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.

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When A City Slicker Writes a Dairy Blog

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.

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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

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.