writing to explain dairy processes and farming practice. In some circles I am the dairy expert. Mom is so proud.

But sometimes the very nature of this blog can feel disingenuous. I’m not a farmer. I don’t work on our dairy. I admittedly avoid getting my shoes dirty at all costs. I’m an overdressed transplant who happened to marry a man who is passionate about cows and corn.

Everything I know about farming comes from the DM. Some parts are interesting. Some parts are traumatizing. And other parts are downright dull.

I don’t think I will ever care about milking shells the way Dairy Man does. And I’m ok with that.

Yes, people, we’re getting real. I am breaking the fourth wall.

As I compose content for this blog, I’ve searched for balance between life and dairy. I love to write, but I worry about losing the newness, the confusion. The longer I live in this country place, the fewer opportunities I have for farm “firsts.”

Over time, the abnormal becomes normal. The new becomes mundane. The smells become commonplace.

As this natural process ebbs on, I can’t help but worry. What if I lose my incredulity? What if this dairy life becomes like an old shoe—comfortable, worn, and unsurprising?

My type A personality is prone to such compulsion. But I think my farming exodus, like life, requires a step back.

Sometimes the bud of a flower, the smile of a friend, the delicate fragrance of manure is all it takes to see the world with new eyes.

Familiarity is the enemy of inspiration. But often life’s most profound moments are found in the shabby or ordinary places. Sometimes it takes only the slightest shake of a butterfly’s wings to bring us straight to the feet of glory.

I’ve learned so much about farm life, but there is much more to explore. I continue to experience routine and newness. There’s something profound about both.

Sunset

It’s profound when the fiery pink/orange sun sets in the orchard across the street. It’s profound when my husband—weary, frazzled, and spattered with dirt—attentively looks into my eyes to say “I love you.” It’s profound when I drive a quarter mile into an isolated field to bring the DM some dinner and spend a few minutes reconnecting.

This life is not extraordinary. We wake up and beat the pavement (or the dirt) just like everyone else. But each day is a gift and I am grateful.

Other dairies are bigger. Other people are smarter. Other houses are cleaner. Other cows have higher milk production. But none of this matters when I look at the beauty of the life I’m blessed to live.

There’s nothing mundane about the love I feel for that man; there’s nothing dull about the passion he feels for his demanding profession; there’s nothing ordinary about our dependence on a powerful God.

SleepingBear

This farm life is more absurd than I ever could have known. I’ve lived through planting, harvesting, cow jailbreaks, and barn building. I’ve gone to bed alone. I’ve eaten a delicious steak from a steer who lived up the hill from my kitchen. I’ve driven Subway into fields and waited, waited, waited.

179161

I worry about running out of things to say, but I’ve recently realized that every life (whether full of cows, taxi cabs, or diapers) is seeped in richness. Ours is no different. It’s my goal to remember this—to delight in new knowledge and turn old experiences on their side.

A good dairy blog written by a prissy city girl should be equal parts cow and contemplation. And that’s what I strive to do. As I share the oddities of dairy life from an “expert” perspective, I will also stay true to the pencil-skirt-wearing immigrant behind the veil.

I will never stop learning. I will never stop growing. And I will never stop being thankful that I get to live this life. (If nothing else, for the material!)

Thanks for coming along.

Barnbuilding

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29 Responses to “When A City Slicker Writes a Dairy Blog”

  1. Dawn 05/15/2013 at 10:08 am #

    Jessica, I share many of your same thoughts…though I have to say, coming at farm life in middle age gives one a whole other appreciation level, since I have felt “deprived” for so long. And in regards to your role on the farm: I believe there are two types of farm wives: those that are hands on, and those that are hands off. I think you’re a hands off farm wife, but I really admire how much you’ve grown to be an expert on the subject. I’ve run across some farm wives that aren’t quite as knowledgeable, or interested for that matter. Don’t ever feel like you’re a terrible blogger. This is an excellent blog post, and you just might be my favorite farm wife blogger after all!

    • the Modern Farm Wife 05/15/2013 at 8:41 pm #

      Aw, thank you Dawn! I’m sure it was quite an adjustment for you to internalize of all this dairy craziness as well. 🙂 I’m definitely more hands off than other farm wives, but I do genuinely find DM’s work fascinating (most of the time). Your kind words mean a lot!

  2. jenniferdewey 05/15/2013 at 10:57 am #

    Beautifully written. I can identify a lot with this. And I needed to read this. Lately I’ve been cranky with planting season beginning and seeing less and less of my farmer as well as my house becoming dirtier by the minute as I also put in long hours too.

