My Life as a Farmer’s Daughter

This image illustrates the feelings, joy, and my life as a farmer’s daughter. This is a photo of a young girl running across a field towards some nearby barns. Her long hair is blowing in the wind.
Young Farm Girl

I spent most of my childhood on an 80-acre farm in southern Idaho in the 1950s. My life as a farmer’s daughter featured both good and bad times. While my parents allowed my sisters and me to explore, we also had to weed the garden. I rejoiced in new life as I held baby chicks in my hand. But I also experienced sorrow when my dad was unable to resuscitate a stillborn calf. This mixture of adversity and joy provided me with a strong foundation for life. I now realize that my childhood on the farm allowed to explore and enjoy my world. But it also provided opportunities to experience the satisfaction of hard work. And because my childhood included both joy and adversity, it gave me a solid foundation for life.

The Freedom and Fun of My Life as a Farmer’s Daughter

On summer days, my sisters and I (My brother wasn’t born yet.) roamed freely over more than an acre of land which included a huge lawn by our house, an orchard, and the barnyard. We climbed trees, swam in irrigation ditches, and played hide and seek. The orchard featured a thicket of Potawatomi plum trees, which grow more like vines than trees. Their intertwined branches formed rooms and caves. It took only a little imagination to turn them into mansions, robber hideouts, and hospitals for sick and wounded dolls. Any cavity could change identity at a whim and let us exercise our imaginations to the max.  

As the oldest child, I was given a fair amount of responsibility early on. My next younger sister and I entertained and kept my other three sisters safe—usually. Once we got into pretty big trouble because we were using broken glass jars as bowls to mix mud pies in. They were good pies, too, since we had stolen the eggs from a few robins’ nests. What a surprise that my mom took exception to our younger sisters playing with broken glass!

Learning the Value of Hard Work

On a farm, everyone has to contribute, especially in a large family. Each of us started doing chores almost as soon as we could walk. Mom taught me to wash dishes using a bucket sitting on a tree stump in the yard. Even with a stool, I couldn’t have reached into the sink. As we grew, we took on all manner of jobs to contribute to keep things running smoothly. The most odious of all was cleaning the chicken coop in the winter. It was smelly, dusty, gross work. We loved the eggs but despised those chickens for pooping so much. Actually, that chore was more a curse than a blessing I experienced in my life as a farmer’s daughter.

Picking Potatoes

Southern Idaho is potato country. Every October school would let out, and most of the students would spend two weeks helping in the potato harvest. The farmer would drive a tractor with a digger attached along the rows of potatoes. The front of the digger plowed underneath the potatoes and directed them onto a conveyor belt made of interlocked iron rods. This shook off the dirt and carried the potatoes out the back end where they dropped on top of the row. Working as a team, my sister and I would pick up the potatoes and put them into two baskets about the size of a five-gallon bucket. Then, we would dump the fifteen to twenty pounds of potatoes from the baskets into a burlap bag. We placed the filled bag alongside the row where it would be gathered onto a truck and taken to a cellar. (Here’s a video  of how potatoes were harvested in the 1950s and another video showing how potatoes are harvested today.)

When we first started this job, I was about ten and my sister would have been eight years old. Together we earned seven cents per bag. If we didn’t play too much, we could pick about one hundred bags in a day, earning $3.50 each. It seemed like a fortune to us! As teenagers, we were able to pick two hundred bags in a day. Twelve days at $7.00 a day netted me eighty-four dollars for two weeks’ work. I had to buy some clothes with my earnings. But I also bought a yearbook from seventh grade on and my senior class ring. 

The Blessings of My Life as a Farmer’s Daughter

Potato picking was hard, dirty work, and very cold if it happened to snow. In order to make our two hundred bag goal, my sister and I had to keep our heads down and our hands busy all day long. I loved stopping to stretch my aching back at the end of each long row. I would count the bags and consider what kind of fabric to buy for a new dress.  And, it was so gratifying to line up with all the other harvest workers at the end of the week. As my dad or an uncle counted out my earnings, I knew for sure that I had accomplished something significant. I had gotten dirty and lifted baskets nearly half my weight, but the wages made it totally worthwhile.

