How I Accidentally Fell in Love with a Farmer

How I Accidentally Fell in Love with a Farmer

Ours was not love at first sight.

Dairy Man was a friend of my college housemate. The first time I remember him was when he came to my door looking for her.

“Is Amanda here?”
 
“No, sorry.”
 
“Ok. Hey, would you like to get coffee sometime?”
 
“Um. What was your name again?”

DM wants me to point out that I’m oversimplifying this exchange, but that was the gist. He wasn’t on my radar until that moment, even though his friends had been pushing him the direction of Amanda’s single (and ravishing) housemate for a while.

I was startled but I said yes.

So we went out for coffee. Hands cupped around warm mugs, we talked comfortably for a couple of hours. I came home and told a friend, “It was fun. He’s really nice. But there weren’t any sparks.”

….

Fast forward six months.

DM had become one of my best friends. We studied together, spent hours engaged in witty repartee on AIM (#90schild), and resisted the less-than-subtle attempts of our friends to get us together.

Well, at least I did.

I let that poor boy chase me for the better part of a year, but I just wasn’t ready. I was selfish. I couldn’t get over the farmer thing. We were constantly embroiled in typical 20-something college drama deserving of a reality show. Will she? Won’t she? It was exhausting and nobody got a rose.

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Then I got accepted to a semester program in Chicago. DM’s frustration with my coquettish ways had reached a boiling point. We had a huge fight before I left and decided not to talk for a while.

….

Chicago was an incredible experience. I shared a studio apartment with a bed in the wall and a kitchen in the closet. I tried Indian food. I interned at the Museum of Contemporary Art by day and spent my nights going to plays, ballets, museums, and modern dance performances in empty swimming pools (just as weird as it sounds). I loved everything about the city.

But something still tugged on my heart.

Every morning as I walked the 15 blocks to my office, I talked to my sister on the phone. Many months later Mandy told me that I mentioned Dairy Man in almost every single call. I said that I missed him. That I wondered what he was doing. That it was killing me not to talk to him.

I had escaped Michigan for the big city, but I hadn’t escaped him.

….

He was the first person I called when I moved back and we started dating a couple of days later. It was instantly comfortable, perfectly right, as if this is what was supposed to happen all along.

We were so happy. Crazy about each other. But we weren’t out of the woods yet.

I still didn’t love the farmer thing, but DM talked about moving away after college, working for the commodities exchange in Chicago, trying something new. I clung to this hope.

….

The sun felt unbearably hot on my head as I sat in silence, trying to digest what he had just told me.

“Jess, I’m going to stay here and work on the dairy.”

My heart sank into my shoes. I suddenly wanted to leap from the bed of his red truck and run until my lungs burned. But I was frozen.

We had talked about this. After we graduated from college, DM went home to work on the farm and save some money. I knew there was a possibility of his staying on the dairy, but he seemed so sure he wanted to get out of West Michigan and experience something new. That was my expectation, my deepest yearning.

Now it was August. I still hadn’t found a job in Chicago and DM was planning to stay here.

I felt silly for hoping. I felt silly for thinking that I could coerce him into my world of sushi and skyscrapers.

I should have known his heart was too deeply rooted in farming.

This was my first true introduction to an undeniable truth: farming is not a job, it’s a life. It was in DM’s blood. It pulsed through his body like oxygen. He couldn’t fathom leaving the work that made him feel most alive. I couldn’t fault him that. But that didn’t make my choice any easier. At a very young stage in our relationship, I had to decide: Chicago or him?

Because I knew in my heart that long distance wouldn’t work. Once my feet left Michigan soil, I wouldn’t be back for a while.

I wanted an adventurous life. But this boy was offering a farm.

“I just don’t know if I can do this.”

….

Happy tears burned my eyes as I rounded the corner, arms locked with my dad, white dress swishing.

And then I saw him. My love, my life, smiling and waiting at the front of the church.

Violin strains of “Bittersweet Symphony” by The Verve swelled around me in the most visceral way imaginable. I could barely breathe.

I kept walking, unable to take my eyes off the man in front of me.

We had come so far. We had crossed so many valleys together. I was young and terrified, but I did not doubt my choice.

For whatever reason in God’s design, I was going to marry a dairy farmer.

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….

And now we’re here. 900 words, nine years (five and a half married), two barns, one baby, and hundreds of cows later.

