farm girl

When I was in middle school, after my family moved back to the States from Africa, I lived in a small town in the middle of prime USA farm country. My parents met an older farmer couple and started sending me to their farm once in awhile to spend a weekend. I had been bullied by some of the girls in school and I think they sent me to the farm hoping it would be a safe and restorative place for me. They were right.

They’d drive me out, over roller-coaster hills and drop me at the little square farmhouse. I’d sleep over in the twin bed in the second bedroom, get up early to eat oatmeal at 6:00 am, and then head out with the farmer man (who I called “Grandpa Ralph”) to help brand cattle and irrigate soybean fields. Grandpa Ralph would let me drive the four wheeler all over the acreage by myself, and I’d find a place where the fields met the creek, plop myself down and write poetry or songs.

I remember one such song had a chorus of,

“I’m a farm girl. I may look like a city girl. But I’m a farm girl. I’m a farm girl..”

I fell in love with the farming life that year. I also fell in love with the joy of being alone for the first time in my lonely, “only child” life. There was nothing like spending a day under a wide open sky, around animals and living things. The farmer and his wife seemed to wake up each day with such purpose, and end the day with complete satisfaction in their work.

That farm was the first place I ever ate an animal I had named. It was the first place I ever realized some animals don’t survive the experience of birth. I got my first bee stings on that farm and wore mud-caked overalls and flannel. I rode in the back of a dusty Ford F-150 and used the burning embers of a match to help remove a plump tick from the short-haired cattle dog.

My farm days only lasted a year or so, but the farm dream has been alive in me ever since and last year it almost came true. The story is too long to tell, but we had two contracts on two farmhouses fall through back to back last winter. One fell through because of inspection and insurance issues, one because of zion’s emergency brain surgery dictating we live closer to the children’s hospital. Once in awhile I still go back and look at the photographs I took of those houses, when we were visiting them and going through inspections, and my heart breaks a little.

The farm dream isn’t fully realized, but it isn’t dead, either. After living in the mountains and on the west coast, we’ve somehow ended up back in the middle of USA prime farm country for the last decade. I love the house we purchased in this charming part of town. I love the large, corner lot, the 1800’s architecture with tons of space and character. I especially love that it was originally a family farmhouse on the edge of town. We’ve begun to live as close to the farm life as we can here, raising hens to lay our eggs, getting a dog, and plotting out plans for our garden in the spring. But it’s not the same as what I experienced out there in the wild open all those years ago.

I think many girls dream of growing up to be some version of this:

While I still dream of being that woman whose clothes are covered in dust and manure, who looks more like the gal below. She gets her hands dirty all morning, then rests her back on a tree by the creek and sings, “I’m a farm girl..”.

maybe someday.





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