Written several months ago, never posted due to my conflicting feelings about the difficult yet wonderful role my life has taken. Hope you enjoy!
It’s funny how some things seem to come in spells. Bad things happen in threes etc. I don’t know the exact number of conversations but I know that in the last two months I have shared our story (the five minute version) with more people than usual. Today I shared with a mom at storytime. A few days ago I shared with a couple moms from church. A few weeks ago I shared with the moms from our preschool group. These are just the encounters I remember, I’m sure there have been more. The basic question is this: where’s your husband? Followed by: does he always work this late? What are the winters like? What do you do all the time? And then some version of: do you actually like this lifestyle or why don’t you guys get a different job?
I have to wonder what these inquiring minds think of my responses. “Yep, from April through November Ty leaves the house before six and gets home after ten on a good night, more frequently after midnight.” Or “I take care of my girls, my yard, and my house and as often as I can I help on the farm.” Or “Yes, it’s super hard but we like this lifestyle.” Or “well, this isn’t really a job. I mean, yes, we make our living this way (notice I didn’t say money) but we aren’t in agriculture for the money. We’re in it for the lifestyle, for the experiences, for the challenges, and for the blessings it has to offer.”
So many people in my physical, non-internet life have been wondering about the reality of being a farm wife, and maybe some of you in the blogosphere are wondering too. As I said before, my husband leaves at six and gets home around midnight. I do consider myself a farmer’s wife, rather than a farmer myself, but as I told our librarian today, if Dad is a farmer than the whole family farms. I know plenty of women who work side-by-side their husbands or partners on the farm day in and day out. I am not one of those women, but I do work on the farm a considerable amount. Two reasons I do not work with Ty full time are named Henley and Becca. I choose to be a full-time parent and avoid day care or grandparent care, except for Thursday mornings each week when I head to the farm to have a “date” which usually involves me driving tractor or helping Mr. Rancher move cows.
Our life during the spring, summer, and fall is tied to the needs of the cows and crops. We do not currently employ any farm workers which means Mr. Rancher is solely responsible for feeding the cows, tilling, planting, watering, spraying, harvesting, swathing, baling, hauling, and stacking crops. We have 100 cows to feed during the winter months, which are our easiest work months, though they are cold and full of paperwork. The rest of the year the cows are more in the background of our operation except for scattered days of moving from pasture to pasture or branding.
Spring and summer are tractor seasons for Ty. New crops have to be sown, hay has to be cut and baled and hauled. And watered. A farm is somewhat like a giant garden. Our operation includes approximately 500 acres of our leased acreage and another 200 of custom acreage (custom farming is when we use our equipment and man power to farm someone else’s land and crops. We don’t sell the crops but do the work of harvesting them and are paid a per acre rate for the work).
Fun fact you probably don’t know about hay crops: they have to be baled at a certain time of day when the moisture level is just right. If the hay is too dry it will break and not form a bale, if it’s too wet it will spontaneously combust later on and likely burn the entire hay stack and shed down.
This temperamental nature of hay means that Ty bales mostly during the early mornings and late nights, hence his crazy work hours. Also, our girls are usually in bed before he comes home and not awake before he leave in the morning. We try to take dinner to the field several days each week, which is an hour round trip trek, just so my girls can see their dad. And I can see my husband.
Since Mr. Rancher is so busy with the farm, I am responsible for all things concerning the children, house, garden, yard, and any animals that live at home. I also take the primary role in bookkeeping.
So what do I do all day? I parent. I clean. I call my husband and express gratitude for his hard work and encouragement for his tired body and weary soul. I listen to his grand plans and add mine to the list. I mow the lawn. I pull weeds. I feed our menagerie. I grocery shop. I host a story time program at the library. I volunteer at church. I go to parties by myself. I take the kids to events by myself. I cook and deliver food to our various and widespread fields.
Some things I don’t do: go to girls’ nights out, sleep well, or fold the laundry as soon as it comes out of the dryer. Seriously, who does anyway???
I try to be patient with my kids, my husband, our business and myself, but I fail at that a lot of the time. I just want things to be just so right now! I try to enjoy the journey and appreciate the small moments. I’m making progress, just check my journal. I try to explain this lifestyle with all the romantic notions of the “old west” and the stark realities of long work hours, swinging markets, sky-high land prices, and deep emotional commitment to the identity of being a farmer and farming family.
At the end of the day, that guy riding across the road from me does not farm, he is a farmer. That’s why we don’t just go get another job. That’s why I take on so much responsibility for our family life and our home, because I love that farmer and want my kids to have the farming lifestyle. I love seeing my husband succeed and even struggle at his passion, and would rather support him through the long and difficult days in pursuit of his dreams and the experiences it provides to our whole family than see him slog to work at a 9-5 job that he hates and limits our family life.
A huge part of supporting Mr. Rancher is going with him to work. Sure I help, but my primary purpose in going out to the farm every Thursday is to support and strengthen Mr. Rancher. I help as much as I can (remember I didn’t grow up riding horses or driving tractors. I’m new to this line of work.) by saddling up with him and doing my best to keep up or climbing into the tractor and doing a sloppy but sufficient job baling hay.
Life of a ranch wife is beautiful and hard, joyous and depressing, it’s my role (not one I ever thought I’d play) and I’m so grateful for it.
Blessings and love to each of you readers.