What a Farm Girl (at heart) Knows

Farm Girls know one apron isn’t enough: there ought to be two or three, in case your favorite’s in the wash. Besides this, one of a sturdy fabric like denim is as great an asset as a tool belt, maybe more so, for a stray clothespin or nail or coin may be found to have and to hold in a pocket for a spell. Apron pockets are especially good for tissues. (Using a handkerchief would of course be better, as would the apron’s corollary, a plain ol’ bandana.) Farm Girls know aprons and bandanas wear many hats: each can wipe a child’s tears or the sweat from your brow, or help tote the little one’s treasures home. My own major wardrobe item consists, not of shoes as the typical city gal’s might, but bandanas, which keep my hair out of mouth and eyes and work.

Some aprons I’ve sewn myself, but just as many I’ve inherited from my mom, since she’s not big on housework anymore. I even have a few of my grandma’s. Still among the sturdy-apron collection is my shop apron for woodshop and foundry – I went to Lane Technical High School in the early-mid 70’s. My daughter, at 3-1/2, knew she had to put one of hers on if she wanted to “hewp Mommie inna kitchen”.

Beyond good stewardship of the planet (using lots less electricity), putting up laundry on a line is good karma. But only order wood clothespins (from Www.Lehmanns.com perhaps) if you’ve exhausted your search of local hardware stores first. Pair these with a cotton line on which to hang the clothes. Again, some clothespins were my mother’s first, so well-made they’re still making themselves useful.

Being willing to eat salad with a spoon perhaps shows that farm girl can-do spirit, but it’s also a matter of being too tired to wash a fork before crashing in bed after a long day’s labor with the flocks and in the gardens!

II
My inner farmgirl doesn’t need to bust out from behind any dumb Minolo Blahniks. Nobody else I know wears pointy-toed high heels, because they’re neither the smart choice for healthy feet nor conducive to a struggle, whether with a drug-addled human (that’s law enforcement talking), a big stubborn sheepdog who does not want a bath, or a weed let go rather long.

III
Is it spring yet? Every farm-girl-at-heart knows it’s not spring until we have a warm rain and the worms come out!

IV
Good farm-girls-at-heart know to use very mild soaps exclusively; we read labels carefully and investigate any suspicious ingredients listed  before buying any to wash our dishes, clothes, and selves. The used water (“grey water”) can then be used to water plants or flush toilets. The resulting fruits and vegetables should be no worse for wear.

V
Do try to keeps cats, raccoons, and other carnivores out of your garden – their excrement is unsuitable for use as manureon your food plants  and can do harm in the water table.

VI
Whether you share a pond or stream with other families or have one all to yourself, stay vigilant about invasive plant species too. Some, like hydrilla and water hyacinth, are wreaking havoc on US waterways. Be willing to spend time eradicating exotic aliens.

VII

Just as hens go broody and people get moody, the farmer knows the squall will blow over. Light follows dark, and the fresh air after a gentle rain is to set down one’s hoe or quilting for. Joy returns with the warm moist air, just as it does with a new recipe that works out well, or harvesting a pumpkin from my city backyard, or knowing I can get a pup.

VIII
Baby chicks? In spite of my meetings-up with Heifer Project folk at Master Gardener meetings, I have my hesitations in this regard, for several reasons; first, the average Chicago yard isn’t usually spacious enough, since we all want to grow “just a few” veggies besides: two, neighbors usually don’t appreciate pre-dawn crowing/cackling: three, wings have to be clipped: and four – could I kill them?

Let’s keep in mind: real farm work involves sacrifice, loss, worry, and death. Sacrifice being voluntary privation or loss doesn’t make it easier than when the loss comes without warning. Farmers can’t control everything – when and if the rains will come, if the hens won’t get egg-bound or the ewes struggle to deliver breech lambs, if the crops sold will cover the mortgage. Sometimes things rot before we can eat them, and must needs become compost. As immortal Odin is reputed to have said: “Animals die. Kinsmen die. All things we know must die.” If we can’t face the selling or killing of our animals, we ought not to have them.

A return to the mindset of farming (if not to an actual farm) means not so much a taking back of one’s innocence, because farming is not, after all, about freshly windblown laundry and chicks and bunnies. It is more akin to kyu-do: literally, “The Way of the Bow,” the Japanese art of archery’s aim is to link the spirits of the archer and the target. Zen is to be found not only in a bull’s-eye, but in successfully darning a sock, and in sharpening my spade – and in a fast clean kill, of an animal I and mine will skin or pluck, bringing meat for the pot or freezer, a hide for a drumskin, feathers for a pillow. On the farm, of the farm, everything goes full circle.

http://www.majaramirez.com

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About majaramirez

former assistant instructor in tai chi chu'an; current TreeKeeper (#467); former Master Gardener; member of American Bird Conservancy, Audubon, Fraternal Order of Police, and Mensa; career cop, now assigned as Warrant/Summons Officer at Branches 29 & 42; wife and mom.
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