I love the graphic at the top of this page. It reminds me of where I am, even who I am. And it reminds me of why I moved back to this farm.
I may have always loved this farm, but there were many years where you might not have discerned that from my conversations or behavior. Growing up on a farm carries a lot of baggage. I didn’t like being known as a Farm Kid because we, as country folks, were generally not held in very high esteem back in the 50’s and 60’s. You could even say we were “looked down on.” When I went to high school in Wamego, the bigger town nearby, all of us from this small, farming community of Belvue were placed in remedial classes. We were never tested to see if we actually belonged there. It was simply assumed we would not be able to keep up with those who had attended the larger school.
That would never happen today, so things have changed for the better, but I still get the impression some people don’t understand the lure of a Kansas farm, or appreciate the contribution farmers make to everyone’s life. I have often told people to be sure they don’t criticize farmers with their mouth full. But farming, as a lifestyle, is still often misunderstood. When telling people I grew up on a Kansas farm I frequently notice expressions of romanticism or pity flicker across their faces.
“Did you grow chickens?” my friend Debbie, who grew up on Long Island, once asked me.
“Well, we did the years we didn’t plant them too deep,” I answered with a deadpan expression.
She eventually chuckled at my joke, but it took her awhile. At dinner the night I brought Debbie to the farm, my mother asked her if she’d like a homemade pickle. Debbie was flabbergasted that you could make pickles. When my mother explained that pickles actually began as cucumbers, you would have thought Mom had just told Debbie that if she stood on the table and flapped her arms hard enough she would surely fly. Debbie had never heard such a thing. Honestly, she had never much thought about where her food came from, beyond the fact hers always came from a store.
To Debbie, living on a farm was filled with wonder. For others it offers a dream of a past time, when we assume things were easier. But growing up on a farm wasn’t always easy. It was a lot of hard work. As a Farm Kid I grew up learning to drive tractors, trucks and combines. While my townie friends spent their summer afternoons at the swimming pool and hanging out sipping cold beverages in a booth at the local drug store, I spent mine bouncing up and down on the back of an old red Farmall tractor. There were days, many days, when I resented that. Now I treasure those experiences because they taught me responsibility and teamwork.
Although I often complained about it, I liked doing farm work, mostly because at the end of a long day in the fields you could look back over your shoulder and see exactly what you accomplished. It may have been a long, hot, dirty day, but you could feel good about having spent it participating in honorable labor.
Now when friends visit me here they often comment about how quiet it is. There aren’t traffic noises and you don’t usually hear voices other than your own, but that doesn’t mean we live in a vacuum. There are plenty of sounds out here on the prairie. In the morning dozens of different birds call and sing with such glee and enthusiasm that I often wonder if they are singing for themselves, each other or possibly for me. During the day I can hear quail calling out their “Bob White” and cicadas buzz sometimes so loudly it can seem deafening. But if I listen more closely I can also pick up the sounds of frogs croaking along the edge of the pond, crickets chirping away in the grass, coyotes yelping from the hollows and owls hoo, hoo, hooting from the tops of trees.
No matter how quiet or peaceful the country life seems to be, it is teeming with life. That’s what this land is about — supporting life. That’s its purpose, its mission and why I am so honored to be a steward of this patch of farmland and prairie.
When my friend Jason stepped out onto the deck the first evening he was here, he took in a deep, audible breath and said, “Wow! You can really breathe here.”
Yes, indeed, you can.
And that’s why I love the graphic at the top of this page, because it reminds me how much I love this land. Where once I yearned to flee this farm and head to the cities to live among high rises, bustle and people, and after spending years doing that, I now realize this Farm Kid is finally where she belongs — home.