Farmwifery: Lessons learned on a Kentucky farm

Farmwifery: Lessons learned on a Kentucky farm

Posted by Catherine Pond on November 18, 2015

Farming is not something out of the pages of a magazine, although old stuff and a big country kitchen helps. A lot. Here are some of the things I've learned so far in the past few years on our farm:

  • On a farm nothing happens overnight, except for frost (or a newborn animal).
  • When it first frosts, Johnson grass produces cyanide so you can't let your cows near it for at least 24-hours. Fortunately, a nice neighbor told us this.
  • Free-range chickens are adorable, until they poop all over your porch.
  • If you throw on an apron when someone is coming to the door, it goes very far towards tidying up.
  • Clean cattle tanks make excellent places for a good cool bath in a pinch.
  • Robert Frost was right: Good fences do make good neighbors. But he didn't say anything about when those fences are moved without permission or boundary lines are altered on maps.
  • Biscuits and sausage gravy make the best breakfast––and easy to make (the biscuits and the gravy, both). I can't believe it took me 45 years to even learn of this combination!
  • When a neighbor says 'you be careful!' as you're leaving, they're not cautioning you about a hillbilly hit. It's a nice, friendly form of "goodbye." Another saying, "You come back when you're ready," is really less obtuse.
  • Supper at 10 p.m. is not uncommon during hay season when every ounce of daylight is utilized.
  • Boys love tractors. So do their fathers. (But on our farm I am only allowed to drive a riding lawnmower. There is good, but arguable, precedent for this.)
  • A mud room is a must-have on a farm, ideally with a shower, or at least a nearby fire hose.
  • The sound of absolute silence is absolutely lovely.
  • It's great to have neighbors, but it's even nicer when they can't see you.
  • If you wear an apron around the farm, you don't have to wear a bra.
  • If I didn't have satellite internet I could probably not be a farmwife. On a quiet ridge. In Kentucky...that is, until lightning strikes and knocks it out (August 2012) and you are promised DSL "soon." (We got it in May 2014!)
  • Do not name your animals if you intend to sell them or eat them.
  • Learn how to put up a lot of your own food––canning or freezing––and buy a generator.
  • Beware the reality that you might be conflicted about raising animals, caring for them, and then selling or eating them.
  • Doublewides are not (technically) trailers, but they're not real houses, either. (The local water department and everyone else calls them trailers though.)
  • Young fawns are all too easily maimed or killed by haying equipment. Soft-hearted, but insane, farmers care for injured deer, much to their joy and, sometimes, sorrow.
  • Do not expect to make a regular pay check farming––or freelance writing.
  • Learn to roll with the punches, the losses, the sorrow, the weather, the fickle income, or you won't make it as a farmer (or for that matter, most weather aside, as a freelance writer).
  • When you see a rainbow or a newborn calf, the barn is full of hay, or cool breezes are blowing, say "AH!" and be glad: there might be a windstorm or drought another day, or a sickly cow.
  • Enjoy the moment, plan for the future, but do not look back...EXCEPT when a bull is in your vicinity.

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Catherine Pond

Catherine Pond writes from a ridge farm in Kentucky where she lives with her family, chickens, and cattle. She blogs at FarmwifeatMidlife.blogspot.com and wrote The Pantry—Its History and Modern Uses [Gibbs Smith: 2007], now available from her website, CatherinePond.com.

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