a story of Southern agriculture

FarrrTHUR 15 – Shake Your Turnip

Shake your turnip?  What does this mean?

– Is she for or against vegetarians/vegans?

I’m for ya because I’m for full bellies and food choice everywhere.


– Is she recruiting women farmers for the Southern US? 

Of course, but really for any region.  We need you!  The farm wives can’t have enough babies to improve our less-than-2%-population-farming stats.  Indeed, since most of us are over 55, we surely can’t.  Recruitment is a great idea!  Grow turnips, grow beef…just grow!!


– Has she lost her ever lovin’ mind and landed on a Soul Train bound for gardening heaven.

I wish!  That sounds fun!!

Speaking of trains and going places…did you wonder where I went in August?…why I would mostly check out of the online scene for a month?

Well, in as few words as possible – Turnips.  Turnips, turnips, turnips.


Shaking turnips is about those “As God is my witness…I’m going to get through this…and when I do…” moments that we need to have and then grow forward.


Life here on the farm (not unlike your life there) accumulates and overwhelms.  Scheduled breaks are good, and long about mid-July, I could feel the need to ease off the accelerator.  I’ve learned to roll with that feeling.

If you’d like to know more, then by all means, continue reading.  This week FarrrTHUR is a reflection (and a rather long one) on my own personal battle with bovine and boundaries.




Journal Date: sometime in March 2014 …evidently it was a day for reminiscing


I’m a Southern woman who married into agriculture.  I knew nothing more about this besides a good-hearted handsome man came with land and cows.  I walked the aisle in a pasture at his farm and shared a really important conversation with him at the altar.  Behind him and the altar was his herd of cloven-hoofed girls.  It was pretty.

I had no reference for could/should/ought to parameters on my new role in this old place.  Really, I just knew I liked him and my ideas about farm life – my middle-class, air-conditioned, grocery-shopping human ideas about farm life.  I wanted to be and assumed I could/should/ought to be in the thick of it with him, and truly, that was a fine decision.  It’s my personality to want to do the same thing as those I love.  I just attach that way – many people do – and my attachment to this farmer was like no other in my life and it was worthy.

even when I found myself shaking a turnip at God and similar expressions.

In the beginning and for too many years after, I was a regular farm hand – an excellent one, actually.  I was hot on my husband’s heels at chore time like a chicken on a June bug at supper.  Everything I know about cows I learned from him.  He’ll take that as a compliment, I promise.  Eventually, I learned enough to work independently.  I can deliver calves, make hay, drive tractors and sleep in the cab of the baling tractor whilst my Farmer drives it late into the night.  (When I realized my rake tractor finishes first, I didn’t want to go to the house and miss the official finish line, so I curled up year after year in the tractor floor board until the last bale rolled out under the tractor spotlights.)

Have I mentioned I was a neurotic young farm bride?  It’s a wonder my husband survived me, and yet at the same time my exhausting ways made several important things survive here. 


Yes, I was a stellar farm hand – dependable, diligent and not hard on the equipment.  I don’t regret developing my farm hand prowess, however it became apparent over the years that I was overlooking an important farm any life consideration: I didn’t understand the necessity of a little bit of comfort and slow and lovely.   Evidently, what nostalgic agriculture notions equate with farm life does not spontaneously materialize on modern farms.  Instead, the instant I saw the ledger and counted the cows, I brought my lifetime as daughter of entrepreneurs to the table and found a pair of work gloves.  Suffice to say, appropriate work-life margins never occurred to me and feminine stuff didn’t last long enough to strike me as a good use of time.  (Chores chip polish.)  I should work, work, work, I thought.

I was the same way in high school and college, too.  This work ethic of mine made me a great candidate for frazzled farm wife.  Yes, my idealized farm life kind of chaffed after a while.  When people coveted, ohhh’d and awwww’d at my life on the farm, I felt a sincere startle-cringe-confusion sequence on the inside.


“Sure, it’s pretty out here,” I reasoned, “but it’s also trying to kill me – bury me six feet below the forages at 24, decimate my sex life with pure exhaustion, unhinge every nerve I have with drought and moos and cloven hoofs.” 



The correlation between reality and local friendly assumptions was vastly unmatched – don’t even get me started about how negative food media factored into my state of mind.  Modern farm life was not what I thought it would be – I had expected work, but I was unprepared for the endless struggles and the social incompatibility I felt as a farm wife.  Indeed, I felt it did me little good to try to shore up my attitude and accept reality because almost daily people reminded me of my previously naïve perspective with their own currently naïve perspective.  It took me a long time to offset this cycle and find good community to help me heal.