I’ve had numerous jobs since my potato picking days, all of them involving hard work and a paycheck. When I taught junior high, I hoped I was helping some of my students appreciate the value of hard work and the satisfaction of a job well done. But as I look back, even that was not as gratifying as my annual school vacations spent in the potato field. I could easily see the results of my work in rows of well-filled bags of potatoes. It was much harder to recognize any influences I might have had on an unmotivated student in seventh grade English class.

The Farm Helped Prepare me for Life

I’m glad I grew up on a farm. The freedom to roam, the outlets for my imagination, and the opportunity to learn the value of hard work prepared me for life. I contributed to our family and learned to work for what I need and want. My parents cared for me and often sacrificed to give me more than they could really afford. In those ways, they modeled the kindness and grace of God. They taught me that he made the potatoes grow and multiply into bags of blessing that helped feed our family through the winter. God provided my sisters and me with many hours of joy in the playground formed in the thicket of Potawatomi plum trees. Both the joys and the hardships of farm life proved to be blessings. I praise God for all the valuable lessons I learned in my life as a farmer’s daughter. 

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In a Crisis Will God Help You?

This is an image of a grieving woman in a crisis. She is in a church like setting near a casket.

Within hours of the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City, political leaders from both parties gathered on the steps of the capital building. In a crisis they reacted to the chaos of that day by encouraging American citizens to pray. The leaders of our government recommended what all of us knew: We needed a supreme being to take control of an impossible situation. 

A crisis makes us look for a Savior

A call to prayer in the face of a national crisis seemed entirely appropriate. In times of personal crisis, we almost always call out for God to take control. But for some, questions arise even as they call to God for help. Does God even exist? Which one of all the gods we have heard about is real? Will God listen to us? Could he fail us, or could things get worse?  If he is powerful enough to address the need?

We ask questions like these because we tend to attach human limitations to our concept of God. It’s obvious that piles of money, the most proficient doctors, and the best government leaders have limited effects in a serious crisis. That’s why we yearn for someone with supernatural abilities and resources to come to our rescue. When we find ourselves helpless to address a terrifying situation, we might question whether God will even notice what we’re going through. If he is busy elsewhere, will he notice and care about what’s going on?

Jesus revealed God’s compassion and power 

Consider this incident in which Jesus demonstrated both His desire and his ability to help a person in great need. 

 Luke 7:11-15

 [Jesus] went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him.  As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said. “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother (ESV).

It would have been easy for Jesus to step aside for the funeral procession and continue on his way. He was very busy with his disciples and a large crowd of followers. But he noticed this woman in crisis. In addition to the unspeakable sorrow caused by her son’s death, she may have just become homeless. Her husband was dead, and now her son. Without a male family member to care for her, she may have lost her home and source of income. Unspeakable sorrow and fear would have consumed her as she walked behind those carrying her son’s body.  

Love, Compassion and Power 

But Jesus not only saw her, he acted. His love and compassion prompted him to speak words of comfort to this widow who had lost everything, including her son. Then, he stopped the funeral and commanded the dead man to get up. By issuing that order Jesus demonstrated the extent of his power. He could not only heal blind men and feed thousands. But He could also raise the dead. So, in obedience to the Creator of life, the widow’s dead son sat up and started talking. In the blink of an eye, Jesus had turned a woman’s weeping into songs of joy.

You can trust God to help you 

This incident in the life of Jesus shows that any child of God can trust him in a crisis. That widow was not a relative or a neighbor. She was a stranger to Jesus. But he felt empathy for her. In the same way, when we face unspeakable sorrow and loss, he is our loving and compassionate Savior. When Jesus raised that young man from the dead, he demonstrated his power. If he can raise the dead, he can handle any crisis we face in our lives. Observing what Jesus did for this widow helps us trust him when everything is out of control in our lives. Jesus still cares for his people, and he will comfort us and meet our needs. He will express his compassion and exert his power to bring order out of our chaos, just as he did for the widow of Nain. 

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