Saturday, October 9, 2010

Living Vicariously

My best friend is a farmer's wife. Except for Mike, he's really my best friend, but he's my husband, so he counts, but he doesn't really count. Anyway, Tammy hates the term best friend because she's concerned about the potential hurt feelings of all the others in line who thought they were my best friend?? (I think it's safe to say you can stop worrying about this one, Tam. You alone are saddled with the dubious honor.)

BFF and Tammy's Farmer in the background
 I've also begun to read a few blogs from farms and/or farmer's wives that I absolutely love. So lately, I've been feasting on nostalgic photos and beautiful words about sunrises over the creek up on the north ridge, and beat-up pick-up trucks, and barbed wire fences that collide with the land and the sky at the horizon. It's iconic Americana, the stuff of legend and coffee table books. And I'm falling hard. Let's face it, I had about as much of a chance as an egg when there's a fox in the hen house.

The old barn at Tammy's dairy farm

After all, I live in a cookie-cutter house in a sub-division in a suburb of a smallish-sized city. How exciting, huh? Words like commute and cul-de-sac are a part of my daily life. We have to worry about who is bothered when Boomer barks too much. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. I love my home and my neighbors (yes, we actually know our neighbors about three houses down in each direction on both sides of the street). When we moved in several of them actually baked us cookies and a cake to welcome us. I thought I had died and gone to Mayberry. It really is a great place to be.

It's just that Tammy's vocabulary includes words like mud room, hay mow, silo and milking parlor. She sells raw milk and compost and feeds her family organic meat she raises herself. Her back yard has a whole mountain in it. Mine has a privacy fence (although I don't know why since our houses are two-story and you can see into six backyards from the upstairs bathroom window - so much for privacy). My house was built almost thirty years ago. Her "farmhouse" is "turn of the century, circa 1890." Mine sounds like a fixer-upper, hers sounds vintage and historic. She has a parlor, I have a den. (Dens are where wild animals live...hmm, maybe we're closer than I thought...)

Dolly: a name means not for slaughter

Welcome to the Davis Farmhouse, the door's always open.

Once when we visited Tammy's dairy farm, she wanted to show me the new barn (another vocabulary word I wish were mine). It wasn't really new - it was only new to me since it'd been about twelve years since I'd been there, when they were just about to build it. I grabbed the only jacket I'd packed and my new tennies and rounded the corner to the back door. This is the jacket I was wearing:

Tammy said, "I love you. You're beautiful." But she was laughing at me. She helped me out of my jacket and handed me one of her hubby's. I had to borrow her son's boots too - such a city girl. I shrugged and said defensively, "I don't own barn clothes!" Tammy just laughed some more.

My kids and hers had a hay fight on that trip. The tally on the kids? The city girl: three, the farmer and his wife: six. Surprise, surprise. My daughters, also city girls, ended up falling through the hay mow and getting zapped by the electrified fence. I almost complained to the management on behalf of the ignorant city-fied kids. You should have heard Noelle try to describe what happened to her. Only the dairy farmer, who's been zapped-a-plenty, could figure out what on earth she was talking about. To this day Noelle doesn't understand how a fence can electrocute you. And Reagan still thinks putting a hole in the floor is just plain stupid - after all, someone could fall through!

No name pigs - Uh oh!

All these thoughts and memories and pictures from blogs of farm life have me just a little bit jealous. The mud on the other side of the barbed wire is definitely muddier than the green grass on my side of the privacy fence.

I don't get to wake up to a snow-dusted Rockwell painting right outside my back door or say to my kids, "Wake up, it's time for barn chores." I don't get to feed my potato peels and egg shells to the chickens, nor do I own a pasture or get to help birth a calf. My kids don't build bonfires in the side yard or play hide and seek in the hay bales or milk cows or harvest maple sap and make syrup. We don't have a creek, or a north ridge, or even a visible sunrise.

Snowy dawn

Headed home from pasture

Instead they have friends across the street to play football with in the front yard. And a road that's paved to ride bikes on. And neighbors to both borrow an egg from and to feed our dog when we're gone overnight. And we actually get to be gone overnight.

We may not be married to the land or the animals, and I still don't really like cowboy boots, but it sure would be nice to own a big red barn. We owned the board book when Adrian was a baby. Does that count? 

I guess I'll have to live vicariously through my best friend and cyberspace. And rely on this gem that I pass every day on the commute from my cul-de-sac circle to the interstate that leads to the smallish-sized big city.

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