My name is Victoria. I’ve always been a city dweller, but my grandparents had a farm in northwest Missouri, near the tiny town of Faucett. The fifteen or so years I spent visiting them there made a big impact on me, though I didn’t realize it yet.
This was their house, in which they raised nine children in what could generously be called three bedrooms:
This was their barn:
Until recently I lived in los angeles, surrounded by concrete and cars.
At first I loved it. It was thrilling place to be, occasionally sighting movie stars, working for a Hollywood movie studio, and having every culture and entertainment imaginable available right at my fingertips.
But after so many years, twelve, to be precise, I had to admit that I wasn’t getting any closer to my dream: writing a novel.
Time had done its EKG pattern of steady line/spike, steady line/spike, going along for years, until suddenly it became an Appalachian range of ups and downs.
Within two months I was laid off, had surgery for thyroid cancer, and moved to San Luis Obispo. Only one of those things was planned. However, the amazing thing was the one intentional thing on that list, moving to SLO, made the other two seem like all part of the bigger plan. Getting laid off was really the only acceptable way I could part company with my job–it paid well, it allowed me perks and excellent benefits, and it allowed me to work in an exciting, culture changing environment. But it was time for me to embark on something new. Make no mistake, having thyroid surgery was terrifying, but now that it’s ended very well, with my cancer-free prognosis excellent, I will have to say that there was something about the experience that enriched my life. Something about setting priorities, realizing what’s important. But if you don’t need to have a life threatening illness to appreciate how precious our freedom is, I don’t recommend it.
And now, voila! New town, new circumstances, new life. But rather than feeling a pull towards something absolutely new, being in this town of approximately forty thousand people and surrounded by lush beautiful farm and ranchland, has stirred up something that takes me back. Back past the ten years of corporate studio jobs, past the previous ten years of bartending in every type of place imaginable; even pre-college and high school.
It takes me back to the Sundays spent on Grandma and Grandpa’s farm as a kid.
What I remember is slightly fuzzy, but persistent.
Most Sundays we would make the ninety minute drive from Kansas City to Faucett, if the weather wasn’t too bad. And on Christmas or Easter, even if it was.
Days, especially summer days, involved some sort of outdoor farm chore; usually picking or shucking or shelling something. It was fairly torturous for me, being prey to allergies, both of the scratching and sneezing variety. I waded through the corn and bean fields, slapping at my ankles and sniffling.
And then there were the animals. I both loved and feared the cows, who seemed as harmless and gentle as giant puppies, but whose huge mysterious eyes freaked me out.
I was happiest when I was around my uncle Clarence on the farm, because he ran it for my grandparents and standing next to him in the middle of a group of cows I felt secure.
I had no love for the chickens, however. They were chaotic and unpredictable and roamed about the barnyard at will. Now I pay $4 a dozen for layers with that same privilege. Once I was even chased across the yard by the rooster, who was cemented in my 6-year old world view as the The Great Evil One of the Farm, to be given a wide berth forevermore. Occasionally my chore was to collect the eggs from the chicken coop. If the nests were vacant it was fine, but trying to pry an egg out from under a sitting mother hen with a pointy beak seemed far too treacherous for me, and so I enlisted my cousins for help for those.
I wouldn’t trade anything for the time I got to spend on the farm. And it still amazes me the things I got to do. I got to ride on the back of the tractor while my uncle drove, and a few years later got to try driving it myself, years before I turned sixteen. Everything was free range on the farm, including us kids. My cousins and I explored and invented games in the fields and the barn and the milking shed. We threw dinner scraps to wild baby kittens in the barn, and though I tirelessly tried to coax them out to me, they never came. It was just as well; at that time I was allergic to cats, too.
And the food! We were always hauling home trunkful’s of sweet corn, new potatoes, green beans, lettuce, and lots and lots of tomatoes. In fact, truth be told, I have never had a better tomato than the ones I had from Buchanan County, Missouri.
I now realize that what I was learning back then was something I wouldn’t put to use for many years. Farming, even modern, upscale farming, is living closer to the earth. It’s acknowledging what we take from it, how we live literally off the fat of others, in the case of us meat-eaters.
For all my years as a city slicker this didn’t mean all that much, even as I began trying to improve my diet and buying organic produce. It took a move just up the coast of California, to a small but thriving town that was surrounded with rolling farmland, cattle, and horses to spark something new in me that might be called appreciation.
And now, here I am, looking at it all with new eyes and the benefit of some worldly experience. I have met actual farmers and gone to a farm bureau meeting. The more I learn about a life in agriculture, the more I want to learn. And this is the place, this blog, where I will be depositing that knowledge, or at least the half-baked opinions that I hope will become knowledge at some point in the near future.
In any case, thanks for reading!