The Suffering Farmer

Kate arrived in our lives like the deus ex machina from an ancient Greek play.  Chaos was at the height of her fury at Sap Bush Hollow:  Dad was limping through the fields, moaning from his easy chair as he fell into it each night. Mom couldn’t decide whether she despaired the endless to-do lists or the non-communicative (text-me-don’t-talk-to-me) interns more.  Bob and I wondered if we’d ever see each other again, if we’d ever know days off, much less be able to take our girls on a vacation.  And suddenly, this bright, curious, competent, and powerful young woman showed up on our doorstep, her only baggage a vet tech license and a  sense of humor. Kate loved the work.  She loved the animals.  She loved the food.  She even liked my kids.  And she wanted to stick around. It was her arrival into our lives, and a desire to keep her there, that made us finally take measures to pull ourselves together.  We crunched numbers, took farm transition and business planning classes, tore into the darkest recesses of our family finances and interpersonal dynamics.  We came up with a plan to make it work. And we were able to entice her and her fiancé, Joe, to move to West Fulton. Mom and Dad began spending time off the farm.  Bob and I scheduled to take the girls to the Moab desert next fall.  Saoirse jumped with both feet into the new business plan and began training herself to work in the cafe. Ula identified Kate as the ultimate superhero, and became her

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8 thoughts on “The Suffering Farmer

  1. Congratulations on finding the silver lining, just don’t hide it from your mother. I grew up farming, farmed and have worked with farmers for the past forty years. It has always been dead hard work, less so as mechanization took hold, i.e. my brothers and their sons now ride in air conditioned cabs with better sound systems than my house and the hydraulics do the bulk of the grunt work.
    My parents worked hard, raised six children and never complained about work done or to be done. At 90 years of age, my father moved off the farm because he hated seeing work that needed to be done and he could no longer do it. If what you are doing isn’t working, why keep doing it? If it is working, why complain?

  2. I can relate to everything that Shannon has expressed in her article about the toil of ranching. It seems like every night I drag myself to bed and am so thankful for the hours I get to lay there and relax as I drift off to sleep. The work never seems to end and even when we get an intern to come in and do some of the mundane weeding and mulching of our gardens, my mind is soon going in a different direction, to determine where the cows are going to be moved to next or which steer will be loaded onto the trailer for butcher on Monday or the many tasks that lie ahead on one of the other ventures that keep this place hopping. For as tired as I get at the end of every day, I still would not want to be doing any other vocation or to have to be working for someone else who might have a different motivation as to how he would like my day to go. I love the interaction with the animals, the satisfaction I get when a customer exclaims how wonderful the 100% grass fed beef is or that they love the real chicken flavor of our certified organic pastured chicken. The work never seems to end but the enjoyment I get from working on our farm, raising sustainable meats, caring for the animals that really seem to be glad for their life and providing the best that is possible as far as food for consumption can be. We have a saying on our farm, “Our animals have a wonderful life, with one bad day.” That kind of sums it up for me.

  3. I read Psalm 65 which is versified by S. Wiersma. Especially this:

    You bless the earth with streams and rivers
    and with the gentle rain.
    You settle ridges, soften furrows,
    and bless the sprouting grain.
    You crown the year with ample harvest;
    a rich abundance springs.
    All flocks and grains and hills and meadows–
    yes, all creation sings.

  4. That’s a good and interesting comment, about which I would like to hear more. I am not certain well you are located.

    Nonetheless, I truly enjoyed this piece. Most of my friends who are ranchers don’t complain; they love their lives — even if they love them with a deep and penetrating silence.

    But I get it. On those few occasions that I have done ranch work, I have been dead tired exhausted. Everything takes soooo much time. Hauling (by horseback) salt up to cattle in the high Uintas – endless. Still, you have to love that life. The commenter above can contact me if you are so inclined at Or find my own website

  5. I think some overload comes from all the extra time spent due to government regulations. And it is not just the paperwork.

    Some we are so used to we don’t even think of them. As sheep ranchers we can no longer control, and the government trapper is also no longer allowed to use, effective means of coyote control. This means an extra hour a day feeding guardian dogs. More for ranchers with sheep in different locations. And not being allowed to use Selenium fertilizer like Oregon ranchers are allowed to do. Instead we have to give Selenium shots and use loose mineral, which is a lot more time consuming than a mineral/salt block.

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