Column: Living the dream (on the farm)
Farmer Jim and his good friend, “Redneck” Matt, always comment that they are “Living the Dream.” Usually this is said with some sarcasm at how crazy their lives and careers are and, although we are very thankful they have jobs, sometimes I am sure that they would like to be doing something else. Don’t we all? Well not me. I am actually living the dream and say that without sarcasm.
I understand that my dream of living on and running a farm is not a dream that is shared by everyone. But I am sure that living closer to the land has crossed your mind from time to time on some level. Perhaps you have dreamed of starting a garden, or raising some chickens or maybe even getting a dairy cow?
I am sure that none of you have ever had the dream of getting your tractor stuck in waist-high snowdrifts as I did during the recent Nor’easter.
Let’s preface the story here by saying that Farmer Jim was living his own dream, traveling for work during the storm — as he was when Hurricane Sandy came through town and for the birth of our son, but that is another story entirely.
Who would have believed the weatherman was going to be right this time and dump that much snow on us all at once? Not me, sleeping soundly in my bed while the inches piled up. When I awoke and looked outside, I knew I was in trouble. It was going to take me forever to clean out from this mess.
I was glad that I had filled up all the food and water for the animals in the barn the night before, because I quickly realized that it was going to take me a while to make my way down the driveway to check on them. I knew they would be fine for food, but since our water froze in the barn, we were reduced to filling up five-gallon containers from the house. There was no way that I could have taken water down there without a cleared path.
I got myself and the kids into our snow gear, including ski goggles to keep our faces warm from the wind. They rolled around in the snow like Ralphie’s little brother in the movie, “The Christmas Story.” He is so bundled up in snow clothes that he can’t move when he falls down. Even the dogs were having trouble running in the snow that was piled up higher than them.
When I did make it to the barn, the pigs had somehow taken down the board I had tacked across their doorway to the outside, in an attempt to keep the snow off their backs. Obviously, they didn’t mind the cold. The chickens were pretty cantankerous that they couldn’t go outside and forage around in the grass, but they made due with some leftover produce to keep them occupied. All the animals had snow in their stalls, blown in from the cracks in their doors, so I knew that if desperate, they could eat the snow when thirsty.
I waded back to the house and tried again to get the tractor out of its place in the snow. As the country song by Rodney Atkins goes, “If you’re going through hell, keep on going. Don’t slow down.” And I didn’t slow down, until I became overconfident and really, really got it stuck in the drifts. But this time I was not going to break down and cry on that tractor.
Two neighbors, Jimmy and Alex, came to save the damsel in distress. The tractor got pulled out and Jimmy made light work of the snow with his plow truck. There was now enough room for me to navigate around the driveway, carrying buckets of powdery snow out of the way so that I could finally get water to the barn.
So maybe this is not what dreams are made of, but this was an out-of-the-ordinary experience. My job is very rewarding in many different ways. It is rewarding to be able to provide my family with healthy food and a healthy lifestyle, and to serve the needs of the community.
Nothing could be more rewarding, however, then the publication of our article last month, stressing the need to value the work of farmers, only to be followed by the highly discussed television commercial by Dodge Trucks depicting the lives of farmers. The “God Made a Farmer” ad, narrated by Paul Harvey and based on a monumental speech from the 1978 Future Farmers of America National Convention, gave great respect to what the life of a farmer entails: compassion, hard work and long hours. And although there is debate over who was left out of the depiction (family farms and minority workers), the sentiment is there nonetheless that farmers are the backbone of the country and should not be taken for granted.
To quote from the FFA, a farmer is: “Somebody who’d bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply, with smiling eyes, when his son says he wants to spend his life doing what dad (or mom) does. So God made a farmer.”
Your neighborhood farmers, like us here at Oxbow Farm, may not be growing acres and acres of corn or feeding hundreds of cattle, but we still play our part in the food chain. We are all living our own little dream.
Kim Graham lives in Dublin with her husband, Jim, and their two children. The couple hails from New Brunswick, Canada. This column chronicles their first-ever adventures in farming. For more about the farm, see www.oxbowfarmnh.com.