Becoming a farm wife has become surprisingly normal, but I don’t ever want to forget that it wasn’t easy to get here. I had to overcome a lot of fear, stubbornness, and unreasonable expectations before admitting that, EGADS, I was in love with a dairyman.

I’m so glad he stuck with me.

Because love isn’t always obvious or simple. It isn’t something you just fall into. It’s a choice you make every day.

As I look ahead to Valentine’s Day this weekend—that ubiquitous holiday of candy hearts and overpriced red roses—I am grateful for our kind of love. This love is hard-fought. This love is not perfect nor without cow manure tracked into the house, but it’s real. We make each other better through our differences.

Our love story reminds me that I chose this life. I chose him. I wasn’t looking for what DM offered, but God knew it was exactly what I needed.

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“If it is right, it happens—the main thing is not to hurry.
Nothing good gets away.” —John Steinbeck

When I Don’t Accept Farm Life With Grace

This may just be my old age talking, but I feel like this year is moving at warp speed

I often feel like I’m trying to hold time in my hands. But time is like water, a liquid substance. It spills over and between my fingers, despite my best attempts to store it, to savor it.

I know I’m not alone. If I did an informal survey of everyone I know in the world, I’m sure we all have a deep yearning for “more time.” We’re always rushing, always checking our Facebook newsfeed, always multitasking, always packing our weekends with fun activities. It’s a normal thing, to be busy.

But it’s also a farming thing. Times ten.

This summer alone we planted corn, harvested multiple cuttings of hay, built a barn, dug a five-million gallon manure pit, irrigated our corn (thanks to a lack of rain), and tried to plan out the future of this dairy. All of these things have taken place alongside weddings, birthdays, weekends away, illness, dog grooming appointments, extensive home renovations, parties, personal crises, and a million loads of laundry.

Harvestcorn

Dairy Man finds it nearly impossible to sit still and to quiet his mind. I struggle with the same. Frankly, in farming, you don’t often have the luxury of calm. It often feels like we bounce from one “crisis” to another. Just when you get the bulk tank fixed, a cow goes into labor. Just when you finalize the milking schedule, someone gets a tractor stuck in the mud. DM is on-call 24 hours a day, and that makes it nearly impossible to ever truly relax, unplug, or find calm.

And when farming never slows down, how is a boy to find time for things like dinner at the dining room table, home repairs, or nights out with friends?

I feel guilty piling anything on. If I’m honest, this can be isolating. Being married to a farmer means (trying) to put everything else in life on hold from April to October in an attempt to keep your husband sane. I struggle with this every single day. I envy friends who have husbands home by six, who are able to take vacations, who tackle house projects as a team.

I struggle not to feel alone, disenfranchised. The farm trumps most things, but it’s not always easy to swallow. I work full-time and try to see friends and family, make nutritious meals, and keep a clean home. Yet I constantly feel behind. Deep within the dark and shameful places of my heart, I resent having to do everything (non-farm-related) by myself. I’m not proud of those feelings. They creep up on me as smoky tendrils, slowly squeezing out joy and positivity.

Honestly, there are times I’m exhausted, I’ve had a terrible day at work, the house is a mess, the dog needs a walk, everything feels chaotic, and I just can’t handle another farming crisis with understanding and grace.

Sometimes I’m not really listening. Sometimes I’m making a grocery list in my head or wishing we could talk about literally any other topic in the world but the dairy. Sometimes I can’t tear my attention away from the dishes he forgot to put in the dishwasher. Sometimes I resent the irrevocable monopoly the farm has on my husband’s brain and respond with frustration or anger.

Those are the moments I regret. When I’m not gracious. When I don’t control my feelings. When I’m not calm. When I choose to be selfish.

But marriage can’t be selfish, especially marriage to a dairy farmer. I chose that man and thus, I chose this life. We will spend our entire lives trying to balance, trying to carve out time for anything other than the dairy. You can’t compartmentalize farming. It’s not a job; it’s not a hobby. It’s a life.

Generally I’ve come to accept this. The Dairy Man pulls himself away during the “slower” times of the year and I try to accept the periods of insanity with understanding.

Because even when he tracks manure into the kitchen or never responds to my “When will you be home?” texts, I love that man. I admire the passion he feels for this dairy. I know he wouldn’t be happy doing anything else. And even when I’m feeling neglected, I know for a fact that he would do anything for me.

