HERD ABOUT IT?
by Ana Grarian
I was fortunate to be raised in a small town in southern NYS in the 50’s. Extended family were nearby from both sides. We in fact lived with my paternal Grandfather. My parents and Aunts and Uncles were the up and coming middle class. Riding on the wave of opportunities the US had after WWII.
What made this a great time though, was that people still valued the important things. At least most people in the community seemed to. Family was important, and hard work was valued. A person with a trade was considered valuable. My Grandfather, in his 70’s was still in demand for his plumbing and carpentry skills. My father was a machinist in a USA that still manufactured things. Interestingly he made parts for book binders, and I now work in a bookstore. Dad also loved to garden, and raised a large plot of Dahlias every summer.
My parents and my friends parents knew how to fix things. From the family car to the plumbing to a broken gate hinge. This was considered to be useful, praiseworthy and creative. Getting your hands dirty was a part of daily life. Not awful drudgery, just part of your day.
In “The Dirty Life”, Kristin Kimball tells of how her life changed when she met and fell in love with a farmer. A NYC girl she had spent her days working in an air conditioned office. Now she plunged into the life of a young farmer, and a whole new education began.
The story was painful and sweet to read. No city girl I, but not farm raised either, her story paralleled my young married life in many ways. Digging in on a run down farm in upstate NY, Kristen and her husband battled the obstacles of too little money, old equipment, ramshackle barns and more work than could be done in a day – everyday.
Kristin and her husband decided to have a mixed use farm that could supply a complete CSA (community supported agriculture) menu, from meat to milk, to eggs, veggies and fruits. This is an ambitious undertaking. Fortunately they were like minded in their endeavour and came into it at a time when the eat local, eat fresh movement was growing.
I was struck in particular by one paragraph in Kristin’s book. Kristin had struggled with the task of moving a group of pigs from one barn to another without help and without adequate equipment, in bad weather. A humbling task, let me tell you. The lessons learned were greater than the care and handling of squealing, fast, smart pigs.
When did we get to the point that we thought people who worked with their hands were stupid? Do you really put your car, the thing that transports you at 60MPH amongst hundreds of other cars and pedestrians in the hands of a stupid person? Do you live in an apartment, 20, 40, 60 stories in the air, in a building constructed by stupid people? Do you really think that stupid people bring you water, food and roads?
A young man I know was raised in an elite suburb of NYC. All his friends wanted to be investment bankers and stockbrokers, doctors or lawyers. Mike wanted to fix cars. An adoptee, little did he know at the time he came by that aptitude naturally. He was warned by adults in his community that being a mechanic would “put him in with the – wrong – sort of people”. Really? Is that who you trust to fix your BMW?
If that’s a job for stupid people – fix it your own damn self Harvard. And as for the wrong people – tell Kenny, Rupert, and Bernie I said Hi – no wait tell them I said *%#&.
Farming is hard work that requires a great deal of knowledge. Some of that can be learned from a book, but most comes from experience and watchfulness. It’s an art and a science.
Like so many other things done well.