Blog: When I don’t accept farm life with grace

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This may just be my old age talking, but I feel like this year is moving at warp speed

click image to zoomModern Farm WifeModern Farm WifeModern Farm Wife blogger Jessica Folkema and her husband, "Dairy Man." I often feel like I’m trying to hold time in my hands. But time is like water, a liquid substance. It spills over and between my fingers, despite my best attempts to store it, to savor it.

I know I’m not alone. If I did an informal survey of everyone I know in the world, I’m sure we all have a deep yearning for “more time.” We’re always rushing, always checking our Facebook newsfeed, always multitasking, always packing our weekends with fun activities. It’s a normal thing, to be busy.

But it’s also a farming thing. Times ten.

This summer alone we planted corn, harvested multiple cuttings of hay, built a barn, dug a five-million gallon manure pit, irrigated our corn (thanks to a lack of rain), and tried to plan out the future of this dairy. All of these things have taken place alongside weddings, birthdays, weekends away, illness, dog grooming appointments, extensive home renovations, parties, personal crises, and a million loads of laundry.

airy Man finds it nearly impossible to sit still and to quiet his mind. I struggle with the same. Frankly, in farming, you don’t often have the luxury of calm. It often feels like we bounce from one “crisis” to another. Just when you get the bulk tank fixed, a cow goes into labor. Just when you finalize the milking schedule, someone gets a tractor stuck in the mud. DM is on-call 24 hours a day, and that makes it nearly impossible to ever truly relax, unplug, or find calm.

And when farming never slows down, how is a boy to find time for things like dinner at the dining room table, home repairs, or nights out with friends?

I feel guilty piling anything on. If I’m honest, this can be isolating. Being married to a farmer means (trying) to put everything else in life on hold from April to October in an attempt to keep your husband sane. I struggle with this every single day. I envy friends who have husbands home by six, who are able to take vacations, who tackle house projects as a team.

I struggle not to feel alone, disenfranchised. The farm trumps most things, but it’s not always easy to swallow. I work full-time and try to see friends and family, make nutritious meals, and keep a clean home. Yet I constantly feel behind. Deep within the dark and shameful places of my heart, I resent having to do everything (non-farm-related) by myself. I’m not proud of those feelings. They creep up on me as smoky tendrils, slowly squeezing out joy and positivity.

Honestly, there are times I’m exhausted, I’ve had a terrible day at work, the house is a mess, the dog needs a walk, everything feels chaotic, and I just can’t handle another farming crisis with understanding and grace.

Sometimes I’m not really listening. Sometimes I’m making a grocery list in my head or wishing we could talk about literally any other topic in the world but the dairy. Sometimes I can’t tear my attention away from the dishes he forgot to put in the dishwasher. Sometimes I resent the irrevocable monopoly the farm has on my husband’s brain and respond with frustration or anger.

Those are the moments I regret. When I’m not gracious. When I don’t control my feelings. When I’m not calm. When I choose to be selfish.

But marriage can’t be selfish, especially marriage to a dairy farmer. I chose that man and thus, I chose this life. We will spend our entire lives trying to balance, trying to carve out time for anything other than the dairy. You can’t compartmentalize farming. It’s not a job; it’s not a hobby. It’s a life.

Generally I’ve come to accept this. The Dairy Man pulls himself away during the “slower” times of the year and I try to accept the periods of insanity with understanding.

Because even when he tracks manure into the kitchen or never responds to my “When will you be home?” texts, I love that man. I admire the passion he feels for this dairy. I know he wouldn’t be happy doing anything else. And even when I’m feeling neglected, I know for a fact that he would do anything for me.

Love and marriage aren’t about perfect equality. There are times where we must carry each other. As my mom reminded me in my first year of marriage, “you can’t be so concerned about things being perfectly 50/50. You both have to give 100 percent–all of the time. Things aren’t always going to be equal. You might have to take turns carrying the other. But you should both always try to give 100 percent. That’s what love is.

