I’m a city girl. I come from a line of merchants and skilled workers. I don’t know how many generations I would have to go back to find an ancestor who lived off the land. I grew up in a subdivision which, though made from drained bottomland from Nonconnah Creek, gave no hint it had ever been connected to a rural landscape. The lawns were manicured by the Dads of the neighborhood. Plants other than grass were kept in flowerbeds where children were not allowed.
We knew that “the country” existed, because when we went to pick up the maids who worked for us from their sharecropper cabins we had to drive past fields of cotton. But food came from the store. There was no need to know how to grow it, thanks to advances in modern science. Despite having no close family connection to farming, I always longed for the grounding feeling produced by growing things. I remember once as a small child having a packet of morning glory seeds and planting them against my neighbor’s brick fence. I don’t even remember if they grew.
I have stayed a city girl, but I’ve tried to do my own bit of farming, with limited success. But guess what? A few years ago my daughter married someone who grew up on a real farm! How exotic is that? I groaned with envy every time my daughter described her visits to the farm: so peaceful, so practical. And this year, thanks to the birth of my grandson, I too was invited to the B.’s ( the in-laws’) farm!
The farm is only a few hours’ drive from here, so when my daughter, son in law and grandson came to the farm from California, we made plans to horn in on their visit a little bit. My husband and I made reservations to stay at a cabin at a nearby winery where we hopefully would not be too much in the way. I knew I would get my hands on my precious grandson by hook or by crook but secretly I hoped also to see the farm.
When we arrived late on a Thursday, I was tired out from my previous adventure of keeping my five month old grand daughter for the past four nights. I suppose I didn’t feel like the best of sports when I realized our “cabin” was actually a duded up mobile home. Luckily, a night’s uninterrupted sleep helped me appreciate the beauty of my surroundings. The little cabin turned out to meet our needs perfectly and the air-conditioning was SUPERB.
After exploring the winery grounds that morning we headed to the farm with plans to see the baby. I didn’t get a lot of pictures, as he tends to be a moving target, but I did manage a few of my cutie:
On the Fourth of July I learned that my husband had boldly asked for a tour of the farm.. How do I describe the farm? First of all, imagine a driveway that is one mile long!!!! The B.’s could never have unexpected human company; they could probably vacuum the whole house from the time they saw a car turning onto their property until it reached the house! The farm has been in the B. family for generations, and the current farmhouse was built in the 1960s. It is a working house, built with farm life in mind, with a generous kitchen, a mudroom and a working shower in the basement for when you just shouldn’t be tramping up to the upstairs bathrooms. The dining room window frames the backyard pond. I love the idea of a home built to fit a lifestyle rather than having to make the home fit the people.
The B.s’ were ready to show us the farm, but first, they needed to fulfill the family tradition of taking their picture in the fields. We were delighted to tag along, especially since that meant getting to sit on the back of a pickup truck and zoom around the farm! Yee hah! Fast times for a city girl!
Next, we got a tour of the farm machinery. My husband was eager to know how everything worked. Farmer B., it seems, is somewhat of a mechanical genius, able to keep old machines running, thereby keeping costs down.
But while my husband appreciated Farmer B.’s mechanical talents, I was busy admiring the shapes and textures in the barn.
Somehow the B.s are able to get their work accomplished despite all the intriguing shapes and colors. They are respectful stewards of the land and of all the creatures who live there.
At lunchtime we returned to the house for what I am told is a typical farm lunch: roast, two kinds of potatoes, mixed vegetables, salad, berries, nuts, jello, mousse, and several kinds of cookies. Somehow Farmerette B. had whipped up this lunch in the middle of taking family pictures and keeping up with her grandson. And by the way she has no dishwasher!!!! I already knew Farmerette B. to be a human dynamo, but seeing the way she so effortlessly managed the household while at the same time doing more than a fair share of the farm work gave me a new appreciation. These B.s are a very effective team!
After lunch it was time for a real farm experience: shooting a gun! Other than going with a high school boyfriend somewhere and trying to shoot at tin cans, I had never had the opportunity or reason to use a gun. Farmer B. was a patient teacher, emphasizing the gun safety rules that all farm children are taught at an early age. Because guns are sometimes used on farms, he wanted us to know that our grandson would eventually have the opportunity to learn to shoot, and that it would be handled in a safe manner. He may not have realized he did not need to earn my trust; he already had it.
And now there there was one more big fat farm treat! Tractor driving! Farmer B. revved up a big green tractor, and all of us city kids lined up for a chance to drive it. Before I knew it I was heading down a field with Farmer B. as my co-pilot, belting out the lyrics to “Green Acres.” When we had all driven the tractor, Farmer B. put it in reverse to return it to the barn. Next time I”M putting it in reverse. That looked and sounded awesome! All too soon it was time to return to our winery/mobile home. As an added bonus our daughter, son in law and grandson joined us for the night. Micah enjoyed taking a thorough turn through the accommodations.
As always, travel, especially to a new place, causes me to reflect on the beautiful diversity of life. What must it feel like to pass each day overlooking the same fields my parents looked at each day? What must it be like to be able to walk right outside my door and know that all the richness of the surrounding land is mine to tend? How must it feel to spend my days connected to the land, attuned to every small change in the atmosphere, and to be able to watch the sun, unobstructed by buildings, set each evening as though it were performing just for me?
I am sure out of ignorance I am leaving out many hard parts of farming, but to me the way of life seems authentic, sacred even. No wonder the B.s are such peaceful folk. I wonder about myself. Am I a city girl simply because that is where I was born? Could I adapt to a life like the B.s? It’s fun to dream, even though I would probably be no more effective as a farmer than Oliver Wendell Douglas on Green Acres. But I can tell you one thing: I can already drive a tractor!