It is cold outside.  I have to laugh.  It’s probably only in the low 30’s right now, but I am wrapped up in my dad’s old L.L. Bean goose down jacket, a hand-crocheted cap, a hand-knitted scarf and leather gloves.  My friend, Gary, who lives up North, probably works in his shirt-sleeves when the weather is this ‘warm’, but me?  Uh, uh.  I want as many layers as I can get.   

Tomorrow will be different.  It will be in the high sixties, with a heavy layer of humidity.  If I haven’t gone as far as wearing shorts, I definitely will be in a lightweight tee or even a sleeveless shirt.  I won’t even make it to the barn before I am dripping with sweat.  Even the cows are standing under the trees, anticipating the heat of the sun.  Weather-wise, it seems we in the South just can’t win.

Because of the vast swing in temperatures, I have to choose my clothes carefully.  They have to be warm enough for the cold, cool enough for the heat, and sturdy enough to tackle all the chores.  For instance:

One of the first things I do each morning is head to the barn to feed the cats.  As I step through the door, they ‘attack’. One does his best to shimmy up my right leg.  Sammy scales to the height of my shoulder.  Champ and Punk wind their figure eights around and through my legs.  Each step I take is a threat to them, but they could care less.  It requires a balance that only a tight rope walker can appreciate to maneuver to the feed.    Clothing choice:  Suit of armor, thick leather gloves.

From there, I head back to the chicken coop.  I wash out and refill water containers, then it is inside the coop for feed.  That mostly consists of tossing some out on the ground and filling the inside containers.  However, Mrs. Gray is a spoiled bird, and demands hers right out of my hand.  Eggs (if there are any) are gathered.  Clothing choice:  Jeans and a tee shirt, with or without a jacket, no gloves, apron with pockets and preferably rubber boots.  There is nothing worse than having to deal with wet gloves the rest of the day, and besides – Mrs. Gray doesn’t like the taste of leather. 

The next stop is out to the back pasture to run the dogs.  My hands and voice are in constant motion.  “Down, Wilson.” “Come here, Bonnie.”  “Get out of that, Yodie!”  “No, Hootie.  You are going to knock me down!”  As they run and play chase, they do not watch where they are going.  I am usually pretty quick, but a few times I have been distracted by the scenery around me and end up on my backside in the wet grass.  After almost a half hour, it is a pleasure to walk back up to the house and feed those mangy critters.  Clothing choice:  Head to foot rain gear.  Tennis shoes to duck and dodge.  Rubber gloves to thwart muddy wet paws on the chest. 

Once they are happily munching away, I slip my way into the bee suit. I grab up the veil and two jars of sugar water, then make my way back through the pasture to care for the bees.  I get only a few feet away from the hives before I have to ‘finish dressing’, by putting on gloves and the veil, and pray I can grip the jars long enough to change them out.  They have slipped out before, banging on the hive and creating a swarm around my head.  This is not a good thing in winter, as the bees cannot handle cold temperatures.  As I finish that chore and ease away, I pull off my gloves and grimace.  They have become sticky from a drip or two of sugar water that either escaped the tiny holes or because I didn’t wash down the sides as well as I thought.  Clothing choice:  white head-to-ankle bee suit.  Rubber boots for the wet grass.  Veil.  Gloves.

Half way back to the house, Scratcher meets me at the gate for a little attention.  I slip through the gate and begin scratching her brisket.  She is one happy cow.  The other cows see this and are afraid she is getting Range Cubes and they are not.  The stampede begins and before I know it, I am squeezed in a group bovine hug that I could really do without.  My once combed hair is now a mass of tangles and fly away strands.  Clothing choice:  Rubber apron.  Rubber boots.  Rubber gloves.  And a good hat.

Unfortunately for me, I don’t own a suit of armor.  Most of these clothes are impractical to work in.  I mostly wear old jeans, old shirts and a jacket, which ranges from a windbreaker to dad’s goose-down from L.L. Bean.  I do have two types of farm shoes – tennis shoes and rubber boots.  Needless to say, I often find myself changing clothes at least once, and sometimes twice a day.  This attire is a long way from the designer suits and high heels I once dreamed about when I was younger.  And sometimes, I forget that I don’t have a high-powered city job, and venture out in public.

So, if you ever see me, or any Farm Wife out somewhere looking less than presentable, cut us a little slack.  We more than likely have very little time to do errands, and have a problem changing clothes two more times – once to go out in public, and once to put the old ones back on to work out on the farm. Oh.  And if it’s me you are seeing?  Just ignore that piece of hay in my hair, and the slobber on my sleeve.  That bovine hug was a little closer than normal this morning, and I ended up in the hay ring.



Julie Murphree is a blogger, newspaper columnist, and speaker on all things ‘Living a Simple Life on the Farm’. She is the author of \\\'The Farm Wife – Living a Simple Life on the Farm. She and her husband have 60 acres in NW Louisiana where they actively work on living as sustainable as possible.

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