    Sometimes you just need a reminder, sometimes you just need to sit and reflect on how blessed you are to be living the life you do. So thank you!

    • the Modern Farm Wife 05/15/2013 at 8:49 pm #

      Thanks, Jennifer! This is the time of year that I need to keep reminding myself, like every day, that we’re blessed. Even if my husband works 5:30-10:30 and we eat a lot of cold leftovers. Or if I eat a dinner of Fruit Loops after dropping off Subway at the tractor. 🙂

  3. Amy Smits Sterk 05/15/2013 at 5:12 pm #

    Learning to be a dairy/farm wife is a lifelong process…just as any other “job” continues to change and challenge. Finding balance in a life where 100% (of time, emotions, money)could easily be invested back into the dairy, will be a changing formula from year to year! Sharing that process with us (some who have “been there” and some who haven’t) is a great way to record your journey! And when people ask absurd questions like “how long does it take to milk each cow?” refer them to your husband…as I am sure HE knows! (as does mine 🙂 )

    • the Modern Farm Wife 05/19/2013 at 8:07 pm #

      Thanks, Amy! Oh those absurd questions. Sometimes I just try to answer with authority even if I’m unsure, but that can be problematic… 🙂

  4. Jadine aka "aplusme" 05/15/2013 at 7:45 pm #

    Jessica, you remind me of a younger me. Eager to learn about the farm, but not too eager to be a farmer, subway picnics in the fields, and likely you have had the odd “date” riding along with your DM for hours in the tractor planting or harvesting as I did.

    Don’t worry, there will always be new stories to tell like the time you will assist in your first calf delivery with a twisted uterus (imagine yourself (aka me), and your DM rolling the cow (in labour) over while another farm hand holds tight to the calf hoofs (already sticking out) to untwist her poor uterus), or the time the cows went “lemmings” into the frozen (but not frozen enough) pond)…there will always be adventures to write and share.

    I can’t wait to read your blog as you progress on your journey of life, perhaps having children, and reading as the balance of life meets new challanges as long dairy hours seem to be prioritized while you tend to a career, home, and children (and dog). I am currently in the midst of such challenges and I hope that even though we have not met we can support each other during these challenges as a part of the secret Dairy Farmers Wives Club 🙂

    • the Modern Farm Wife 05/15/2013 at 8:54 pm #

      Jadine, I like the sound of this secret Dairy Farmers Wives Club! And though I find it nearly inconceivable that I would someday find myself on the business end of a calving bovine, I used to say I would NEVER live on a farm or ride in the tractor. So who knows? Life is funny. 🙂

  5. thedairymaid 05/15/2013 at 7:55 pm #

    Well said! I can relate in the sense of being able to revel in the familiarity of it now. There really is rarely a dull moment, though, when you’re surrounded by animals and a precocious little girl, in my case. Love your style. You always make me chuckle. 🙂

    • the Modern Farm Wife 05/15/2013 at 8:56 pm #

      Thanks, Breauna! It’s so wonderful to find people who understand. I LOVE your photos, btw. That’s one cute child. 🙂

  6. Marissa Nielsen 05/15/2013 at 10:45 pm #

    I thought of you today when I stopped by my grandfather’s farm. When I got out of my car I was bombarded with the wonderful smell of lilac bushes and lily of the valley. I couldn’t help but think about how ironic it was to think of the farm smelling so good!

    • the Modern Farm Wife 05/19/2013 at 8:08 pm #

      It depends who you ask, I suppose! I would rather smell lilacs, my husband would rather smell manure. What a weirdo. I hope you’re doing well, Marissa.

  7. christa 05/16/2013 at 6:30 am #

    You write a great blog. I grew up on a farm and my husband (I was NEVER marrying a farmer) was working on a farm when we met and the first years of our marriage. I know the late nights (all nights planting corn when rain was coming), bringing dinner out, seeing him only when he was sleeping. I love reading your blog, and your pictures are beautiful. My advice is still don’t learn to milk cows!

    • the Modern Farm Wife 05/19/2013 at 8:10 pm #

      Thanks, Christa! You’re not the first farm wife to tell me to keep away from the udders. I’m glad you can relate to this craziness. 🙂

  8. Brandi 05/19/2013 at 3:27 pm #

    I stumbled across you blog one day, and I love it! We don’t have cattle but I can definitely relate to the farm life you blog about. I just started a blog if you’d like to follow along. The link is: http://injohndeeregreen.wordpress.com/.

