A Farm Girl at Heart?

Every time I visit, their place is more of a farm, a fascinating farm.
By Joanne Peterson | May 03, 2012

The first four years of my life I spent on a ranch in Yakima.

My father owned an orchard—I remember mostly apricots, with a row of big cherry trees lining the dirt road leading to my maternal grandparents’ house on one edge of the property.

On the best days, my father invited me to ride on the tractor, both of us climbing down occasionally to cool off in the shade and drink from the dusty-tasting canvas water bag slung on the side of the tractor. I was one happy little girl.

Some evenings he let me walk along the irrigation ditches with him after dinner.

He carried a pitchfork and kept an eye open for rattlesnakes as he checked the flow of water in the ditches.

Snakes were not uncommon. One day, having walked with my grandmother along the row of cherry trees from her house to ours, I ran into my mother’s kitchen, closely followed by my breathless grandmother, and blurted out, “We just saw a snake, really close, and it was all bundled up!”

All bundled up? Obviously we escaped, unharmed.

My grandfather cared for two Guernsey cows, Nibs and Bess, and the old sway-backed mare Mollie, who trudged ahead of him pulling a plow through the garden he cultivated, while I perched on her back, my small legs sticking out to the sides.

Once he let me ride one of the bony-backed cows as he led them through the big round metal passage running under the highway to the pasture. Neither the cow nor I enjoyed the ride.

Even at four years of age, though, I liked feeling that I had done something daring—at least once.

At one time, my brother and I each had a little pig, the black sort with a white stripe around the middle. There were a few beef cattle, too.

One snowy Christmas morning, my father took us out to the barn to show us the calf that had been born at first light. We named the calf Nicky. My mother took photos.

I am prompted to reminisce about all this farm-type background because I recently drove to northern Idaho to visit my eight-year-old granddaughter Annika and her parents.

Every time I visit, their place is more of a farm, a fascinating farm.

Current animal count on their five acres? Six assorted laying hens, a dozen awkward pecked-looking chicks destined eventually for the freezer, four cats (Winter, Ruby, Clyde and Axel), two horses (Pepper and River), one black-and-white shepherd dog (Hanson), and a guinea pig (Pepper-Jack).

Annika’s beginning 4-H project, a lamb, will take up residence mid-May.

I nearly forgot to mention Petunia, a glossy white 20-pound pet turkey. As I sat reading on the patio, she sometimes stood next to me, leaning sleepily against my chair as I absent-mindedly stroked her glossy feathers.

It’s no wonder my thoughts have turned to farm life.

Next week, I’ll write about my visit with Annika.


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