Right now my 5 year old son is obsessed with farm animals. He asks questions about them and I answer from first hand experience. I have achieved celebrity status by having a childhood where I was a farm girl. My dad is a demigod because, as my son puts it, "Your dad was the farmer?!" Not A farmer the THE farmer. Which brings me to the ironies of my childhood.
My dad was not a farmer. He was a psychologist. He got up early every morning and put on his suit and drove to Salt Lake City where he saw clients in a private practice then came home late at night.
My parents were in the business of raising kids. So they bought 7 acres in a little unincorporated town and thought it would be good for us. The ground was too rocky for farming so we were tasked with hauling rocks off the property and dumping them. I hate rocks. Funny that I later paid for rocks to landscape my own yard.
My dad spent his summers working in the sugar beet fields. It was backbreaking work and he hated it. It was during one of those hot summers while thinning the sugar beets that he promised himself he would not be a poor farmer. He went to college and got a doctorate in psychology so he could grow up and work in an office. And live on a farm.
In order to qualify for a tax write-off, the acreage has to be used for something. First we tried raising a Shetland pony. She promptly wrapped her mouth around my grandmother's wrist and bit down. My grandmother used to break horses and colts. She'd never been bitten until this little pony. We sold the pony.
We raised alfalfa. Rather uninteresting but it grows into stuff you can cut with a cool tractor then compact into a rectangular bale. And then you sell it for $1 a bale. The most interesting part about alfalfa is irrigation. Your irrigation turn comes at different times of the day. If your turn is at 3:24 a.m., you better be at the canal at 3:24 a.m. to turn down the water. We also had to build our own dams in the ditches using scrap wood and tarp.
My dad had a client who couldn't pay him so he gave him a goat named Methuselah. She could not be contained. She escaped the pasture so we tied her up. She chewed through the rope and ate the fruit trees and some of the clothes on the clothesline. We didn't get new clothes because she chewed holes into them. We didn't have the money. That story I told to my 5 year old son while I folded his 10 year old brother's shirts, torn because he has taught the dog to attack him. I won't buy him new shirts. I can afford them. I just refuse.
Fred the sheep was supposed to be pork chops in the spring. Never name an animal you plan on eating. He died of old age.
Being creative people, we also named our cows, Big Mama and Mean Mama. In truth, they were both mean but Mean Mama charged my sister and I when we tried to see her calf. Then Big Mama pinned my dad between her horns and the barn wall one morning when he went to feed them. The vet came later that night, sedated them, then cut off their horns. Did you know horns bleed? I spent much of my mornings before school chasing cows back into the pasture while holding a rake. The rake was for protection. The cows really did scare me yet I could chase them for hours and they would run any place but through the wide open gate. Because they were really stupid.
Donald and Daisy were ducks. They pooped all over the sidewalk, grass, and everything else. They were terribly gross. Daisy laid eggs. Donald died. Daisy kept laying eggs. It was too sad so we gave her away.
In the meantime, my mother spent hours every day with her fruit trees and in her humongous garden. Later in the season, she canned the food while simultaneously making bread from wheat she ground. I craved a slice of Wonder Bread. My sandwiches were always on dry, homemade bread. There wasn't money for "real" bread and that's also the reason we ate from our canned food storage all year.
So now my stories of the farm are romanticized by my children. My sister went ahead and humored her husband and children by allowing a chickens to be raised (for eggs, so far). I putter around in my garden every year. I swear I won't can any food but end up making spaghetti sauce and preserving it in jars. My children beg me to bake bread from scratch. Just one slice.
Ah, the ironies.