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Of Being a Farmer's Daughter


So what was it like to grow up on a farm? I'm sure there are many and varied answers to that question. I was the youngest child, with two sisters, about seven and fourteen years older than I. We'd moved to the farm when I was six-months old. It was the only life I'd known. No so for my sisters. And neither of them, I think, have quite the fondness for the old place that I had.


The one thing I can say with certainty is that farm life as lived then on our farm was quite independent. I read years later in a letter sent home from an immigrant his contention that the wonderful thing about this country is that you did not have to go with your hat in your hand to any man for a job here. Life on our farm was certainly like that. As long as you could afford to buy your seed and pay your taxes, you were your own boss. Total freedom. It was grand.


For me, life lived there was remote. Our only immediate neighbor was a family with two boys. one of whom was older than I by a year and the other was quite a bit younger than either of us. The boy nearly my age was my only playmate in my younger days. And he only came over to play, rarely. I have no idea how the arrangements were made. Certainly we weren't of an age to invite each other over. I would imagine our mothers arranged it. Who initiated it, I don't know.


But although playmates were few, I never found myself bored. I seemed to have been born with an innate enthusiasm to find something to do. And I've never had a lazy imagination.


So my daytimes were filled oftentimes with explorations: of the woods to the north and the east of our house; of the old granary, a dark spooky place, constructed of boards weathered to blackness and shrunken to the point that they no longer met at their edges; and of the hog styes half hidden and abandoned near the edge of the east woods. 


There were trips to the pond to swim, or to paddle a pontoon boat around on its surface, or to fish for blue gills or crappies. And there was my bicycle ridden at high speeds on grass covered dirt, which ultimately produced calves on me of incredible strength.


There were nuts to gather and crack in the fall and black raspberries to harvest in summer. I picked and pitted the cherries which Mom then went on to preserve, those wonderful, succulent, red orbs that were later turned into her fabulous pies. Her grandchildren still talk of her pies to this day, as do I. And there were peas to shell and strawberry beds to keep weeded and corn to be ground for the chickens. Life seemed never to stand still.


And it's gone now: the life we knew then -- and the land. We moved on, my sisters and I. Not being farmers. Not being folks of the land.