At least once per year we visit our family farm. We love the open spaces, big farm equipment and small town feel. Our family farm resides in a small town in Nebraska. When I was growing up, the town of Thayer consisted of a church, grain elevator and bar. This is where my parents met and where I was born. Time was spent getting dirty, riding and playing on dangerous farm equipment, and rooting for Husker football. Nostalgia and feeling of calm comes over me every time we visit, and I am reminded of the lessons I learned on the farm:
There is Work for All Hands No Matter How Small
My grandparents had it all: a large garden, chickens, cows, and land. In the summer time I would help my grandma pick strawberries or tomatoes, and sometime I would help her pod peas. On the farm even the smallest of hard work could help. This is still true for my city girls. Maybe they fold towels, take an item to the trash, or wipe off the table. Each member of the family can contribute no matter how small the task. Sometimes reminding myself that “done is better than perfect” helps with teaching chores and being stewards of our belongings.
Know Where Your Food Comes From
We attempt to be kind and respect animals and insects, however my kids don’t complain over a hamburger or chicken fajitas. This reminds me of my grandma who said “Farming is a full-time job, at times our needs are secondary to those depending on us.” Meaning that even when it is 20 below or 100 degrees hot, the chickens and cows still needed fed, eggs still needed gathered, and fields needed irrigated or harvested. The winter was always coming, and harvest only came once per year.
A Little Dirt Won’t Hurt
I wish I was more flexible about my kids getting dirty! But honestly it’s hard…my grandma would say “mud between the toes feels good but wet chicken poop does not.” The farm helps me let go of that, and I almost WANT my kids to get dirty. My grandma was never concerned with dirty kids (except before church). She would throw us in the mud room sink for a bath. Go jump in the puddle, go feed the cows, climb on the rock piles! The mud will wash off but the memories will last a lifetime.
Nothing Goes to Waste
Once when visiting the farm I made chicken noodle soup and mashed potatoes for the family. I made more mashed potatoes than we needed. Meals that weekend consisted of the massive amount of potatoes I cooked. With perspective I contemplated the work of tilling the soil, planting the seeds, irrigating, weeding, and finally harvesting the potatoes, doesn’t take long to understand why leftovers are saved. As a child there were 3 meals per day. That’s all! There were no snacks and over-accommodations to children’s perceived hunger needs. You needed to be happy for what you had. I can almost still hear my grandma saying “hungry kids will eat vegetables, and vegetables are good for you.”
A Farm is More Than Land, It’s a Family Heritage
I go to the farm to find my soul. On the farm everyone waves when they drive by. If a neighbor’s truck is stuck or someone needs help, a text or phone call is all it takes. In Thayer community is family and vise versa. I still enjoy going to the cemetery and listening to my dad tell me about our ancestors – the stories and heritage of our family. I guess a little bit of country is good for the soul.
Now not all lessons are easy to teach. My grandma would also say “The sky brings you fortune or famine” and “If the dog eats chickens…he’s dead”, and “Unless you are in danger of bleeding out, you will heal.” But for the most part I have only found nostalgia and good lessons to teach on the farm. When I was a child the world never got bigger then the summer sun the farm, from that day forward the world only became smaller.