Monday, January 16, 2017

I Couldn't Understand the Sacrifice

When we were newly married, we moved out to the farm. It was a big move in many ways. Physically, I left behind family and friends to move out to the middle of nowhere. It was a bigger move emotionally and culturally. All my life I had lived in cities where 40-hour weeks and paid vacations were the norm. The closest I had been to a farm was watching Green Acres on tv.

My new husband had explained to me, "It will be long hours and sacrifice."
I nodded my head like I understood.

Only another farm wife can understand when I say he was gone, a lot. He would leave in the morning before the sun came up and come home after it went down. He would work through lunch, and many times through dinner too. I would keep something warm for him and worry. It seemed like never ending days of him coming home just long enough to eat, shower, and sleep.  I brought out lunches, just so I could see him.  I would jump at a chance to bring him parts, or bring him a bottle of water, because he was never home. I would ask him, "What are you doing?" He would reply, "Just working".

I supported him, but I didn't understand.



He would bundle up and go to work, even when a blizzard raged outside. The roads were barely visible and the weather was so cold. "Why do you risk yourself? Stay home!" I pleaded. He would just reply, "It needs to be done." He would leave with a shovel in his pickup, so he could dig himself out when he got stuck in the deep snow. Somehow, he made it to work and back home, and he would be chilled and tired. Sometimes, sadness would droop his shoulders, and I would find out an animal was sick or a calf died.

I comforted him, but I didn't understand.


He worked weekends and holidays. He missed birthdays, school events, and sometimes it seemed whole summers. I would let the kids stay up late just so they could throw their arms around him and wish him a goodnight.  I know he was exhausted, but he always would talk and play with the kids in the brief moments between work and sleep.

I loved him, but I still couldn't understand.

What I couldn’t understand was the sacrifice. How he could sacrifice years of our marriage, and watching his children grow up? I couldn’t understand how he could sacrifice his own time, his body, and his life with us for ‘just working’. Any vacations we took had to be planned around seeding and harvesting and the needs of the cows. His time with the kids was spent in brief moments and punctuated by his exhaustion. This wasn't a tv sitcom with canned laughter in the background.



I pretended that I understood, but I couldn’t.

Over the years, my children grew up and moved out. My helping out changed to working for the farm. The fields would need weeded, and I didn't think twice about giving up my weekend. If the weeds got out of control, the field would suffer for years. I might work through lunch or come home late, because I just wanted a few more rounds done.

I started to understand.

I would help with the cows in the winter, after they were brought in from pasture. I was there when young heifers struggled to deliver their first calf. I was there when it was born too early and just couldn't make it. I helped to bottle feed calves that were too weak and sick, and sometimes they didn't make it either.

Suddenly, I understood the sacrifice. I understood that in the worst weather, the animals needed us the most. I understood that the worst days for me, were bad days for the farm too. I’ve seen crops that were flattened by storms, and I understood the drive to bring in the crops before the rains. I’ve lived the heartache of replanting every acre and still not sure if there would be a crop.



I finally, truly understood the need to do things right, because this isn't just a job. It's not 40 hours a week. I finally understood that the work you put into a farm is what you get out of it. I understood what it meant to work hard to support your family waiting at home. I understood how hard it was to do another round, knowing it would delay being with everyone I love and care about. I understood the need to finish the field.

Now when my kids call me and ask what I’m doing, I reply, “Just working”.
I think they understand. This is real life. Life isn't easy, but it is worth it.

43 comments:

  1. Wonderfully written. I am reading lines of this that I have dealt with over 26 years of being married to my best friend that is a Farmer. THANK YOU!

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    1. Thank you! I am glad you could relate. My farmer is my best friend too!

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    2. I grew up on a farm, we had to move from the state we lived in because of a ill g'mother and the need to keep the farm active, My folks (all of us) had to learn how to farm 25 acres to sustain a small living. It was HARD and tough and a struggle for every penny. We worked the fields and cared for the pigs, cows, goats and the horses we used for plowing those fields. THe income was always small and the weather raised havoc more than once and really messed up the harvests. We learned, struggled and made do with what we had. It was truthfully a hard life, however we lived in a small community that shared the work with our neighbors and the fun, when there was some. Eventually my dad had to get a job and rent out the farm. I then moved on and started a 'real' 7 to 5 job. I lament some of those days,but glad I had the privilege to live among such wonderful folks and friends. I'm retired now and after the jobs, the 24 yr military career, the college and the experiences, it WAS worth it. Life was good.

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    3. Hi Walter, thanks for sharing your story. It reminds me of the joke about the kid that joins the military and writes home about what a sweet deal it is. ;) Thank you for your hard work and service!

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  3. This brings tears to my eyes! I love it! Thank you! I married a dairy farmer 4 years ago and April, 2015 we had our first daughter.... Planting Season! When it was just me it was no biggie being home alone I could do what I wanted and if I wanted to see my husband I would go help with chores or go ride around the field, but then you bring a child into the home and the sense of being alone completely changes. It felt like he "worked" so much those first few months of her being home. But this is my life and I love it and I love him and he loves what he does and has the passion for it! Looking back and reading messages like this makes me feel not so alone and that the mixed feelings I have had towards his "job"are normal. In the end it really will be worth it! Thank you again!!!

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    1. I am so glad you enjoyed this. Every year will bring new challenges and rewards. Flexibility will help a lot. :D Best wishes!

