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"The Farmer-Man"

Posted 3/3/2011 9:02am by Julie Hurst / Roy Brubaker.

Farming, like so many things, is at its best when it is a shared experience.   Garrison Keilor tells comical stories of bachelor farmers, but farming alone is rather rare.   My farming partner and husband has been shipped off again this week for some state-required training related to his job and I really miss him.   I miss our end-of-the-day, face-to-face conversations but a cell phone can at least help reacquaint us every evening.   I really miss his strength and the fact that usually he takes care of things like putting round bales out for the sheep and cows.  

We planned ahead for his departure and all the ruminants were well stocked with hay for the first half of the week.  Every morning and evening I simply fed and watered the pigs, put hay down for the horses, and made sure the sheep had water as well.    I was hoping all of our preparations would last till Thursday, my first free day, but when the girls and I came home on Wednesday in the late afternoon, it was clear the sheep were hungry.  After doing all the routine chores I told the girls I'd have to feed some round bales to the sheep, and, feeling the adventure of three (nearly) women running the farm, they gamely asked how they could help.   I was grateful for their offer and their company but when it comes to running a skid steer the best place for kids is watching from a distance.   The skid steer and I are on ever-better terms but it is still a little tricky and Frances called after me as went to let it out of its pen, "just be careful mom!!" then moved far away to play on a mound of dirt with Riley.   Getting the bales placed in the sheep pasture went smoothly but the sheep were hungry and they quickly surrounded the bales trying to get a mouthful before I had time to cut off the bale wrap and place the feed panels around it. I called Mac, who dislikes the skid steer and was showing off for the piglets in the barn, to keep the sheep off while I dragged over the feeder panels and tied them in place.  By this time it was dark and the stars were out.    Perhaps had I a bit of dinner and the physical strength of Roy to lift the panels into place, I could have enjoyed the evening a bit more, but honestly, by that time I was done; exhausted from a long  day of farming, meetings, and farming late into evening.   I had sent the girls to the house for showers ahead of me and when I finally came in I found a little note of encouragement from Riley written on a paper towel with a snack of  four dried apricots.    And did I lead you to believe I was farming alone this week?  I was wrong...I've got very good company... all the same it will be nice to have Roy home.

But the story, or the week, doesn't end there.  This morning our neighbors in Reed's Gap came to pick up Mac to use as a stud on their border collie.  I told them I would likely be in the barn when they arrived and of course they arrived when I was yet again trying to tame that old skid steer.   Mr. E found me and we walked up to the house together.  His wife, looking the neat and tidy farm wife she is, sprang out of the mini-van and greeted me as I, in my raggedy barn coat and dirty boots crossed the road with her lean, coverall-wearing farmer husband, "so, you're the farmer-man today" she said.

"Farmer-woman!  -- at least this week."  I grinned.   I must admit, for all my youthful insistence on not conforming to prescribed female roles, I was feeling both capable and proud at her acknowledgment that I could work like a man and a little jealous that her shoes and apron were so crisp and clean.