My last column was on the professional women in agriculture, but I strongly feel the need to show how another segment of women in agriculture makes a difference.

I think of the farmer’s wife who gets up to fix her husband’s breakfast and the children off to school. Then she puts food in the slow cooker for their noon meal, makes the beds, throws in a load of laundry, and heads out to help on the farm. It might be fixing fences, or sorting cows to be sold, or separating calves from their moms to wean them. It might be to drive the truck in the field as the men are hauling the bales to the house or when they are cutting wheat. When that happens, she will get the truck to the stack yard, leave it for the guy on the tractor to unload, go into the house to check the slow cooker, take the load of washing out to hang on the line and put another batch to the washing machine before heading back to the truck and the field

She can feed a large group of men or a table of two or three. She answers phone calls from neighbors driving by, telling her that there are cows out in the road. She will drop everything, head out and single-handedly get the cows into their pastures. She will go out with the guys on the gators to fix fences, get cows in, check irrigation pipes, and to have a leisure ride in the evenings to check cows and fences.

She will take time to mow the lawn, weed the garden and flower beds. She will help her neighbors when she learns of a need. She knows that a paycheck doesn’t come once or twice a month, but when something is sold. She knows the difference between CPR and CRP.

She doesn’t complain when a sick calf is brought into the house to get warm. She will help with medicating and puts old blankets in the dryer to get warm and then wraps them around the animals. Afterwards, she will get out the Clorox and scrub down the area where the animal laid, wash the blankets, and be ready for the next one.

She rarely goes to the beauty shop and has been known to trim her own hair. Her hands are rough and she often has grease and dirt under her unpainted fingernails. She will be tanned because of being out in the sun, quite often having the common “farmer tan” but she insists that her grandchildren all put on sunscreen. She has a pair of boots right next to the back door where she can put them on when called upon to get out into the corral to help. She is usually clad in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt to avoid getting scratched by stickers, barbed wire fences that she needs to crawl through and bushes and tree limbs. Her birthdays are often forgotten and for Mother’s Day she will get leather gloves as a gift.

She runs to town to get parts for equipment. She shops groceries at 5 a.m. in order to be available when and if needed on the ranch. She gets her children to ball practices, dance classes, track meets and other extracurricular activities.

And every Sunday will find her at church, often participating as a teacher or piano player. She merges her voice with others in the congregation as they often sing her favorite hymn, “Count Your Many Blessings.” She is continually praying for the safety of her family as they work with the big equipment and animals.

Yes, she sometimes gets grouchy and complains, but when she takes stock of her place as a farmer’s wife, she recognizes the blessings that are hers.

She can sleep well at night because she has earned the tiredness she feels. She has an appreciation for all seasons, but after a busy summer and fall, she looks forward to winter when the nights are long and the days short. Though the cold is not always easy, the long evenings give her time to read or do hand work. She loves to see the sun rise and marvels at the beauty of it. When night comes, she gazes out her windows at the picturesque sunsets, expressing thanks for the opportunity of living on the farm, of being able to work the soil and take care of animals.

Let’s salute all women in agriculture whether it be the ones in the home providing support for their husbands or the ones outside the home working to improve the world.

Jean Schwieder is a writer who has spent her life involved in eastern Idaho agriculture. Her books, including past columns, are available by calling 208-522-8098 or by email at straddlin thefence@gmail.com.

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