    • the Modern Farm Wife 05/19/2013 at 8:11 pm #

      Thanks for stopping by, Brandi. I’ll be sure to check out your blog!

      • Beka 06/02/2013 at 12:47 am #

        Hey Jessica,

        From one stiletto-lover to another, This blog gives me hope that I could actually make the switch and close the book on the city. It is so encouraging, if you can do it surely I can! Thank you.

        Lastly, don’t let your blogger compulsion even in your head… You could blog briefly about your feeling on black flies, or the last time your shoes did get dirty and I think I would still love to share in your farm experience – in any way!

      • the Modern Farm Wife 06/03/2013 at 9:26 am #

        Aw, thanks Beka. It’s always good to hear from my urban heel-wearing tribe. 🙂 I miss the city, but I’m also learning to love wide open spaces. I bet you could do it too!

  9. Lisa Baptista 07/13/2013 at 4:57 pm #

    I love your blog! It reminds me of my own life 34 years ago. This city raised girl learned to sit on the tractor and hot summer night rides to check on the irrigation just to spend time with my husband. His family sold their dairy so now I’m the dairy managers wife. It such a weird place to be because he still deals with most of the problems but is now just an employee. I have learned over the years to roll with the punches and remember my husband married this city girl not a totally hands on wife. You will find your own comfortable place… It just takes time:)

    • the Modern Farm Wife 07/24/2013 at 11:20 am #

      Thanks, Lisa! I really appreciate your comment. I’m very familiar with those hot rides to check the irrigators (the farm truck doesn’t have AC, after all). It gives me hope to hear from so many city girls like you who successfully assimilated into farming craziness. 🙂

  10. Malorie 07/16/2013 at 3:18 pm #

    On behalf of others in the dairy industry, thank you for joining it and for writing your blog. Although you did not grow up on a farm, you have turned into a great advocate for the industry and we need more people to appreciate the hours, the hard work and the love dairy farmers put into working and producing a great product! I grew up on a small dairy and worked in it, seeing firsthand the hours my parents put into their jobs and it seemed normal. Now that I am grown and married to a dairyman as well, it feels different than when I was a child, as I eat dinner without him during corn silage season, wash endless loads of dirty clothes and exhaustion keeps our conversations short. It is challenging but very fun and rewarding. So keep up the great work writing because farming is not dull, anything but the contrary! And you said it best, We live a blessed life. An awesome life as dairy farmers’ wives. Thank you!

    • the Modern Farm Wife 07/24/2013 at 11:24 am #

      Wow, Malorie, I was nodding my head along with everything you said here! This life is so challenging, but it does come with great rewards. These tired, dirty, dedicated farmers make life fun. 🙂 I really appreciate your kind words and am glad that my “coping mechanism” (this blog) has managed to provide encouragement to other farm wives! We’re all part of the same tribe, right? Who else would understand talking about artificial insemination at the dinner table or eating at 9 p.m. several nights a week?

  11. Dawn 10/08/2013 at 5:12 am #

    I love your blog! Thanks for entertaining this mom of two who was raised on a grain farm. Although I work in town, I am never far from my farming roots. I feel blessed that my kids have the same opportunities as I and are growing up in rural Ohio.
    I look forward to reading more of your blog!

    • the Modern Farm Wife 02/18/2014 at 8:49 am #

      Thanks, Dawn! I’m really looking forward to raising kids in the country too. 🙂

  12. annebennettbrosnan 02/17/2014 at 2:01 pm #

    Hi Jessica, Thanks for sharing your story and I know it so well albeit from a different side of the Atlantic. But a cow’s udder is a cow’s udder no matter where she’s grazing. I ‘ve just started my own blog (only two posts) so why not drop by some day for a nose as we say in Ireland. Mind yourself and thanks for the oh so familiar laugh. Anne http://www.girlinwellies.com

    • the Modern Farm Wife 02/18/2014 at 8:52 am #

      You’re very right: cows are cows, no matter where they are in the world. 🙂 I’ll be sure to check out your blog soon. And thanks for stopping by!

  13. Melanie 05/13/2015 at 7:06 am #

    This is amazing! I have recently started dating a farmer and already am getting the sense of the life I would be entering into! It has been helpful to read about your perspective 🙂

  14. Melanie 05/13/2015 at 7:08 am #

    I love this!

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