This quote still convicts me. While it’s so tempting to succumb to unhappiness or frustration this time of year, the Dairy Man needs me now more than ever. It is my turn to carry. Whether through delivered dinners, a kind and patient temperament, or a listening ear.

There’s nothing fair about it. But there’s nothing fair about life or love. Happiness comes in the realization that we’re here to carry each other. If you find someone willing to carry you–even an occasionally distracted Dairy Man–you are richly blessed.

So I will enjoy my fall nights of solitude. I’ll read, take walks, watch girly TV shows, bite my tongue, and make sure that DM is fed and loved. Jersey the dog accepts this time of year with far less grace than I (since he’s stuck in the house for a few weeks), but it’s nothing that can’t be fixed with a heaping dollop of peanut butter.

For me, I find catharsis in an evening walk through the rustling corn. A good book and a steaming glass of apple cider. A few quiet moments spent sitting in the grass with Jersey before the sun sets.

Modern Farm WifeModern Farm Wife

All seasons are beautiful and messy. All seasons bring frustration and joy. All seasons make up a life.

And I am grateful.

For more adventures from an urbanite learning to live the life of a modern farm wife, visit

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Minnesota  |  October, 01, 2013 at 09:00 AM

WOW! It sounds like Jessica and "Dairy Man" need to have a meaningful life balance discussion!! I have a presentation I often give called "How to Farm and Have a Life." In that presentation I encourage farmers, or anyone else for that matter, who is working in excess to analyze WHY! I then suggest four possible answers to the question and suggest a solution to each. They are: 1. The farm/business lacks profitable: leadership/management improvement is required 2. A belief that no one else is capable of doing the work I am doing: training, empowerment and coaching of employees to do some of what you are doing 3. Time working on the farm/business is more urgent: Setting priorities is required including for work and building barriers to working too hard. 4. There is nothing important to do in the non-work time: Get a life is my answer. I encourage Jessica and "Dairy Man" and others in this situation to take the time to have a meaningful life balance discussion.

wi  |  October, 01, 2013 at 11:46 AM

Good advice, Bob. I was left wondering if she does anything to help, such as feeding calves or milking or driving tractor.

wi.  |  October, 01, 2013 at 01:22 PM

All to often it goes unsaid, THANK GOD for the women in our lives and the love they have for us!!!

Big Valley, Pa  |  October, 01, 2013 at 07:21 PM

Very well said, Jessica. This is the life we chose, and vowed to for better or worse. I hold a job off of the farm as well, but feel very involved with all that my "Dairy Man" has going on in a day. I love hearing about what is happening from day to day and yes, sometimes I am planning that grocery list in my head while listening, too! DM counts on me for his support. "Bob" said we should analyze WHY? And quite frankly, I find his four points insulting. Farming is not a job. It is our way of life and non of us are complaining. We find ourselves very tired at the end of a day, and just as we are getting into bed, a call comes that the heifers are out. My DM never complains. He just gets dressed, puts on his hat and heads out to round up the rowdy heifers. If he needs me, I join him. Gladly. Thank you Jessica for saying what I could not. ( And, Jessica, my DM clued me in on your blog and said it reminded him of our situation and it brought tears to his eyes. He's the best.)

Greenville, MI  |  October, 02, 2013 at 05:51 AM

Thanks Gina for pointing out Bob's insulting points. As a farmer's wife, I can't except my farmer to just stop what he is doing because I am having a bad day. I vowed to stand by him and support him. I'm pretty sure Jessica was just putting to paper some thoughts - and from experience it is better to write them down than to keep them bottled up inside. I've been thinking about Bob's comments and wonder if he has ever lived the farm life and been married to a sole proprieter of a farm. It's a little hard to say "honey you are working too hard" when your crops are withering in the field and there is irrigation to be fixed, or when the heifers are out running around the yard. Thanks Jessica for your honest post about what a lot of farmer's wives go through year in and year out. Yet - this is for better or worse and I will continue to be a farmer's wife - one of the hardest yet most rewarding jobs ever!!

janesvile  |  October, 03, 2013 at 09:56 AM

Its the most rewarding and greatest life u can live and u can do it ur way

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