My loveliest Christmas gift this year was the outpouring of recollections about the little things in farm life that so many of you wrote about last week [on The Contrary Farmer blogsite here]. I am trying hard not to utter grandiose statements about how you are turning this blogsite into something profoundly wonderful, but I don’t think I’m exaggerating to say that you are an extra special bunch of really great human beings. It is just so much fun interrelating with all of you.
Another lovely Christmas present came from my sister, Marilyn: a bushel of wheat for our chickens. I gave her four ears of my open pollinated corn wrapped in a red ribbon, extra delicious for making corn bread. When we tell other people about our gift exchange, we get strange looks. But all of you reading this blog will just nod and say “of course.” What could be more fitting? The interesting aside about getting a bushel of wheat is that, despite the fact that the elevator uptown has tons of wheat in storage, it is no longer able to extract just one bushel out of the huge storage bins. And the neighbors and relatives from whom I used to get a little wheat no longer raise it. But the people at our elevator are mighty nice guys, and when Marilyn put on her best poor-old-helpless-kinfolk-neighbor-farm woman look and smiled benignly at them, they somehow figured out a way to do it. It’s one of the blessing of living in a small community, Marilyn says.
Just when I thought no one could top that Christmas gift, there’s a knock on the door and in comes a nephew, John, and he has a gift for us that is so precious I am tempted to put it in a safe, except I don’t have one: a cute little sack— which he sewed together himself— full of his very own homegrown cracked corn and oats. More scratch feed for our chickens.
You will appreciate the story behind this gift. John has become a farmer in recent years, the new kind of farmer who does it for fun, not for money, financing his “operation” by working another job, along with his wife, Julie, who also has another job. John, like myself and so many of you, had to wait until he was middle aged to save enough money to become a contrary farmer. He and Julie built a house, a barn, a pond and a chicken coop on their newly-acquired land. (Until the house was finished, they lived in a camper trailer and used an outdoor privy that John built.) They put in new fencing for a flock of sheep. They rescued abandoned brush land and turned it into productive pastures. They put out gardens way to big to manage with all the other work they do. Eventually John found an old John Deere combine to harvest his oat crop which was almost as weedy as mine used to be. He repaired an old baler (I have some of his bales in the barn right now). He put out a half acre of corn and he and Julie husked it by hand. He found and repaired an old grain grinder and milled the corn and oats to make scratch feed for their chickens. As he had given us, he gave some to other relatives, all of whom have chickens of course. I told him there is a new market opening up— for SMALL amounts of farm supplies such as so many of our family members require. He rolled his eyes. He’d love to try but there is just no more time available in his world right now.
Here’s the all-important point. Although he has to be one of the hardest working people in the world, John is supremely content. Thinking about him— and of all your recollections of farm life— I want to climb up on the roof of his barn and proclaim a message to a world full of discontent and sadness today. I want to point to John working his little farm and scream: HE IS JUST SO HAPPY!
And a Merry Christmas to us all.