Love and marriage aren’t about perfect equality. There are times where we must carry each other. As my mom reminded me in my first year of marriage, “you can’t be so concerned about things being perfectly 50/50. You both have to give 100 percent–all of the time. Things aren’t always going to be equal. You might have to take turns carrying the other. But you should both always try to give 100 percent. That’s what love is.

This quote still convicts me. While it’s so tempting to succumb to unhappiness or frustration this time of year, the Dairy Man needs me now more than ever. It is my turn to carry. Whether through delivered dinners, a kind and patient temperament, or a listening ear.

There’s nothing fair about it. But there’s nothing fair about life or love. Happiness comes in the realization that we’re here to carry each other. If you find someone willing to carry you–even an occasionally distracted Dairy Man–you are richly blessed.

So I will enjoy my fall nights of solitude. I’ll read, take walks, watch girly TV shows, bite my tongue, and make sure that DM is fed and loved. Jersey the dog accepts this time of year with far less grace than I (since he’s stuck in the house for a few weeks), but it’s nothing that can’t be fixed with a heaping dollop of peanut butter.

For me, I find catharsis in an evening walk through the rustling corn. A good book and a steaming glass of apple cider. A few quiet moments spent sitting in the grass with Jersey before the sun sets.

Evening light

All seasons are beautiful and messy. All seasons bring frustration and joy. All seasons make up a life.

And I am grateful.

What It’s Really Like to be Married to a Farmer

A while back, Meggie from Hooiser Farm Babe wrote a post with this same title. While reading her words, I found myself nodding, laughing, and thinking to myself, “Holy goodness. This is exactly how I feel. These things are all true for me too.”

And then I wondered if I could add a few things to the list. I could have used all of her headings and wrote my own thoughts (because, as mentioned, all apply!), but maybe I can add something to the conversation.

My experiences with farming really didn’t begin until I said “I do” that hot August day. I had no idea what I was getting into. I came from a suburban realm where dads came home at 5 and dinner was at 6. In my world, families took summer vacations, slept in on Saturdays, and were always on time to church. Farm life is an entirely different animal.

So, what is it really like being married to a farmer?

You are alone a lot (this is such a big one I had to borrow it from Meggie)
I’m not sure what I expected when I married a farmer, but it wasn’t eating dinner at 8 and spending my weekend by myself. But that’s the nature of farming. Between daily chores, fixing things that are broken, supervising employees, and the crazy times of the year (planting, harvesting, haying, etc.), there isn’t much time for things like vacation, going out for dinner with friends, or weekend getaways. It’s very difficult for the Dairy Man to peel himself away from the dairy, even for a night. I go to a lot of events alone. Watch a lot of TV alone. And talk to our puppy far more than I should…

You do the housework
At first, it was very important for me to keep things equal in the marriage. I didn’t mind doing some of the housework, but I wasn’t doing it all just because I was the girl. I wanted my husband to know how to vacuum, load the dishwasher, and do his own laundry. And he does. But unfortunately there are just times of the year where he can’t. The Dairy Man works 6.5 days a week and usually gets in around 8. I work 5 days and get home at 7. I have more time, so I do most of the housework. But not because I’m the girl. And my husband does know how to do laundry.

You just can’t commit
To events and obligations, that is. This reality drove me crazy during our dating life. If you say you can go bowling with your friends on Friday, then you GO bowling with your friends on Friday. But not if you have to work late. Or if the tractor breaks. Or if there’s a cow having difficulty in labor. These things all take precedence over previous plans.

You’re always late
The dairy makes us late for everything – church, parties, dinner at his parents’ house, vet appointments, and nights out with friends. There’s always one more thing to do, one more thing to fix, or one more problem to tackle. Fortunately our farming community gets it. If you’re 30 minutes late for church you can say, “Sorry, Pastor, problems on the dairy,” and he nods his head knowingly and declares, “Well, we’re just glad you made it!” A secret added bonus of this reality is that people start to get excited when you actually make it to an event. We’re fashionably late. All the time. I like to think we’re the life of every party.

You learn flexibility and patience
Two traits I did NOT possess before I married the Dairy Man were flexibility and patience. I’m a planner. When I say I’m going to do something, I do it. I like to know what to expect and I don’t like surprises. Some might call me type-A OCDish, but I call myself organized. I may or may not have matching baskets labeled by category in the bathroom closet. But farm life doesn’t work that way. It isn’t neat. It isn’t organized. If you want to be happy, you’d better learn to be flexible. And, really, being a little less uptight hasn’t hurt me one bit.

