Another Point of View

Today I have a guest post by a blogger who kindly emailed me about my concerns over adjusting to the farm life. We haven’t met, but her writing style is delightful and I believe you will enjoy it too. You can find her blog at http://www.michaelandjudystouffer.com. I particularly enjoy her “Buttered Side Down” blog.

A Little Bit Country…

So, Lian,
you’ve settled in, taken the big plunge, and now you’re a farm wife.  Idyllic, isn’t it? Easy as buying a pre-baked grocery store pie, after having dealt with all the bustle and hustle of big
city life, right?

Um, was that a ‘NO!’ I heard?

Lian and I just ‘met’ through the blogosphere, and she’s asked me to share a bit of my own
experiences after moving from The Big City (a suburb of Detroit, actually) to Wisconsin, a rural State where dairy cows outnumber people 4 to 1, and 1 in 5 people works on a farm or in the dairy industry.

Now, unlike Lian, I didn’t move onto a farm. We moved first to a fairly big population center (Madison, Wisconsin) and from there to a small village in Wisconsin.

But the cultural shock–oh, yeah, welcome to a completely foreign world…

My first inkling that life was different came when driving through the University of
Wisconsin-Madison campus.  Thousands of undergraduate students were milling about outside the University’s giant enclosed Stock Pavilion. When I enquired, I found that they were there — in the definitely fragrant, earthy atmosphere generated by snorting, grunting pigs held in pens inside the building alongside the perimeter with an occasional
missed horse ‘apple’ mixed into the dirt pavilion floor — for class registration.

Oh. My. God.

This was God’s Country?

Surprisingly,we now love it.  Not the pigs (ever) and not at first, but gradually, once we began to acclimate, we realized that we never wanted to move away from the ‘heart’ that makes up the ‘heartland’ of our nation.

Adjusting isn’t easy.  When you live in a rural
state, even working for a big company (as I did), you’re faced every day with
the reality that the cattle and other critters come first… every single day.
You discover that for a hard-working farm family, there really isn’t any time
‘outside’ of farm life. It’s exhausting and does impact relationships, from my
experience. Farm families can’t pick up and go on vacation–the cows need to be
cared for, every single day.  You can’t even leave for a day because those cows?
They need milking.  Twice a day.  You just can’t tell Bossie to cross
her legs and hold it ’til you get back–it doesn’t work that way.

You want a day off?  You find a farm sitter, and even if you aren’t milking cows–if you just have a few head of beef, and are growing crops and have a pony or two for the kids–that farm sitter has to be able to handle just about anything. I can guarantee you that the day you’re gone is the day your pony will impale itself on a broken tree limb, and require
heroic steps and one big fat expensive emergency call from the vet to save its life. (That’s just one of many true stories, btw, from when we farmsat for a couples that just wanted a week-end away!)

So why did we stay?

I’ve had some of my best conversations with family and friends while mucking out a
stall. You find your niche, but it does take time. It truly is like immigrating to a foreign country.  All of a sudden, at some point, everything makes sense, and you realize that you aren’t homesick anymore — that this IS home, and the place you want to be.

The biggest change takes place in learning how to be alone, and enjoy silence.

City life doesn’t prepare you for being alone, or the ‘silences.  Silence and alone is anathema to everything ‘city.’  Being raised in a city, one can’t even allow a tiny gap in conversation, and must have a TV running or radio/stereo/iPod on or be weird (at best). And if you’re raised in the city, it is all about you! That’s not a bad thing per se–but it is a ‘city’ thing. In the country, it can’t be about you–you’re part of a bigger picture, not the
focus of that picture.

It’s a real culture shock, or at least it was for me, to discover it.

After we moved here, I gradually noticed that what I took for silence around me…
wasn’t.  And emptiness… wasn’t. Something was always scurrying, or trundling about its business, and I just hadn’t been tuned in to all of that.  I started looking to see what it was, and learn about it, and listen for it.  Now we laugh about bushes and shrubs, trees
and long grass when they are suddenly suspiciously silent–when they are, you
know ‘somebody’ is hiding in there that doesn’t want you to notice! It might be
a fawn, a fox, a mink, perhaps even a nesting wood duck–one time for us even a
flock of five whopping cranes, some of the rarest creatures on earth.

I knew I’d made the ‘transition’ when I realized that my favorite times are 4:30 a.m. in
the spring, (OMG, who gets UP then in the city, except to crawl blearily to
classes or work?!) when the chorus of birds gradually starts singing, or when I
opened a barn door pre-dawn and the horses quietly huffed their greetings.

I still can’t say that I’m used to pig manure and don’t really notice it when we are
near pigs. YUCK. Man, that STINKS.

But you know what? Nowadays when someone asks me where I’m from?  I’m from Wisconsin. The home of me, about four million other folks, and lots and lots of cows.

I’m definitely OK with that.

 Again, Judy blogs at Butter Side Down, http://www.michaelandjudystouffer.com/judy/blog  Photo
used here copyright Judy Stouffer. Used with permission; all rights reserved. On a side note: Mike grew up on a pig farm with about 1500-2000 head. At one time the family had about 600 sows. He agrees with Judy and is now raising cows.

About cattlebaroness

I am a graduate of the University of Kentucky with a BA in History, nearing completion of a Master of Arts in American history. Born and raised first on military bases around the world, then in Orange County, CA, I moved to Kentucky when my children were small. I now live on a small family farm and am learning about farm life, planting and our newest addition to the landscape--cattle. Until a month or two ago, all I knew about 'cows' were that they came in brown, black and white and that some are raised for milk and others for meat. I am a quick study out of necessity.
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