a story of Southern agriculture

FarrrTHUR 18 – a RIPE circumstance




A few weeks ago I started sharing with you about my personal battle with bovine and boundaries.  It was a long expression of exhaustion, stress accumulation and overwhelming circumstances.  I feel tired just referencing it.

I called it Shake Your Turnip because in hindsight I’ve been able to laugh at my Katie Scarlett like breakdown and determination to shift lifestyle matters toward much better on this Southern plot of dirt.


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.


This week I’m going to share what I did to come back from the turnip-shaking-brink.  I didn’t “lie, steal, cheat or kill” like Scarlett said she would if she had to – but I was similarly determined and over time a pattern developed in our 53 step recovery plan for farm addicts.  I won’t share all 53 steps – just the general overview.

I’m very aware that blog posts here can experience gusts up to 2,000 words.

In my effort (and believe me, it’s an effort) to condense this turnip experience into a manageable serving size I asked my Farmer for input.  He really likes to address production inefficiencies.

For instance, when I told him I wanted to name this blog “something Southern and cattle related” – all my attempts were vague and wordy.  He whipped out “Beef and Sweet Tea” in just a few miles.  I say miles because we were roaming about the Northwest Georgia mountains to a cattle association meeting and I was driving.  I can measure much of his brilliance in miles since we travel so much.  I would say it took him 3.6 miles to name this blog.

So, the other night I asked him to give me one word that I could use as an acrostic to describe that season and the changes that followed shaking turnips.  He continued staring at the two page spread of commodity graphs in one of his cattle magazines.

Momentarily, I thought he had become reabsorbed in the price of feed.  Not at all!  He was running concrete and symbolic agriculture related terms through that high speed processor between his ears.  It’s like magic.

“Ripe,” he suggested.

Ripe.  Yes, my Farmer, that’s a good way to put it.



Turnip shaking was an edgy experience. I certainly found it to be a new place.  After almost 3 decades of life, it was the first time in my life when I truly had to decide to quit or be utterly beaten by circumstances.  Some of those circumstances were of my own and my Farmer’s making.  Some of them were nature and weather and Murphy’s law.  Culturally, our bent for working without play and ignoring chances to relax was considered normal, I think.  We live in a go-go-go society that ignores the need for many margins – life margin seems to be a trial and error with desperation acquisition.  Ours was not a wholly unhappy life, but it most certainly wasn’t a satisfying life – a body (or a marriage) can only go so long without rest and reflection before it burns out…or becomes overly ripe.


This notation may not be needed, but I will say anyhow – you can’t undo ripe.  Ripe is ripe and headed toward rotten.  I had to deal in what was, not wishes.

Don’t we all.  I wish acceptance came in a single dose syringe laced with a strong anesthetic.  Administer quickly.  Wear Scooby bandaid.  Move on.


Reflection (with a measure of refusal)

The day I woke up and plucked a very hard ripe turnip was too long in coming, yet it seemed so abrupt. I’d had enough.  This was no gingerly scheduled retreat.  No, it was a pluck, shake, cry, quit sequence of blurred increments.  When I was finished shaking the turnip at Heaven – and including my Farmer and his dirt in my vigorous swipes – I glanced over my shoulder at the row of turnips I had passed and realized they were all overly ripe or rotting.  I had to acknowledge that being perseverant to the point of stupid reduced options as well as nerve capacity.  I learned as I was looking over my shoulder that life needs turnips and it’s important to harvest them within a reasonable range of ripe.

Analogy Key – if you say turnip with the hiccups and slur it toward the r’s what do you get?  Turn-hip.  Turn-herep.  Turn here.  My gardening brain salutes you for playing along.

Turnips = Turns = Points of change in life.  It’s ever so beneficial to learn to harvest turnips before you feel like shaking them.


Do you know the best time to pick and eat turnips?  It’s when they are young and tender.  Some varieties can be harvested as early as five weeks from planting.  Eventually, turnips allowed to ripen too much grow very hard.  I don’t think this means the overly ripe turnip is useless – you could always play a version of conkers with them, I suppose(…actually, yes, “bashing the hell out” of the turnip in my hand sounded nice, but as it was symbolic of my life I couldn’t permit the violence).


Ripe comes just before overly ripe which immediately precedes rotten.  Our lifestyle was overly ripe.

After giving it another good shake, I owned that I had been living like a hamster on a wheel trying to help the family farm and my husband’s business stay in the black, not the red. Certainly, you have no time for turnips if you have to work a second job for your income AND keep two small businesses headed up hill.  I was too tired for “turn-here’s”.

Ever been there?  I thought at least the wheel I was on was known and powered a measurable life…for a while.  Those wheels have been known to detach…

Now I see it was very fortunate that I eventually got fed up with this perseverant to the point of stupid lifestyle and clawed a turnip out of the ground. If it wasn’t the last turnip in my farm life row – my married to a farmer and helping his business and family farm thrive life row – it was the second to the last one.  With a little thought I realized I couldn’t and didn’t want to imagine getting to the last turnip.  I refused to imagine my hamster wheel rolling out of sight of my Farmer and off any cliffs.  I wanted off the wheel, yes, but, I really liked my Farmer and knew that the opportunity to live on a farm in our modern world was a rare (seemingly lethal at the time) gift.  As I caught my breath I found a crumb of willing to be willing to be willing to be willing to hope these circumstances could be rearranged into something really valuable and admirable and sustainable.


Anger and frustration can exile willingness – making it a distant chained up member thrice removed.  And rightly so temporarily, I think, for the sake of reevaluating how to wield that willingness.  After all, it got me into parts of this mess, and it certainly kept me in all of it longer than I liked.


As I reflected on that turnip, it began to make more sense.  I hadn’t ever disliked turnips, but then I’d never eaten them often.  My loss.  It wasn’t my preference amongst vegetables, but it was all that was left in my garden.  I had used up everything else but change.  This dynamic revelation became precious in a strange agrarian way – it represented surviving all the many cloven-hoof-trample-prints up and down my back – and the thought that maybe one could avoid most of those tramplings.  I’d heard of birds tossing nuts on the hard top for cars to crush.  Smart fowl.  Surely cloven hoofs could trample more productively elsewhere beyond my derriere.  The more I thought on this turnip, the less I wanted to put it down.  There was something to this turnip.  I imagined a face off with the turnip patrol – probably headed up by a boss cow:

“Farmer Ma’am, put the turnip down slowly and then step away from the turnip.”

“No, cow, I can’t do that.  This here turnip’s the last one I got – the end of the row.  I can’t put it down.  I’m going to figure out how to make a hard culinary reject of a root vegetable into a 180 degree turnaround that me and my Farmer can live with.  And you’re going to moooove out the way!”



trail-10 txt


Scarlett used the formal draperies to dress her new direction and I ,too, used what I had on hand: my knees, my brain, books, boundaries, Baby Boomers and that little thread of willingness that had me refusing to put down the turnip.  I’m looking forward to sharing more of this story with you.  Come back soon for the rest of R.I.P.E.!

Emily Grace


What has you shaking turnips?

Have you learned anything from your garden lately?


Shake Your Turnip, part 1.

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.

Gone With the Wind

Going FarrrTHUR anyone?

9 Responses to “FarrrTHUR 18 – a RIPE circumstance”

    • Emily Grace

      I’m going to tell my Farmer you said so!…especially the logic part! He doesn’t know what to do with my logic sometimes.

      If you’ve ever studied Myers-Briggs then you’ll understand this – you’ll get it anyways. My Farmer is “the Inventor” – he thinks in systems. I am a “guardian” and feel more than I think. 🙂



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