I could go on, but you get the idea. That being said, being married to my farmer is fabulous in so many ways.

He exemplifies work and passion
I’ve never seen someone work so hard. Seriously. My Dairy Man has a work ethic that baffles me. It has downsides, but I am so proud to have a husband that understands the value of an honest day’s work. He also loves it. He’s passionate about it. He talks about it all the time because it’s so exciting to him. Again, annoying, but I think this kind of vocational passion is so rare and admirable.

He asks me about my day
Despite dragging himself into the house exhausted each night, my Dairy Man still cares about my life, my day, and my feelings. I can’t remember the last time he didn’t ask me “how was your day?” before sitting down to dinner. He’s busy and gone a lot, but he always takes a moment to ask about me.

He teaches me something new every day
Did you know that cows can get pink eye? Or that cows don’t give milk until they have a calf? Or that there’s a big difference between a bull and a steer? I’m always learning new things from my Dairy Man. It’s impossible not to. And even though I sometimes learn things I never wanted to know, it’s great to expand my knowledge base.

He loves me
Sometimes I catch the Dairy Man looking at me and the love in his eyes takes my breath away. I love being married to him more with each day. That’s why I’m here. That’s why I’m not in the land of steel and concrete. I’m here because of him.

And, also, he cleans up quite nicely.

Woman vs. Farm: On Being a Farm Wife.

My Dairy Man spends a lot of time out on the dairy. Like, a lot. He usually hits the dirt around 7 a.m. and I see neither hide nor hair of him until 8 or 9 p.m.

The time between when I get home from work and when I see the hardworking farmer can be a lonely time. In the first few months of our marriage (harvest time), it was actually much worse. I resented it. I felt like I barely had a husband. When he finally got home, we would scarf down a quick dinner, spend 20-30 minutes catching up, and then head to bed so that we could wake up to do it all over again. It got better when we actually started living on the dairy, but the Dairy Man’s life is still at the mercy of the farm. If something breaks, he has to fix it. If an employee needs assistance, he has to help. If the cows get out, he obviously has to wrangle. Regardless of the time, day or night, the dairy almost always comes first.

This reality has been the most challenging adjustment as I learn how to live as a modern farm wife. I grew up in a family that treated work very differently. My dad was home for dinner almost every night; no one was calling him at 4 a.m. to report a problem; he could plan his days and we could plan on him.

But farming is very different. Long hours and lack of freedom come with the territory. This is your name on the line, your reputation, your livelihood. There is a high level of personal investment. Farming is like any other small business … if the business were on steroids. Farming will never, ever be a 9-5.

Honestly? I’m still adjusting. I suspect it may take years. The all-encompassing nature of the farm still shocks and annoys me. My Dairy Man will spend the rest of his life trying to find balance and I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to accept that we often won’t achieve it.

A few months before we got married, Dairy Man and I were in a premarital counseling session that changed everything. While addressing my fears of living in the country and marrying a farmer, I came up with a laundry list of worries: living in the middle of nowhere, dealing with my husband’s work schedule, and giving up career options to follow him. Would he make enough time for me? Would I get lonely? How could I survive when the nearest mall or Starbucks was 45 minutes away? What kind of future would I have?

When I stopped to take a breath, Dairy Man started talking. He talked about his love of farming and his eagerness to grow and innovate on the dairy. His passion was palpable; his eyes were gleaming; his ambition was remarkable. And then he said, “But I feel so guilty about all of this because I know Jess is unhappy. And I understand, but I just don’t know what to do.”

BAM. My selfishness hit me like a load of bricks. And it hurt. It hurt to see that I was unintentionally stomping all over his dreams. It hurt to know that I was taking the joy out of something he loved so much. That’s when I decided to stop digging in my heels. I chose him and thus, I chose this life. If we were going to be happy, I would have to start being ok with this.

I’m proud of my husband. I’m proud of how hard he works and how big he dreams. He inspires me to do more and push myself harder. I need to reciprocate. Even though the stiletto-wearing city girl from five years ago would have been horrified at the prospect of living in the land of sky, dirt, and cows, this is exactly where I’m supposed to be.

And so, when I am eating yet another dinner alone, I remind myself why I’m here. The Dairy Man and I both have things to learn, but we’re on the same team. Even if the team uniform requires old jeans and rubber boots.