April 27, 2017 (Thursday)

by Yule Heibel on April 26, 2018

I read an article by a woman who grew up on a dairy farm and wanted to become a dairy farmer herself. But when she was 17, her father laid down the law and told her to go to university and become something other than a dairy farmer. This was in Wisconsin. All the dairy farms were overproducing and also going out of business. She became a journalist instead and now works for the Wisconsin dairy union or board or something. But – she recently bought, with her husband, her family’s old farm and plans to work it again as a dairy farm (even though her father sold off all his cows years ago). She also has two young boys in addition to her job.

When she was growing up, with that burning desire to be a farmer, she would help out her dad in the predawn hours, i.e., before the sun even came up, before the school bus arrived, which it probably did at the crack of dawn. When the bus brought her back, she’d run to the barn(s) to continue working. At first I thought that was youthful enthusiasm, but her middle-aged father also worked a full-time job in addition to farming dairy cows. He did this for the health insurance and to make ends meet. In Wisconsin. Where the winters are serious and cows still need milking, regardless.

I was struck again by this appetite for work some people have – noticed it also among the farmers profiled in the film about New England dairy farms, which W. and I saw at the Cabot a while back. How does this work, I wonder. How is it not everyone is squashed by the chicanery of the old Biblical “by the sweat of your brows” thing? I was thinking about how impossible I’m finding things right now, with this early rising BS – which also means early-to-bed, because otherwise we would be truly comatose – and how out of sync it makes me feel. How I’m having a hard time not getting depressed when I think about this stretching on for another 24, another 36 or more months. (And, like the farmer, doing it at least in part for the health insurance…) One hundred fifty-six weeks… How is it possible that some people like getting up so early …and actually rushing off to work, real physical work, labor, sweat-of-your-brow kind of thing? They must be a minority, or else why would people have written about work as everyday chicanery thousands of years ago already? Agriculture is probably the oldest harassment of humanity there is. Yokes on animals, yokes on humans.

It is the case that I’m feeling especially glum these days. We’re having crappy weather, it rained awfully hard again yesterday, this in addition to the descent of one of the worst fogs I’ve ever seen. At one point it was rolling, not just descending and thickening, and the rolling parts seemed sulfuric yellow in color. There was no sun. It must have been different atmospheric particulates brought in by ocean currents. Whatever it was, it looked disgusting, actually.

Z. called, we got to catch up a bit. She recommends moving to Boston itself, but I told her that at this age I don’t want to move again and again and again. So, next time I move, I want it to be more or less the “last” time – or at least not just a temporary move. I have something like 1,500 books (we culled a lot when we left Victoria), and I want my library, organized, accessible, and not in storage. I want a room of my own. Boston rents for a 2-bedroom apartments are out of this world, close to Bay Area levels. Unless we managed to find a rental as a sabbatical / academic year exchange (and did the same with our house here), the expense and upheaval wouldn’t be worth it (never mind that Boston doesn’t actually attract me).


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