Stories, opinions, facts, convictions, and lessons learned from a small town farm girl.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The County Fair

County Fair time across the country is upon us! Last week when I visited home was our fair, Allegany County.  While it is a small Maryland fair, I thoroughly enjoy it and this year there was a display about the history of our fair and fairgrounds which I found to be very interesting.

County fairs are a cherished time of year for folks all across the country - a time to visit with folks who you rarely get to see throughout the year, display the best of your livestock, fruits, vegetables, crafts, and quilts.  It's a time of festivities and laughter and reminiscing of years past.

While fairs across the country put a warm feeling in our soul, it is undeniable things are changing.  The livestock barns are no longer as full, the fair-goers no longer come to see the agriculture events, and 4-H and FFA are no longer the center of festivities.  Counties are pulling together to have a multi-county fair, as numbers of exhibitors are decreasing as agriculture in our lifestyle becomes a thing of the past.

While it is undeniable the numbers of farmers and ranchers across the country are declining and the rural lifestyle is becoming a thing of the past, take some time today to think about your favorite memories of past fairs, livestock shows, and festivals.  These are one of the greatest American traditions - let's not let it die.

Feet of Leather

It's been a while since I've posted on here.  I spent last week in the beautiful Appalachian Mountains of western Maryland at my home.  There is absolutely nothing like falling asleep in your childhood bed.

I am a firm believer that nothing cleanses the soul like a walk through the pasture.  Whether it be to check cows, move cows, or just for a leisurely stroll.

Me, being the no-shoe-wearer that I am, took a walk nearly every day with my mom and dogs... in my flip flops.  Now, there is one thing that I think is common to every farm girl as she grows up - she has feet tough as nails.  Heck, I used to be able to run and play on gravel and in the middle of a hay field mowed 2 weeks ago in my bare feet!  But somewhere down the line, I got a job, moved away, and shoes are now included in my everyday lifestyle.

Long story short, I don't have feet of leather anymore.

As we were walking down a steep hill, my ankle twisted, and POP! My flipflop broke! And we were at least a half a mile from the house in the middle of a pasture of mature, lignified, cool season grasses - just to give you some idea of how uncomfortable my next hour was about to be.

I quickly learned that sometimes moving off the farm does more to us than causes us to be homesick - it makes our feet sore!

About halfway back to the house and lagging way behind my walking partners, my mom graciously offered me her shoes and walked the entire way back to our home barefoot just as well as she was walking in her shoes.

Lesson learned.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Interesting Finds

I love to read - whether it be magazines, books, blogs, journals - and I'm always searching for new fun things to read.  The other day I was fumbling around on Amazon and I found my new prospects:

I will let you know how they go!

Another publication I've recently became fascinated with are The Farmer's Wife cookbooks.  They are recipes taken from a magazine that was published in the 30's and 40's and I vote should come back into publication! 

Not only are there some good recipes in them, but they also provide some much-needed entertainment.  Pick up a Farmer's Wife Cookbook - you'll quickly see what I mean.

A cover off an old Farmer's Wife magazine:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Heart and Soul: A Farm Woman's Hands

In continuation of my post yesterday, I'm going to commence my rambling...

When I think of my mom and think about all she does - her strength, faith, beauty, and that doesn't even begin to scratch the surface - I think of her hands.  I can remember when I was young my mother talking to me about how much she disliked her hands - she said they were too rough, cracked, dry, wrinkly.  I never quite understood why she felt this way or quite frankly, how she even noticed, until the other day I was cleaning out some cattle water troughs and looked at my hands, for whatever reason, as the water was draining out the bottom.  I noticed tiny wrinkles that were never there before.  I then noticed my palm covered in callouses and all the barbed wire scars across the tops of them and in the soft tissue between my fingers and thumb.  I noticed the dirt under my short nails and the unmanicured hang-nails on either side of my thumbs.  I noticed I have my mother's hands.

Never once did I feel a twinge of disappointment with my new discovery, for I look at her hands very differently than she.  When I think of my mother's hands, I think of the way they work in the garden - all the weeds they've pulled, rows they've hoed, beans they've picked, corn they've husked, rocks they've thrown.  I think of the way she plants her flowers with love in her flower beds, adding color to the brown of our home, and the way she carries water to them if there's been a shortage of rain.  I think of all the potatoes they've peeled, fences they've helped to mend, wounds they've bandaged, iced tea they've made, burns they've felt, cows they've fed, calves they've pulled, Christmases they've decorated for, permission slips they've written, lunches they've packed, homework assignments they've helped to do, and dirty faces they've washed.

A farm woman's hands are one of her greatest prides and one of her most humbling attributes.  Only another farm woman would understand this.  Farm and ranch women are some of the toughest women God made for this Earth - no doubt cut from a different mold - and our hands, while not beautiful, tell a thousand stories and are evidence of a life well-lived.

My mother's hands are one of the most beautiful things about her.  I have been wanting to write on this for quite some time, but have been waiting for the inspiration.  Well, that inspiration came last night when my ma sent me this picture.

