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The Crowded Acre: Maybe

By Jennifer Welch

Maybe being a farmer is akin to being a glutton for punishment. As farmers, we take on nearly insurmountable tasks against the worst odds and try to make a living out of it. We watch animals die and crops fail and weather reign supreme over our best fought intentions. Collectively, we’ve seen it all. We watch our friends get their hearts broken again and again, and we tell each other it will be okay, that this is how it goes. Entire seasons lost, the feeling of a lifetime of wondering how we can do it better, different. We tell our families, we tell ourselves, that next year will be our year. It’s coming, we just have to get up and make the coffee, keep our heads down, plow through the work, and patiently wait.

I was thirty years old when I got my first milk cow. It seemed, at the time, like I had been building up to this moment for a while. But, all things considered, it was a pretty rash decision that came from out of nowhere. Most people start their career paths long before the age of thirty; I may have come a little late to the game. When you think about any artistic professional, you think of someone who is disciplined, willing, and committed to a fault. What is a farmer if not an artist? The difference, though, between a farmer and a concert violinist is that the violinist will practice a piece a thousand times before performing it, while the farmer will perform a piece thirty times, simply as practice. Maybe, by the end of our careers, we will have figured it out. But then again, maybe not.

[InContentAdTwo] It’s not as doom and gloom as I’m making it out to be, otherwise we really wouldn’t be doing it. In all fairness, it’s not as bucolic as it’s made out to be either. As with anything there are dark spots and there are bright spots, like heifers. I will turn thirty-five in a matter of days. In five years, I’ve had one heifer calf out of my milk cows and she was a stillborn. The birth of a dairy heifer is the holy grail of good fortune, of continuance, of getting it right for just once. We all want it; that feeling that things are looking up, finally going our way, of luck changing in our favor. This is my birthday wish. I look around as I stand at the edge of success on my farm and I think that this would be a sure sign that things are going to go my way. Finally. Maybe I’m just superstitious.

Will the current success of my farm suddenly fail if there are no heifers? No. There is no plague of heiferless cows that will descend upon us in a black cloud of destruction … yet. Maybe it’s okay to always want more of and for ourselves. Maybe it makes us better artists. Maybe it makes the world a better place. Maybe we will achieve it before our careers are over, and maybe we won’t. But for this year, I call heifer. I’m willing it to happen. For this year, I call good weather for Beth, herd health for Jamie, healing for Laura, safe travels for Jan, resolve for Haven, continued strength for Sharon, and beauty for Jane. I am willing it to happen. And this year, if there is no heifer, I will tell my family, I will tell myself, that next year will be better. Maybe.

Jen Welch lives and writes in the Upper Arkansas River Valley and she is slowly becoming a decent farmer … maybe.