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    2. i grew up on a farm in mid west ohio we had cattle and hogs and grain but growing up in and just moving into are two different scenarios but,we did not know,any better it was family staying togethe and,our,pay been away for,little,while but try to help other farmers when i can. and still have pride in doing so and it is theropy for me

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    3. we just grew up working when not in school not sure i could unload 100 haybales into hay loft under 5 minutes we use to
      but with the lost of vo ag in schools and smaller families the theroy of cheap labor(the kids) is forcing farming to be more
      mechanized but coming from city it is a big move and a big change of perspective of work and family. yea i understand just one more round but i am fortunate to have nieghbors that always need help. so on friday or a vacation day i go to the fields and really work. and for me it is theropy so my hat is off to the lady for sticking with it some have gave up and moved back to town

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    4. Hi James, thanks for sharing your story! Love that you work on the farm as therapy.

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  4. My dad is a farmer and my whole life has been this way. He missed many school events, many things that were important to me, and I often made dinner for myself and stayed up late just to hug him goodnight. Now when I help around the farm, I understand. And I wouldn't change a thing.

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    1. It is especially hard on the children. I had my daughter read through this post before I published, and she said that even though her dad worked so hard and missed out, she knew that he had a deep love for her.

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  5. So well written - and so true! Thanks for sharing!
    Lauren @PaintTheTownAg

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  6. Thank you for this! We struggle because I work full time as well as shuffle our 3 kids around by myself with no help. Did you still work full time while your farmer husband worked?

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    1. I really wanted to get my bachelor's degree, so I took a couple of classes every semester. I can't imagine working a full time job. Kudos to all you hard work!

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  7. Growing up on a Montana cattle ranch I loved every bit of the time I spent there. My preschool mornings were spent riding around checking Cora & water with my Pa. The afternoons with Momma doing chores in the house, yard & garden. Always something interesting happening; baby calves, branding, haying, plantings & harvests. Horses to ride, newborn animals to nurture, the milk cows to ride after. As I grew older, I could run machinery, work in the hayfield and help cowboy with Pa. Yes, hard hard work, but a wonderful way to grow up.

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    1. I love hearing everyone's stories growing up on the farm. Thank you so much for sharing!

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  8. So this farm must be making good money for the wife not to have to work a job.

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    1. "Not work a job"? Wow. Obviously, you haven't known too many farm families. I grew up in a village of about 125 people, surrounded by farms. The wives and kids worked their rear ends off on those farms,alongside of their husbands/fathers. "Not work a job"? Get a grip.

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    2. We lived a half an hour from the nearest town and any job I could have found would have barely paid for gas and childcare. Instead it made more sense for me to stay home. After working on the farm, I realized that having someone at home making meals, doing laundry, and being available in an emergency was invaluable!

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  9. Thank you for your story, it should inspire all young farm families.
    To "MFL" The farm is a way of life, the wife indeed has a job. There are more things in life than money.

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    1. Thank you Karen for your comment. :) There are indeed things more important than money.

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  10. I've grown up on the farm. Have 41 years in it plus my day job. Kids are getting older a couple out of school. My Dad and I have work side by side since I can remember. My wife to be is very supportive as I am trying to take over the business. Stress don't even come close. Life style yes, missing things yes. Heartache yes. Would I do it again if I had a choice? In a heartbeat. Very nice article as I can relate to it from my mother.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your story. I would never had imagined that so many would understand how rewarding the hard work can be. So glad you can relate.

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  11. My husband and I are in the Thoroughbred racehorse business... it is exactly the same.... thank you so much for writing this!!!! No one else understands that this is what real life is all about!!!

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    1. Isn't it interesting how much diversity there is in farming and ranching, but so many share the same heart. Really glad you enjoyed this!

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  13. Sorry meant say nice post very deep down and true value of a farmer.

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  14. As the husband of my gorgeous wife and working on farms as a seed grader you brought a tear to my eyes on just how important and strong the family relationship is. It needs to be treasured, nurtured & respected on both sides.
    Thank you for sharing your powerful view.

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    1. What sweet words. Glad you have such a good relationship!

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  15. Not all girls are willing or perhaps even willing to adjust, unfortunately.

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    1. Very true. There were a lot of predictions I wouldn't make it. I've surprised a lot of people; )

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  16. I grew up on a farm in NW Kansas... When I graduated from high school, one of my classmates was shocked to find out 'I had a dad'. He thought he had died or left us because he'd never seen him around. I was the oldest of three girls and started helping in junior high. Had to use two feet to get the clutch down in the tractor and stand on it, but I did it! Still drive a combine at harvest every year. My dad is 66 now and is still going. Glad I learned how to work hard and do things right. :-)

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    1. Great story! I've seen a tshirt for farm wives that said yes I am married. No he's not imaginary. Lol

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  18. This was such a good read! I have just recently gotten engaged to a farmer, I also don't understand his drive to do this and his crazy hours he puts in..(it sure is not for the money! lol) but reading this made me take a different look at it! It's his passion, he comes from a long line of farmers! And well, I wouldn't want it any other way, he has qualities in him that no other man i have dated has!
    Thanks again!

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  19. Though I didn't grow up on a farm, my parents moved to a farm when I was in college. I lived on the farm periodically during my college years. Wow - this article really puts into perspective what we all owe to the people on farms who work so hard and hear so few 'thanks.' I'm deeply grateful to all of you who have made such huge sacrifices for the rest of us! Thank you!!!

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