She had found a baby bird, trying to learn how to fly, had fallen in my dog's water bowl.  My mother kindly picked him up, dried him off, and patiently waited until he could learn to fly.  Every time he fell, she picked him back up so he could try one more time.  Eventually he was gone and no doubt learned to fly on his own.  But without my mom and her patience and gentle hands, this little guy would've been a goner.

Wrinkled, dry, calloused hands are a farm woman's trophy for the full life that she's lived.  I can think of nothing more satisfying than to look at my own hands and see my mother's there. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Heart and Soul: Rural Women

As we reach mid-summer and our gardens become plentiful and the hay-making is in full swing, I can't help but think about farm and ranch wives and the dynamic roles they play to help their operation - whether it be a 10 acre piece of land with one field and a vegetable garden or a 30,000 acre ranch with 3,000 head of mama cows.  I'd like to take a break from my information-based posts and for the next few days to talk about my beliefs and convictions. 

I stumbled across this picture online and I apologize that I cannot remember the source, but it spoke deeply to me.  This picture is worth far more that a thousand words - it tells a thousand stories.  This picture can tell the story of so many women, but it is hard to put into words....
As most farmers and ranchers in any sector of the agriculture industry will be quick to tell you, far more times than not it is the female of the household that is the heart and soul of their operation.  And so many times these women are easily over-looked in all that they do - whether it is weeding the garden, pulling 3 calves in the middle of the night in a blizzard by the glow of the headlights, setting out hay before they leave for work in the mornings, getting the kids safely off to school - lunch boxes and bookbags in tow, hooking up the trailer, loading the calves, or doing laundry and having a good meal ready for her family.  All women play a different role in their family's rural lifestyle.

Growing up on a farm with a strong woman as my mother, I learned a lot from her.  It never ceases to amaze me of the woman that my ma is - she can cook, can, or preserve just about anything, work 8 hours straight in the blistering sun and never complain once, cook 3 meals a day, pull a calf (or 4), help skin a deer, and remain the rock of faith that holds our family together.  She is my undying supporter and best friend, my role model and confidant.  One thing I know for certain, she learned her ways from her mother, my grandmother.  My grandmother was a farmer's wife as well, and I have also seen her slave away in the sun, get up at 4:30 to make my pap breakfast, and I recall my mom telling me stories about my grandmother pulling pigs and calves, raising ducks, chickens, cows, sows, and horses, all while raising 9 kids.  And I am certain of one thing: my grandmother undoubtedly learned these things from her mother.

My dad's mother - Nan, as I call her - was the daughter of a farm woman as well.  I enjoy nothing more than to sit and listen to my Nan talk about her mother, my great-grandmother, and all that she could do.  My Nan is the wife of a farmer (my Pap!), who was the son of another strong, steadfast farm woman.  My nan and pap raised two children - one of which grew up to farm the place I grew up on (my dad!) and a daughter who raised a son, my cousin, to also have the love of farming in his heart.  To me, these women seemed invincible.  I find it astonishing how, even though my aunt does not live on a farm herself, still finds joy in working outside and raised her son to love the land and agriculture.  It goes without being said, farming is a heritage.  It is a lifestyle that runs deep as blood, and though the males - fathers, sons, husbands - are the roots, the women seem to be the undoubted heart and soul.  I hope to one day become a farm wife and maybe even raise a daughter or two that look at me the same way I look at my ma and the other women in my life.  Who knows?  Maybe she'll raise a farm wife too...

I stumbled across an article by Trent Loos in the High Plains Journal titled 'That Girl is a Cowboy.'  Take a look - I think you'll like what you read.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Factory Farms and the Misleading Media

The United States beef cow inventory is at the lowest that it has been since 1958 and the average herd size and number of producers continues to decline.  The average American is at least 3 generations removed from the farm - with some being even farther!  It is not hard to see how easily the mission as agriculturalists can be misconstrued.  Small farms across the country are beginning to vanish, while larger operations are stepping up to the plate to feed the growing population.

Above is a picture of our barn from the early 1900's.  The three pictures below it are the same barn, today.

While I could go on all day about the farming lifestyle and heritage, I'll keep it short and sweet.  My brother and I are the seventh generation on our family farm in Maryland, and while I am away (far away.) for school right now, I can only pray that one day I can return to our farm.  While the farming tradition may be dying as a whole across our country, I can tell with great certainty that in the families that the heritage remains, it runs deep.  I grew up in a rural community with several of our closest family friends also coming from a farming background - and it won't be going anywhere, anytime soon, the good Lord willing.

Unfortunately in today's day and age American farm families are, in most cases, very misunderstood. "Factory Farming" is becoming a buzz word in the media and nearly 100% of the time misrepresents the ideals behind large-scale farming.  This term is most often heard when referring to dairy farms, but hog facilities, chicken operations, and even beef feedlots have been referred to as "Factory Farms."  These farms, although on a large scale, are family ran operations.  They are still America's family farms!  Read this article, "Factory Farming" on the Plows and Cows website,  about the misleading conceptions from the media on the American Agriculture industry and primarily the battles the dairy industry is faced with today.

"...then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers, forever."
                                                                       -Jeremiah 7:7