Feeding

“I cannot follow a page of someone that is proud to call herself a “farmer’s wife”. People need to hear from the actual farmer.”

Apparently, this is a comment that Krista Stauffer received on her blog or Facebook page. For those of you who don’t know who Krista is, she is a farm woman who posts as The Farmers Wifee. She and her husband are first generation dairy farmers in Eastern Washington, and currently have approximately 150 cows. Here is my response to the person who left this comment:

A farmer’s wife must be a lazy woman, one who uses her free time frivolously (which by my calculations, if totaled up, comes out to be about 3 hours every 3 months or so. Am I close?). All she has to do all day is to feed her family, clean her home, assist with milking around 130 cows and taking care of the 50-odd head that are currently dry and waiting to give birth. She spends only a little bit of her time a day in a barn (maybe five to ten of those daily hours), feeding, watering and helping to care for a down cow, with some of those hours arriving in the wee hours of the morning. She has a tractor and knows how to use it, but only spends maybe 15 to 20 hours a week on it moving manure, lifting down cows, cutting, raking and baling hay, or moving it to feed. Another several hours is spent hunting down parts for that same tractor, and traveling the distance to pick it up. (I wouldn’t be surprised to find that she also knows how to do some of the repairs on said tractor.) Hand milking isn’t a daily chore for her, but I am willing to bet she does it more than she talks about. But she does know how to get all those cows in a barn, on a schedule, hook up the milkers, feed and water them, then release them back into the pasture. She wields a shovel like a magic wand, assisting in cleaning up the manure, getting ready for the next set of girls ready to be milked. She spends a few hours a week at her desk, either on the phone negotiating the best prices, arranging for milk pick up, and praying she can pay for that stack of bills with the minimal amount she has in the checking account. Oh! And I’ll bet she forgot that her children are in need of some new shoes, too, because she was more interested in getting her hair done. As she wanders lazily outside to enjoy the new calves, she can probably spot a discrepancy at 500 yards, but that’s just due to her curiosity about the animals, not from the late night hours she has spent reading, researching and studying about the dairy industry as a whole, and cattle in detail. And those tears you see running down her cheeks as she closes the barn door at 3 in the morning? Ah, she’s just whining because she broke a nail – not because she broke it while she tried to ease the pain of that suffering cow through massage, hauling a bale of hay to feed it and toting a heavy bucket of water to make sure it got enough to drink. Sheesh! What a lazy woman!

To the one who wrote that comment: I am so sorry that you feel Krista, and other women like her, aren’t farmers. I am, however, curious to know exactly what your definition is of that word. Is it someone who is out in the field every day, riding a tractor, planting or harvesting seed, or someone who is out in the barn milking 150 cows or better, all by hand, all by himself? If so, maybe it’s time you shadow one of these women, and find out what they really do with all their time. And if you’re lucky, you may catch her right about the time she has a spare five minutes and can actually sit still and visit with you.

I call myself ‘The Farm Wife’. In my own blog, I define that as a woman who is married to a farmer AND a farm. I may not have the large dairy farm that Krista does, and we may only have 60 acres, as opposed to hundreds or thousands of acres that are row cropped. But not one of us – me, Krista or any of the other women who have ‘Farm’ or ‘Farmer’ in their title, can be considered ‘non-farmers’. I raise, feed, water and collect eggs from sometimes upward of 100 chickens every day, not to mention the ones who are raised for meat. I guess by your definition, they are considered pets; despite the fact that their eggs are part of our ‘farm’ income. We only have 16 cows at the moment, and only one of them is a milk cow, but we provide our family and friends with meat and dairy products, as well as sell some of the calves for even more ‘farm’ income, but I guess they are just considered a hobby. I have a 1500 square foot garden and raise not only food for our family and friends, but also sell a portion of the harvest for income, and use some of the corn to grind as feed to help keep costs down. We also sell vegetable and herb plants in season – but I guess gardening is just a nice past time. I may not have children in my home at the moment, as both of mine are grown, but I am still a mom who loves and cares for my kids (and grandchild), and am called on to this day to offer guidance, advice and even, from time to time, a small bit of discipline. I know how to palpate a cow, pull a calf and what it feels like to lose a precious animal. I have been outside in the sleet and freezing temperatures assisting a newborn calf and its mother to get back in the barn to warm safety. I have nursed sick chickens, dogs, cats and calves around the clock, and still stepped outside in the early morning hours to do my ‘regular’ chores. I guess, though, by your standards (whatever they may be), I shouldn’t consider myself a farmer, much less a farm wife, because it is my husband who does the bulk of the heavy lifting – even if I am on the other end of that load.

A word to Krista: I cannot begin to tell you how much I admire you, and women like you, who give yourself tirelessly to a farm, a farmer and your farm children. I may not have the size farm you do, but if I put in as many hours as I do, I know without a doubt you could see me my hours and up the ante more than I would have chips to match. You are an inspiration to me and others, and have certainly earned the right to call yourself The Farmers Wifee, and a farmer in your own right. Keep up the great work, Krista, and the other farming ladies. You deserve all the accolades you can get. That is, IF you have time to stop for a moment and enjoy them.

 

For those of you who want to read more about what real farm women do with their time, visit Krista at thefarmerswifee.com.