Heart and Soul on the Farm

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The summer of 2016 brought many firsts to our lives. Not the kind you are thinking. No new babies. We have four awesome boys. However, we did have first appointments at the Heart Failure Clinic, the first time the capital letters “HOCM” meant anything to us, the first open-heart surgery, and the first time Jim has bought Christmas presents in July in his whole entire life.

Let me start at the beginning. It was mid-May, and my husband nearly passed out during a routine produce delivery. He wasn’t the same after that one day. I shrugged it off, thinking maybe he had a virus. He didn’t shrug it off because he knew something was wrong. That’s when I quit shrugging because in ALL my years of knowing this man he has never let ANYTHING keep him from his farm work …ever.

Thus began our days of cross training. Our farm runs like a true partnership. We call it divide and conquer. I have my things that I know how to do, and he has his things that he is way better at than I am, and then we have the shared labor jobs. Life was now calling us to be flexible and cross-train in each other’s territory. My husband is a natural with our kiddos, which came in handy as he suddenly spent more time at home with them while I spent more time out in the field. He read lots of books to our 3-year-old twins and kept the big boys hopping with ways to help out around the house. He learned how to handle more computer work and returned phone calls, all while keeping the littles happy. I received lessons on what gear to be in and how many RPMs to maintain. My favorite big tractor jobs were those where he told me, “Don’t worry, you can’t tear anything up, just go in circles.”

Perhaps I sound insecure, but I’m not. I knew I could get the job done, but let me be clear, my husband loves the land, and I didn’t want to do anything to mess it up. And really, is there any more pressure than knowing that if you break something, your husband might not be up to fixing it? Ahhh, but Toby can. I came to rely on our tractor doctor Toby as much as anyone else in my life during the summer. I called him for everything: dead batteries, (un)cranky engines, even machinery questions that he normally doesn’t fool with – and he never once blocked my number. And did I mention his wife made us cookies? Twice? Talk about going above and beyond.

While we’re on the subject of machinery, let me say my husband is amazing. He poured out his heart, soul and mind into one red notebook that told me which farm jobs required which tractor, what piece of equipment, which gear to be in and how to service each piece of machinery before I used it. Now, here lies the difference in men’s and women’s jobs on the farm. Men have jobs that require you do something before you actually start, like greasing all kinds of moving parts and checking fluid levels and airing up tires. Women don’t have time for that mess. If that were the case with all womenfolk jobs, we would never get started, much less finish. The baby would already be up from a nap. Dinner would be boiling over and burnt. However, heeding my husband’s advice and detailed description of how to lube our world of machinery, I did it. Each and every one of those silly little grease fittings that are placed so (im)perfectly as to make the most proper of women cuss at least one little word under her breath.

Late August came, and harvest time approached. I recall my husband telling me I was amazing and awesome and all of these things I didn’t deserve to be named. He had no idea how many people were behind me, lifting me up, helping out on days off, 4-H kids, home-schooled kids grabbing sweet potatoes out of the ground, even a very tall computer programmer helped haul in the winter squash harvest. It was never about me being first or best; it was about first allowing others to help and do because that is where they found joy and purpose.

I am sure our helpers experienced some firsts last summer right along with us. Some that I hope make them smile, feel more capable and good about themselves. I know I was certainly cross-trained in more than just machinery and medicine. I was cross-trained in appreciation for all things … especially the people in my life.

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