Thursday, July 3, 2014

What makes a farmer?

I was talking with one of my friends about a fantasy land where we would run away with our boyfriends and live in a cottage somewhere. In the course of the conversation she started talking about farming and how she wouldn't know what to do with herself, so Captain America and I would have to be in charge of it. I tried to tell her that it was easy, but something must have gotten lost in the translation.

How do you sum up the love, the angst, the freedom, and the responsibility in a few sentences? How do you explain the pure exultant joy that you can feel from successfully doing something that felt insurmountable: mowing and baling a field of hay on your own, helping birth a calf, falling in instant love with a baby chick, making food from dirt? Or the heart wrenching despair and loss that you feel when Murphey's law hits and everything that can possibly go wrong does: all the equipment breaks - repeatedly, it rains on your hay, animals die, gardens wither? 

Surely this is what she must feel like when she tells me about music, or other friends try to explain what moves them. It is so frustrating to have something that you love so much, and be unable to verbalize that love to share it with your loved ones. To explain how easy and wonderful your passion is to someone who doesn't share it is exceedingly difficult.

Being a farmer isn't about mechanical skill, ability to build fence, knowledge of livestock medicine, or any of the hundred other chores that pop in my head - though those things do help. But being a farmer is so much less, and so much more than that. It is heart. It is love. It is fortitude.

Being a farmer is cow paths that wind through the woods as a child's Yellow Brick Road. It is climbing atop a pile of round bales and serenading a herd of cows like you're a pop star. It is watching a thousand loved ones slowly age and die, or be swiftly executed in their prime. It is holding newborn kittens and helping bird's to their nests. It is standing in a hayfield during a surprise thunderstorm surrounded by 200 freshly made square bales that are going to have to be shaken out and dried again so they can be rebaled without molding, and finding the ability to cry, curse and laugh your way through it again and again. It is being aware and entangled with both the highs and the lows of life; and having so much love for that life, plant or animal, that you get up and keep going even when it feels pointless, overwhelming, and you question your sanity.

I don't know. Maybe it is genetic. Somewhere in our DNA is code for red or green tractors next to the one that determines our eye color. Maybe it is environmental. How could I ever leave my adoring herd of fans? After all they are the only ones who like my singing, and most of my songs were about them and the horses anyway. 

Maybe it is a combination of both that gives anyone the determination to pursue their passion. Heart and fortitude, baby. That's what makes me a farmer.

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