Our Farm

Our Farm

by Joann Krzywosinski of Round Horse Farm, Chesaning, MI

During the fifties, when I was a little girl playing here with my big brother, Tom, we dug in the dirt, building our miniature worlds with sticks, rocks, and little toys. Mom would watch us through the big kitchen window while she fixed supper. We knew the rules: Don’t go past the big gate – and we didn’t, because of the bull. Play nice, don’t fight – but sometimes we did, because my brother (ever the engineer), angry when my toy horses tracked up his perfect straight and smooth roads, and I, just as wronged when his trucks and tractors knocked down my elaborate corrals. Supper at 4:00.

My grandparents were from the “old country.” In 1911 they came to this farm, for freedom, opportunity and land, leaving everything they knew and loved, hoping for a future where they heard the streets were paved with gold. So young, married, with a little son, another on the way, speaking no English, having no money, a dream of a farm of their own, how did they do it?

Grandpa worked in the coal mine to pay for the land and house, built the barn, granary, pig-pen, chicken coop, woodshed, tool and wagon shed. Hand digging three wells, cutting wood for heat and cooking and fence posts. Planting and harvesting hay, corn, wheat, oats, and navy beans. Grandma tended to the children, the home, the garden, laundry, cooking, canning, without running water or electricity, no phone, no car, no “modern conveniences.” She planted lilacs in the front yard, roses by the cellar door. Together they cared for the livestock, feeding the horses, cattle, pigs and chickens, doctoring children and animals alike, milking the cows, selling cream and eggs, providing for their family, though miles away from the nearest town, the roads impassable at times with mud or snow, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, year after year after year. Dealing with all the joys and sorrows of life with faith and hope, always working harder to make a better life, for their future.

They raised their children, cared for their farm and the world and time went on, World War I, then the Depression, their children marrying and moving away. How did they feel when my father joined the Army in 1942? What went through their minds when they were alone with their thoughts, while milking the cows, hoeing corn, picking beans, canning tomatoes? How did they deal with the disappointments, what were their joys? None of this ever crossed my mind as a child. How could it?

My dad was the last to get married. It was 1950 and the lilacs were in bloom, my parents worked the farm, with grandpa. By the time my brother and I came along, dad was almost 40, grandpa in his 70s, pretty set in their ways. Dad worked in Flint an hour away, leaving at 5:00 am, home at 4:00 pm, farming on the side, milking cows to the pulsing rhythm of Surge milking machines. Planting, harvesting; corn, wheat, soybeans, a big garden, and when dad was laid off every summer during the Buick model change-overs, baling the hay. Cars and tractors the modern way.

I was about 4, one of my first memories is of grandpa and old Smoky, cultivating. Coming back to the barn, Smoky plodding along, grandpa let me hold the lines; I can find no words to describe my thrill. Another day, while Smoky stood resting between the rows, eyes closed, drooping lip, swishing her tail slowly back and forth, Grandpa and I sat in the grass at the shaded edge of the garden, to test a muskmelon he’d just picked, just me and him. Memory is a funny thing. I remember the flies buzzing around us and the sun beating down. I remember the feel of the hot sand and dry grass on my bare feet, the smell of Smoky, the harness leather, and the sweat. I remember the sweetness of the melon that Grandpa sliced open with his knife, the folding pocket knife, he kept razor sharp, (I was afraid of that knife) always on the string tied to the button of his bib overalls, so it never got lost. He took care of what he had.

Is that where it started, where it began for me, that spark, a seed, the idea that I wanted a farm too? To care for animals, have food from my garden, to keep everything important, close to me. My idea of the perfect world.

Time marches on, maybe dreams are set aside, not understood by some, laughed at, influenced by outside circumstances, or just have to wait for the right time. Some realized, some not, some you thought weren’t, but really were, just not how you imagined.

Life happens, so now here I am, married 38 years, still on our farm, dealing with the joys and sorrows everyone faces, different yet the same. Raised my children where I was raised, on our farm, through changes, making choices, dealing with life’s complexities with faith and hope, trying our best, and always our farm.

I look out the big kitchen window as I fix supper and a million memories fill my mind, with just as many hopes and dreams for the future. My grandchildren bring my grandmothers’ lilacs and roses to me from the yard, and I watch them play in the dirt, that same good dirt I played in. The dirt that touched my children, my husband and I, my parents and grandparents. The dirt where we worked and dreamed, hoped and prayed, loved and fought, laughed and cried, I know this is more than just dirt, so much more.

So I say to them, Don’t go past the big gate, Play nice – don’t fight, Supper’s almost ready.

And I say to myself: I am so Blest.