This farm is our destiny.
My husband, John, has been a stay-at-home dad, raising our four kids for the past 21 years of our 22 year marriage. In town. At some point along the way, John decided that denim overalls were his work uniform of choice. He always said they were better than jeans because you didn’t have to wear a belt. They were roomy and practical, and heck – they made people smile. When traveling in Europe, Italian locals would ask to have their picture taken with the “American farmer”. It was as though he’d stepped out of “American Gothic” sans pitchfork. And wouldn’t you know it: now John is a farmer. He’s been preparing for this all his life.
And there’s more. John loves to dig. His mother and Godmother have both told me he’s been digging since he was a toddler. John’s mom said he would dig holes all over the backyard and it would drive her crazy. With John, it never required a need. It brought him pure pleasure just to move the earth and create a hole where there wasn’t one before. And being a guy who enjoys steps one through seven in a ten step process, there didn’t need to be a purpose. The hole was enough. So as you can imagine, buying John his first tractor was like buying Picasso brushes. And buying the farm was like buying a canvas. And dig John does. And dig John must.
The farm was left to us in the state of an English garden. Naturally overgrown and a perfect place for a stroll, a few animals, an art gallery, and the charming 1905 Victorian farmhouse that sits in its nest. But “the grounds” were truly past the point of being stroll-able. And we had dreams of horse pastures and orchards and vegetable gardens. Not to mention the occasional crash of a 30 foot man-killing limb that would remind us what happens when 100 foot cottonwoods go un-pruned. So the clearing had to be done, and Farmer John was the guy to do it.
Then the help arrived. The men. All the men, it seems. I’ve learned that men love tractors. They will do any work that requires a tractor, and they will do it for many hours and they will do it for free, even. And they will make 8 acres of overgrowth look like an actual farm in a matter of months. They chortle over their handy removal of endless briars and berry bushes. They grunt and laugh over the leveling of a condemned shed. They take anyone who will go on a tour of the freshly cleared areas, still littered with stumps and twigs. It’s a proving ground. And John and all of his guy friends are well-proven.
The woodpile is now forming (thanks to a log splitter whose arrival was so celebrated we should have had a parade), the massive logs are creatively lining our makeshift event parking lots, and the burn pile is a mile high. And the farm looks different. It looks thinner. As though it’s had a haircut. And like any barber shop, there is still hair all over the floor, but that will decay in time I’m told.
The truth is, there is much work to be done. We knew this when we decided to buy the farm. In fact, there were only three “Cons” on the list, next to a hundred pros: “(1) Not close to Mom’s house, (2) Long commute to work, and (3) Lots of maintenance required….forever.”
But now John’s digging has purpose and meaning. He digs around unwanted trees and pulls them out of the ground. He digs holes for planting trees. He digs graves for dearly departed animals.
And John wears overalls every day. And it makes sense.