We went to the annual Farmer Rancher Banquet last night in North Platte. The banquet is sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and tables are hosted by various businesses in the county. At one point, the emcee asked the agricultural producers in the audience to stand. I stood with Tim, but was surprised to see several wives remain seated while their husbands stood. Maybe there are women that are able to completely stay apart from their husband's agricultural operation but it's hard to imagine, especially if you live right on the farm. I honestly think that most "farmers' wives" are truly farmers too.
From day 1 of our marriage, I have been involved in one way or another, filling in when another "guy" was needed for harvest, milking cows, cleaning the barn, etc. etc. I didn't always smell very nice after a day of working with cattle, but they were "our girls" and our primary source of income. I don't think I would want it any other way.
We kept our farm small, using the land that has been in Tim's family for decades. Tim wanted to be a farmer, not an employer. It's a way of life, living on a family farm, managing and caring for the animals and land in your care. Our kids learned to help on the farm as well, making sacrifices sometimes because of farm work and sometimes because of fluctuating farm income. It's not an easy way of life-you can't get away unless you can find someone else to do your work and we don't live in an area of lots of dairymen-even a few times of not milking the cows correctly can effect their production. The rewards by far outweigh the sacrifices. There is such a sense of closeness with nature as you watch the birth of a new calf or kitten, or even seeing the first plants pop up in the field. You learn a sense of responsibility-you do what has to be done, no matter how unpleasant it sometimes is-that carries over to other parts of your life. Maybe that's why I can work with our more "fragrant" patrons at the library. One time our daughter had to help deliver a calf that wasn't quite in the right position to come out. Yes, that means sticking your arm into the cow. She said she wondered what some of her classmates would say if she told them how she spent her morning. Of course, now she is on her way to becoming a doctor. We always strove for balance in our lives-we were married to each other, not the farm, so we found ways to get away with our kids when Tim's parents were able to do all of the chores, sometimes with supervised helpers. Later, the kids took over to allow the two of us to get away.
Last year we sold our cows that were already milking and yes, I cried to see our "girls" leave. It wasn't an easy decision. High fuel and feed costs and the need to remodel our milking parlor prompted the decision. And yes, we were ready for the freedom to travel a little more, and get to special events of family and friends. We kept our younger animals to raise to sell when they were ready to enter milking herds. We changed what crops we raise and are on the look out for other agricultural niche markets we might enter. My library job with insurance benefits has taken on more importance. We fully intend to keep our family farm for the younger generations to enjoy, even if just for visits.
Change is healthy and keeps life interesting..I wonder what's next!