Sunday, June 14, 2009

Why I loved growing up on the farm

I grew up on a farm in rural South Dakota. I love the wide open spaces of the prairie. It still calls to my heart like no other thing I have found. I have felt my heart skip a beat when I see blue sky above brown/green wheat fields. My soul is never happier than when I'm looking at farm land. It happened in England when our train passed sheep grazing in a field. Any version of farming or ranching scenes mean home to me like no other. My inner child gets excited every time I see hay bales.

We lived in a small farm house that my father's grandfather built. It's sole source of heat was a fireplace. It was so cold our water would freeze up at least once a winter. I hated hauling in wood, but am very good at stacking and carrying now because I wanted to make as few trips as possible.

I loved that farm as much as a child can love anything. I still think it was my first true love. We had the most amazing sunsets. The sky seemed so huge. The colors were amazing all swirled together and constantly changing as the sun gradually set. I used to try to capture the colors and beauty with my crayons. Turns out God has the best crayon set ever, more colors you know.

I think I spent most of my time on the farm dreaming. When you're away from it all you can really dream, at least I could. I used my imagination to entertain myself. I had conversations with every type of animal we had on the farm. I saw crops planted and harvested. I watched the seasons change. I hated winter. I did love being pulled behind a horse on the sled. Speed!

I dreamed of exotic places like England and Texas. To a small town farmer's daughter those places are exotic. Ahem, they still are to me, I did not loose my fascination.

I loved growing up close to the animals. Sheep, horses and chickens were my childhood friends. I think one of the greatest gifts my parents gave me was my own ewe. She taught me a rather warped lesson on motherhood. Sheep are a herd animal. They use smell to recognize their lambs. One night it was birthing night because half of the heard lambed that night. My ewe was one of them, but unlike all the other ewes she would not let the lamb nurse. She was a first time mother. Every time the lamb approached she would head butt it away. It was my job to hold her still to allow the lamb to nurse. I would try to reason with her while doing this. It sounded something like, this is your baby you have to take care of her, she will die if you don't feed her. I think it took a few days for the ewe to accept the lamb was not going to go away. Maybe she could not take another day of having a seven year old kid preaching about what a mother should do. For the record I am still pro baby feeding and anti head butting.
The thing I did not find out till years later, was that was not really her lamb. She was not acting like a mother because she was not that lamb's mother. Her lamb had been stillborn. My Mom and Dad put in a lamb from a set of triplets in with her. They did not want me to be disappointed and the lamb would do better with out having to compete for food.
Do you think the ewe was thinking "Can't you smell that is not my lamb you stupid kid?" every time I was lecturing her on what it means to be a mother? Funny how life works.