According to Paul Harvey, God made a farmer on the eighth day so as to have a caretaker of the earth (‘So God Made a Farmer’ by Paul Harvey). Now, I did not grow up on a farm, nor was I raised in a farming community, and I most certainly was not going to marry a farmer. Never say never.
My husband is a dyed-in-the-wool farmer. As a boy, he spent hours building trucks out of Lego, playing with dinky toy tractors and wagons, and sketching farms. When he was ten or eleven, he tapped the trees that ran along the side road where he lived because he was intrigued with the process of making maple syrup. In his teens and early twenties, he worked for a local elevator/farming operation. In spite of all this evidence that would have proved otherwise, I’m sure he told me that he didn’t want to be a farmer. Love is indeed blind.
Here we are, some thirty years later, farming like there’s no tomorrow. There were times, when the kids were little, that I pined for that forty hour work week, week-ends off, and going on a vacation without worrying about whether some crop needs to be planted or harvested or who will do the chores. But, in the end, at least on most days, I came to see that this lifestyle, while not easy or stress-free, really was a worthwhile and noble lifestyle, and I became grateful for it.
“I need somebody…who planting time and harvest season, will finish his forty hour week by Tuesday noon, then, pain’n from ‘tractor back,’ put in another seventy-two hours”, intones Harvey, in his low drawl, as he gives the farmer speech. He’s not too far from the truth. My farmer husband goes from sun-up to sun-down and beyond during the busy season, and I wonder from where he summons the energy (though – it can catch up to him on a Sunday morning!). When I see him walk through a field in the spring and toe dirt over an exposed seed or gently brush aside the soil to see if the seed is germinating, I see a man who is living a calling, a vocation. When I see him grieving over the corn crop that is spiking its leaves to preserve itself from the heat, doing everything it can to protect the whorl, I see a man deeply connected to the land. When I see the disappointment at yet another rain that has passed us by, I see a man relinquishing control.
I never knew what crop-scouting was, but now it is a regular date form for us. We deck ourselves out in our red and black plaid lumberman jackets, pick up a coffee, and drive through the countryside, past our own fields, past rented fields and customers’ fields talking farming, family, and friends. All the while, my farmer husband is assessing the progress and readiness of the land and crops. It is simple, but it is good.
As I’ve said elsewhere, our best crop has been our four kids. Two of those kids have followed their Dad into farming and are becoming able farmers in their own right. They gather around the kitchen table or on the pergola to exchange the tales of the previous day, comparing rainfall amounts from one farm to the next while the cell phone rings incessantly.
“Freddeh”, says the one farmer, “we had an inch and three tenths in fifteen minutes. It’s gonna take a long time to dry again.”
Another farmer from further north calls and says, “It was nothing more than a heavy dew.”
“Who needs twitter?”, says my husband.
The days are long, the debts are deep, and most of my days are filled with interruptions, but there is a rich sense of reward to this farming thing, and I’m glad I was blinded. We are both pressed and privileged to be so tied to the seasons and the weather. My farmer husband and kids work hard to nurture a fruitful crop, but they know that it all comes down to the mystery of a seed dying and becoming something new and alive.
“Somebody who’d bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply, with smiling eyes, when his son says he wants to ‘spend his life doing what dad does.'” (Harvey)
God did make a farmer. And I married him.