Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Family Farm

Although I was technically raised in Tacoma, my grandparents on my mother's side had a small dairy farm in Eatonville, southeast of town. It was where the farming bug bit me so hard, I've never recovered.

As a kid, I'd spend every possible day, hour and minute on that farm. I remember packing my suitcase the night before the last day of school. Classes were usually let out at noon, and by that evening I was in the barn milking the cows. Usually in August my mother would drag me back into town, kicking and screaming for a day of school shopping. I'd get done with the evening milking, go back to Tacoma, shop the next day, and if all went well, was back on the farm that night. I wouldn't come home until the night before the first day of school at the end of summer.

The fall of my senior year at Lincoln High in Tacoma my grandfather got sick and ended up in the hospital. I don't think I was home for a week when I had to move back out to take care of the cows. It was great. I'd get up around 4:30 AM and do the morning milking, then catch a ride into school with a teacher that happened to live only 5 miles or so from the farm. After school I'd ride back out with him and do the evening chores, homework then go to bed. That lasted about 6 weeks and I loved every minute of it.

During the school year, most of the vacations were spent at the farm, and any week-end I could find a way out of town. I was definitely a farm boy stuck in the city.

These days, not much happens out at the farm. My folks still live there, but we all know those days are numbered. They quit milking cows 15 years or so ago, and just a few months back, Dad shipped off the last five beefers he was keeping. For the first time in over 100 years there aren't any bovines on the place.

The farm is too small for it to support any significant commercial operation. The fields flood each year, which in one respect is good, it can never be subdivided and developed. On the other hand, for me, a berry grower, the land won't support the kind of farming I've settled into.

Eventually the farm will be sold to a local land trust. They are going to let it slowly go back to nature. I have no real issue with that. Our family will see that land come full circle, from my great-grandfather clearing it, to my dad farming it to the very end.

Such is the way.

Anyways...I was scanning a few of the shots I took out at the family farm over the years. Here's a few:

Grandpa wheeling a load of manure up the ramp

Mowing oat hay. Grandpa on the tractor, Dad on the mower

Dad tedding grass hay

Me riding the mower and getting splattered with grease from the spinning pitman

Dad milking

A young me, milking