in which we chop water, carry wood

Oh, all you internet mistake police thinking I got my quotations mixed up, relax.  At Auburn Meadow Farm, water gets chopped. At least in the winter if you want your cows to drink…

The water troughs every single frigid morning and evening. The cows wait for me to chop it open for them – could you let them down?

Life is far from glamorous around here.  If there’s ever been a profession where you can’t hide from yourself, it would be farming.

Because I wasn’t raised on a farm or in a manly home, I didn’t learn much that’s turned out to be useful in my actual workday. Growing up in a small all female household, I learned about fashion, food and trying to being pleasing and respectful.  Our tool box had a tiny hammer, one pair of cheap pliers, a screwdriver or two and some masking tape & glue. Maybe some hangers for pictures and decorating stuff.

Today, I struggle with not knowing how engines and electricity work. One day, after installing our first electric fence, I remember standing frozen for an embarassingly long time because I needed to disable the battery and I was afraid to touch the wrong wire. Silly girl.

And I never appreciated what an admirable skill it is to be able to drive a nail properly and from all angles.

Getting un-stuck (better yet not getting stuck in the first place), jump starting engines, driving tractors, installing fence, digging fence posts, changing tires – all foreign territory.  But amazingly, today, all things I can do by myself. Most of the time….

Today, my manicures are much more likely to include gasoline or GOJO than OPI.  And my shoe fetish, well, let’s say it’s changed. I’m a girl fond of her high heels, a lover of ankle straps and bows.  Today my shoes are most often muck boots ornamented with bows of manure and ankle-deep mud.

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Old shoes, new shoes and another very important accessory – good work gloves that fit. Who cares if they match?

Once, people gave me gifts like watches, perfume, fancy sweaters and books. Things I loved and appreciated. Today, people give me things like axes, home raised eggs, power drills, gates and headlamps. Again, things I love and appreciate.

Kristin Kimball says it best in her book The Dirty Life:

“I had never in my life been so dirty.  The work was always dirty, beyond what I’d previously defined as dirty, and it took too much energy to keep oneself out of it.”

“My new life was marking me. It was happening so quickly. There were intermittent spells of resistance, during which I’d pluck and moisturize and exfoliate, and then there was a period of grieving for my old self, who seemed to be disappearing toward the horizon, and then I relaxed into it.”

But my new life has marked me on the inside too.  It’s not easy being a somewhat successful and competent adult struggling to be as useful as a 12-year-old farm boy. I have a new-found context to define just how capable and important I really am.  And I can’t use office busyness to hide from myself or the chatter in my head.

Spending hours by myself walking, shoveling manure, mending fence and riding a tractor,  I’ve made friends with silence and now prefer to be without TV, radio or iPod noise most of the time. That doesn’t mean the crazy lady in my head doesn’t chatter away– I’m still trying to find the “off” button for her.

Old Blue does her share….

I’m also spending plenty of time on my back or belly in the dirt trying to replace blades on the mower, attaching the plow or repairing something that I broke.  Thank goodness for my farmer friends who have taken me under their wing and so generously help and take time to explain so I will learn.

Of course it takes a willingness to be humble.  I’m embarrassed to say how many times I’ve had to go back to the dealer when my weed wacker wouldn’t start. Actually, that’s a lie. Not the part about the weed wacker not starting; the part where I said I was embarrassed. I’m no longer that easily embarrassed.

And did you know weed wacking was such an important job on an organic livestock farm? I didn’t really plan for that…   And the chainsaw?  Let’s just say I haven’t quite mastered that one yet, though I will.  The chainsaw scares me a little more than the other equipment… my fingers may have dirt under their nails, but they’re still all right where they belong.

Farming’s been humbling. And frustrating. Irritating, challenging, uncomfortable and empowering too. I have a fresh appreciation for just about everything.  And, as long as I farm, I can only make one guarantee: I will never know it all or lose the pleasure of wearing egg on my face.

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5 thoughts on “in which we chop water, carry wood

  1. Let’s hear it for us girls! Even if we don’t look much like girls anymore. Can’t relate to the farm lifestyle but as the only girl chef in a kitchen of boys, I get it. I wear boys clothes, I have boy-looking hands (read: lack of manicure and varying stages of hangnails), I don’t even seem to bother with make-up anymore (it sweats off in 15 mins standing over a hot stove…) and my current fav hairstyle is a ponytail under a baseball cap. I have to keep reminding myself that I really do own clothes that don’t say “chef-wear” on them. Big sigh. But I can butcher primal cuts of beef, pork and lamb and fillet out whole fish like nobody’s business. And I can rule on a gas grill and stove, so I guess the trade-off is fair…right?

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