If you have been following along with our meet the farmer series, you are aware that my earliest years were a child's dream as I began life on a small "homestead" back in the late sixties and early seventies. Those early years instilled in me the basic desire to live as close to the land as possible. In later childhood, more structure, discipline and hard work became the routine as my family moved to a farm and worked as hired hands for approximately five years. My teen years proved to be difficult as I worked through typical teen hangups as well as some unique situations. To complicate things, the freedoms I had enjoyed as a younger child were taken from once we moved from the farm. A strict church and private school I attended discouraged young ladies from participating in activities that appeared too "masculine", and the the adults in my life felt they were helping me become more "ladylike" by prohibiting a lot of the activities that were so much a part of my being. (My heart has always been outdoors and I have always been happiest with the animals.) Those years when my time was limited from the woods and fields and from spending time with any animals (other than our dog), were very difficult years for me. But, I survived them and did learn lessons that have helped me throughout my life.
I left my home in Missouri as an 18 year old and never moved back. I spent a year at a very strict private college in Florida after which I decided that the lifestyle of the church and school I had attended would never work for someone with a free spirit such as mine. I then left for Alaska to visit my grandparents for the summer. After spending a few months in Alaska, I knew I didn't want to leave. I made my home there for the better part of 13 years. During those years, I married a guy I had gone to school with as a teenager and we had two children just 16 months apart in age. Those years in Alaska were truly wonderful years for me. I was able to immerse myself in the great outdoors and feel my soul come alive once again after those years of feeling so constricted. I tried to experience as many uniquely Alaskan adventures as possible. We spent time in small cabins, grew gardens during the Alaskan summers, went trapping and hunting in the winters, fished, cooked on an old wood cook stove, lived without running water and hauled our water from a spring even when 60 below zero outside. It was here that I also worked for a while milking cows for a small, family owned dairy. During those years, we played hard, worked hard and I loved hard. But it wasn't enough. Somewhere along the line (what I probably knew but wouldn't admit from the beginning), I found out that loving someone who is dishonest, unfaithful, and abusive just doesn't work. After 17 years together (and moving during the last few years all over the United States from Alaska to Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, California and then Virginia) to try to make a relationship work that was destined to fail, we finally ended our marriage. Those years in Alaska (and even the time we spent out west) gave me the opportunity to live a lifestyle that suited my personality and interests. Those years taught me that I could face extremes in nature as well as relationships and survive.
Probably the greatest gift my ex gave me was to move me to Virginia before our marriage officially ended. (We actually moved to Virginia because his parents lived here, but I now know that God brought me to this state so that I could meet the man I have always loved, but didn't always know.) By this time, I had two teenagers and the whole idea of dating was pretty scary to me. Being lonely (and introverted by nature), I decided that I would check out one of those online dating services. While I knew that any site could be used by predators or dishonest/untrustworthy people, I picked a more conservative site that I thought might be a little safer. I put my basic information on the site and left for work, only to have a panic attack later that morning about what I had done. I went home immediately after work with the intention of pulling my information down from the site. There were a number of messages waiting for me when I logged in from men who were "interested in getting to know me" and my curiosity got the best of me. I looked at a few and then started to pull down my information when I noticed a message with a picture of a man with dark hair and eyes, and a smile that lit up his whole face. I was instantly drawn to what I thought was transparency, honesty, and character in that photo. I read his profile and found out that he was a farmer. (Yep, he had me at "farmer".) We began to talk but quickly moved it from the dating site to personal email. I insisted that we write messages (because I hate talking on the phone). I didn't realize at the time that Mike doesn't know how to type. Everything he wrote was time consuming for him as he searched for the letters on the keyboard to type messages to me. Finally, after a while, I gave in and told him that I would let him call me, but I wasn't doing any of the talking and he would have to make all of the conversation. He called. He talked. I listened. With time and patience, eventually I began to open up and respond by participating in the conversation. (I will admit, at many times it has been difficult for Mike to pursue a relationship with me due to the walls I build to protect myself.) I am thankful that he saw something in me that caused him to persistently seek a relationship when I was being difficult.
Then came the point where he asked to meet me. I was nervous and he knew it, so he offered to drive down and go to church with me. I figured if he was willing to go to church with me, then I should be pretty safe at least while we were in a public place together, so I said "yes" to our first date. The day Mike was to arrive, he called me just a few miles away and told me he would be there shortly. I offhandedly asked him what he was driving and he responded with "a white Beamer" (BMW). At this point, I was convinced that he was not a farmer, because none of the farmers I knew drove a BMW. I told him to turn around and go home. (I really did!) Mike calmly responded and politely said that he would turn around and go home if that's what I wanted him to do, but he had driven a long distance, and he really just wanted to meet me. I still wasn't sure I could trust any man, but I agreed to go ahead and meet him.
As they say, the rest is history. We have been together now for a little over ten years and married for nine of those years. While neither of us is perfect and we sometimes struggle (just like all real couples), we have been blessed with a mutual love and respect for each other and as well as a mutual love and respect for farming. Farming mirrors life in so many ways: It's difficult and filled with sorrow, but each new sunrise brings with it hope for a better day. There are disasters and tragedies that set the farmer back and sometimes even threaten to destroy him, but the belief that he will succeed keeps him putting one foot in front of the other. As with the farm, so with each other, we just keep nurturing, loving, supporting and working toward our goals. We gain new life and we lose lives unexpectedly. We laugh, we cry, we cuss, we pray, we sweat, we freeze, we work, we play, we hurt and we are filled with joy. We are often misunderstood and sometimes even ridiculed for choosing this path. When farming is in your heart, it doesn't matter what path you take to get there, you will find yourself covered in dirt and manure and smiling at the sunset at day's end and you will get up and do it all over again tomorrow.