Dr. Val Farmer
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Country Life: Romance Tempered With Reality

February 4, 2008

Why is living in the countryside so special to farm women? Here are some thoughts I gathered from farm and ranch women who talked about the deep bonds they feel toward their distinctive way of life.

Love of nature: "The land is a friend."

"The spring is the greatest of all. Everything out here comes to life. I feel rejuvenated to start all over again. The robins and meadow larks return. I appreciate every bird."

"The sounds. There are so many things to hear. The sounds of geese f1ying over, the planes that go over."

"The smells. The smell of cut hay."

"The stars. The first thing my children missed in town was the stars."

"An electric storm. The northern lights in winter, they are glorious. There is something peaceful about a blizzard, it is out of your control."

"Sunsets, sunrises, the moon."

"I ride my bike. I hoof it across the fields. I take walks."

"I go stand in the wind and it blows my troubles out."

Love of animals: "I look forward to calving. It is exciting to see calves born."

"I would go horseback riding to get refreshed. I had a horse for 16 years. She was a friend."

"We bring the newborn calves right into our home and in the bathtub. City people don't understand it."

"The animals are just like people to you. It is sad when they die right in front of your eyes."

"Our children learn to love animals. It helps them learn to love others."

Privacy, independence and freedom: "I can go outside and scream if I want to."

"This is my territory. I don't have to be careful how I look. I can run around in my nightgown if I want to."

"In the city, feel so closed in. I miss my privacy. All there is is a house and a yard. There is no space to get away."

"We make our own decisions. I don't know how we could work for someone else."

"You can't place a dollar amount on the independence we have."

"No two days are alike."

Family heritage: "There is a feeling of power. Someday this will all be yours."

"It is a family heritage thing. We are building up the farm. It is not for us really; it is for the kids. It is something we want to pass on."

"I can look around and see what I have done. I look at my husband and know he's done something."

Spending time with husbands: "We do things together."

"When he is going someplace, I jump in and we sit and visit."

"My mother told me to go along (short trips with husband), no matter what. The work will always be there."

"We have our best conversations in the barn."

"Nobody works harder than our husbands. Farmers are stubborn, ornery, helpful, kind, responsible men who know how to help other people. Sometimes I feel like if I want something done, I should go over to the neighbors and phone him up from there."

Family togetherness: "It is nice to know where he is and where the kids are."

"We take picnics out to the field. We are together."

"The kids know exactly what their father does. They get to spend more time with him and learn from him."

"I loved the summer. I could go and help Dad." (Farm woman reflecting on her childhood.)

"I've developed close bonds with the in-laws. They taught me what I needed to know."

"It is nice to be surrounded by grandparents, the cousins and the family."

Good place to raise children: "Kids don't grow up as fast. We keep them close."

"Our kids have imagination. They don't get bored like city kids. They can be happy on their own. They are more inventive."

"They learn responsibility. Not busy work. They know they are needed. They know a lot of things. They know they can do something."

"They learn about life and death and how to care for an animal."

"Our children know how much money we have and how hard we have to work to get it."

"We can work the 'devil' out of a mischievous teenager."

"We love to have our children's friends over. We love to show off the farm. We have lots of company in the spring to see the babies born."

Other reflections: Other comments were made about the specialness of rural neighbors, the laughable things that happen to husbands, kids or themselves as they interact with animals - or all the strange things that can go wrong on a farm.

These women were not kidding themselves. They know that nature can deal nasty blows. They know that family closeness can lead to problems. They struggle when their children miss out on some opportunities because of distances or the lack of local resources. They worry about accidents and suffer the uncertainty of a troubled farm economy.

Still, for most, the good far outweighs the bad. As one woman summed up, "I love home for its tranquility and lifestyle. It is a romance thing tempered with reality."