In short, a farm is the job that never ends.  Yes, it goes on and on, my friends, and any pretty/romanticized/nostalgic notions about it ticked me off for several years, though I tried to be polite when about town.


Of course, the glass half full or half empty can always be spilled, and then you’ve got a real mental quandary.

Moisture left the South in 2006 and 2007 and I found myself helping my Farmer and our cattle survive desperate drought conditions.  It’s so depressing when it doesn’t rain – when you watch the clouds skirt around your farm and follow the river northward – when clouds without rain sear Proverbs on your heart.

At that time, I was living without air conditioning, working an off-farm job in addition to farming, and I was experiencing this particular harshness of nature for the first time.  I was tired, tired and completely tired.  I was also high school skinny – my daddy even told me I was too thin.  (He doesn’t speak up like that for nothin’.)  It was during this time – two years into my marriage to my Farmer that I began to wonder, “Why do people do this?”  I thought maybe it was bearable because I could eat all the ice cream I wanted.  I wondered and then got back to work.


Endless backbreaking sweaty work temporarily distracts curiosity, but eventually, “why” will catch up with you.


It would be four more years before I completely broke down and stopped working as a day-to-day farm hand on our cattle operation.  Yeah, I know – four more years – that’s pretty much perseverant to the point of stupid (P.P.S.).  We’re good at that in this family.

Looking back on all that P.P.S., I realize now we just didn’t have any mentors to help us develop perspective and we didn’t know we needed to ask.  Our youthful energy and idealism ran in the general right direction but lacked the finer points of wisdom and experience.  The farming generation here before was a decade buried in the local church cemetery.  The closest living farmers were 40-50 years older than me and not up to taking two youngsters under their wings.  One other farm wife was closer in age but worked full time in town , plus raised two children and farmed with her husband.  None of them could be my mentor or good friend – at least no one volunteered or bothered to befriend – and truth be told, they probably didn’t have the time.  I traveled the farming South with my husband’s off-our-farm-job and didn’t find anyone that way either.  I’m an initiator, but it would be seven and a half years before I found a farm wife friend.  Being taken under another farm wife’s wing just never happened for me in any consistent impactful way.


You know, sometimes no matter how hard you look and try, some things just take longer than you hope and are harder than you think they should be.


As it turned out, a slow-growing deep exhaustion became my teacher.  I eventually owned that I had to break the cycle.  My hard working husband definitely wasn’t going to do it.  That’s just not his nature.  He’s all activity and no complaints.  He couldn’t see we needed balance, romance and prettiness if I was going to stay here.

Basically, less dirt in general sounded great.

By the end of those four years of P.P.S. the farm could afford to pay a part time employ.  I called this new farm hand “the luxury farm hand” not because he got a paycheck – but because he did all and more of my chores, so that I could do other tasks.  With his presence outside I could redirect my farm hand grit.  I could apply sheer will power, focus and dogged commitment to renegotiating our life.  Could I distance my home lifestyle from the farm’s demands while also loving and caring for it?  If so, then maybe I could stay here without being consumed.  Since here is where my husband is and I kind of like him, I figured I should give it a try.

What did that paragraph mean?!  Well, it meant that I’d eat steak and burgers until no cows came home if I had to.  I figured my turnip shaking was fair enough warning.

That exhausted ownership of my life began my own Katie Scarlett-like quest to go from an exhausted shake of a root vegetable at Heaven to us living farm life more on our terms.


How did I accomplish this farm magic you ask?  By wearing the formal draperies?


Umm, yeah, something like that.  I definitely used what I had on hand…



…To be continued…

…in two weeks, because next Thursday is Patriots Day.

🙂 eg


What has you shaking turnips?

It’s nice to see you again!  Thanks for hanging out with my agriculture friends in August!

KC & The Sunshine Band’s Shake Your Booty– a music video link in case you need to get down with your turnip.  You can doooo it.

Turnip Shaking Image, source

Gone With the Wind

Going FarrrTHUR anyone?

16 Responses to “FarrrTHUR 15 – Shake Your Turnip”

    • Emily Grace

      🙂 I hope to put everyone to sleep in the next installment. You should probably read it with a blanket and pillow nearby. At the very least, I’m going to enjoy seeing these changes in text.

      Thanks for stopping by, Anne!


  1. Nancy

    Great Commentary Emily.!! Farming makes us appreciate “alone time” when we do get it. Sometimes you have to shake the dust off your boots and stand still so you can realize how far you have come and what you have accomplished. Totally love your blog..


  2. thefarmpaparazzi

    All I can think to say is to quote C.S. Lewis…”Friendship is born in that moment when one person says to another, ‘What? You too? I thought I was the only one…”



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