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March 24, 2014 | The Farm Is Our Home
Over Home On The Farm
I moved away from rural upstate New York at 19, thinking I’d never look back on a childhood that had been so perfectly Americana Norman Rockwell could paint it. Almost without realizing it, I spent the next 20 years trying to get back.
March 24, 2014 | The Farm Is Our Home
Over Home On The Farm
I moved away from rural upstate New York at 19, thinking I’d never look back on a childhood that had been so perfectly Americana Norman Rockwell could paint it. Almost without realizing it, I spent the next 20 years trying to get back.

“Over home on the farm.”

The words roll so smoothly through my father’s lips. They are almost always followed by a story from his boyhood atop the hill on Barnes Road, overlooking the rolling fields and lush meadows of Southern Madison County.

This will mark his 50th year on his own farm less than 10 miles away, where he has worked tirelessly with an almost spiritual devotion to the land, the animals, the lifestyle. But to him, all of that is only an extension; a continuation of sorts. As a child, I never understood it. Now, at 48, as I stand right back where I started, it’s never been clearer.

I moved away from rural upstate New York at 19, thinking I’d never look back on a childhood that had been so perfectly Americana Norman Rockwell could have  painted it. Almost without realizing it, I spent the next 20 years trying to get back.

Make no mistake: the experiences I had and the people I’ve had the honor to know throughout those 20 years were positively invaluable. I acquired degrees in journalism and education and worked as a both a news reporter and as a teacher-- just 90 miles from New York City.

But throughout the mundane daily routines of each job, it was always there. “Home.” Not the home where I fell into bed each night at the end of an exhausting day, but upstate New York “home.” The place where my thoughts drifted after each day’s events had faded into the night: The sweet smell of newly cut hay wafting on a warm southern breeze brushing past my pillow. The lonely bellow of a heifer whose quiet curiosity has separated her from the comfort of the herd, the deep chocolate brown of newly plowed sod waiting to be sewn on a warm spring day. And with all those thoughts came a heartfelt aching for home.

Spring is here now, Fences will  be fixed, the ground soon will be rich for planting and the calves will take their first tenuous steps outside the comfort of their stalls in the barn. And so, the cycle begins again.

And so, I’ve come full circle as well. Determined to move away at 20 and now determined to give my kids the same life I had. “Up with the chickens” at 4:30 a.m. (though we really only have cows; no chickens) to milk the cows in the exact same barn my father did, and ending my days with the evening milking. In between, there’s always something: Plowing, planting, mowing, bailing, harvesting, fixing.

Every day, learning more and more of the trade I took for granted all those years. Learning from my father who, at age 74, still makes it to the barn most mornings and evenings, if for no other reason than to point out what we did wrong or could have done differently.

It’s not always fun: Forcing yourself out of bed at 4:30 a.m. and being greeted by water surging from the barn door from a water bucket hose that burst in the night. Getting out of bed every two hours throughout the night to help pull a calf from a cow who is struggling to “freshen” on her own. Getting kicked, bucked, dirty, slapped with tails and downright exhausted many days.

But in the end - for me anyway - the rewards far outweigh the sacrifices, Because, after all, it’s a lifestyle, not a job.

Besides,  all of these experiences make for great stories to tell my ‘city friends’. Stories that almost always start with “Over home on the farm….”

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