Whenever my husband’s grandsons come to visit, I am reminded that my everyday realities on the farm can be a shock to the sensibilities of city dwellers. Inevitably when I take the boys out to see the ponies, one of the ponies passes gas or manure while we are with them. Generally this elicits snickers and words like “Gross!” from the young boys. I immediately see a teaching opportunity, saying that I’m happy to hear a fart or see a pony poop because if they didn’t they would die. I then of course go on to do a rudimentary explanation of colic. I’m thrilled when we next hear or see what had been an offending act and one of the boys says, ‘Good!’
A friend recently told me a story about some hay farmers who offended their neighbors by harvesting hay all night. It had been a particularly rainy spell, and when three dry days finally arrived, the farmers were making up for lost time, working until sunrise to put up their hay. The city council was asked to issue citations to the farmers for making noise after hours. The realities of farming irritated the sensibilities of city dwellers living next door.
The other night I talked to my nephew who lives in a major metropolitan area. He told me his mother wasn’t home because she was at a meeting where she got $60 just for showing up and was eligible for a drawing for another $60. The next morning I called my sister to see if she’d got her $60. It turns out she attended a focus group put on by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Apparently they are considering expanding their activities to farm animals. I was so proud of what my sister told the group. Despite living in a city most of her life, she tried to help people understand that some things that are offensive to the sensibilities of city dwellers are part of daily life on the farm.
Every farm that I have ever visited has character that reflects its ownership. Because every person is different, so is every farm. Because no person is perfect, no farm is run perfectly either. There is always room to criticize if that’s what you want to do. Instead I prefer to notice the contribution that the farm is making. The imperfection I am most aware of on my farm is winter manure management. In this climate, there is just no way to collect manure during the winter. It has to just accumulate with the many feet of snow that are typical here and be dealt with in early summer when the ground is dry enough for equipment to navigate. It drives me nuts. I prefer to pick up manure every day.
My sister is an inspiration to me in so many ways. Though she is five years younger, there are times when she seems a lifetime more wise. When I heard about her experience in the focus group, I was once again impressed with her perspective. I’m proud to call this woman my sister.
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2011