So I had a great day on the farm on Wednesday. We started out the morning working on a fencing job, where Mr. Wise was setting up a fence for a friend. I helped Mr. Ted install pretty bright red gates on the fence, which we did with an old-fashioned hand-cranked drill as well as the help of the skid-steer bulldozer. The fences are wire fences, with five horizontal wires that go all the way around the property. I believe that we fenced in what will soon become a cow pasture.
But that wasn’t the coolest part of the day. The coolest part of the day was when we got back to Mr. Wise’s farm. When we got back, he told me to jump on the tractor, and proceeded to explain to me how to use it. It is not irregular for Mr. Wise to explain to me how things work without him expecting me to use/drive them, but after a few minutes of him explaining how to drive the tractor, I realized, much to my delight, that I was going to get to drive the tractor for the first time. Now that we’ve harvested the wheat, we are moving on to planting soybeans, and that’s what I did. We loaded up all of the seed into the planter attachment of the tractor–which digs trenches, deposits seeds, and covers them up–and Mr. Wise took me over to the field. He drove a few rows so I could see what to do, then he rode with me while I drove for a few rows, and then he got off of the tractor and let me drive on my own. Actually, he got in the truck and drove away. So it was me, the tractor, the soybean seeds, and the field.
I don’t think I realized exactly how much I love farming until I was planting that field. I just had so much time to think, to reflect, and to muse. I spent the first few minutes singing Lady Gaga songs, then I spent a while thinking about whether or not we are accountable for the immoral actions of systems which we empower through our identity. To bring that down to earth, I was thinking particularly about many of my wonderful friends who are members of fraternities and sororities. Oftentimes fraternities and sororities are extremely unethical, perpetuating racism, classism, homophobia, and many other social evils, but what should I make of people who are not racist, classist or homophobic, yet are in fraternities or sororities? They don’t perpetuate those evils in their own lives, but they identify and lend power to an identity (that of a fraternity brother or sorority girl) that does perpetuate those social evils. The question quickly becomes a much more general question about how accountable we are for what we give power through identity but not through direct action. I mused over a few metaphors and decided on this one. We are all like pieces of sediment in a river, and the river represents the systems with which we identify (our religion, our family, our sorority or fraternity, our friend group, whatever). If we as sediment are complacent in a river, we are moved by the river and consequently become part of it’s force through our complacency. So if we are complacent within an unethical system, we perpetuate it. What we must do as sediment then is latch on to the bottom of the river, and actively fight against the current. Other pieces of sediment will get stuck with us, and eventually, our collective weight will be enough to hold us down and the river will have to flow around us. Thus, we change the current, the direction of the river, but we cannot through complacency, only through deliberate effort against the current. That being said, we are not required, as sediment, to find another river entirely–meaning that we don’t have to change our identity. We can stay in the river, but we must change its direction. We can keep our identity, but we must change what our identity means.
That’s why I love the tractor, because it gives me time to think through things like that. I also had a good time watching all of the dust-devils whirl about the field as I planted it.
It’s been very dry and Mr. Wise said that it was going to rain that night after I planted. That night, I realized that I have truly become a farmer when I found myself dreaming about waking up to the sound of rain pattering on our tin roof. Luckily, it has started raining a lot more often, and we had a wonderful storm today and yesterday, so hopefully my little soybeans will grow up to be big and strong. I’ll keep you updated.
Also on Wednesday, I decided that I should take some self-portraits, and you’ll find those in the gallery as well, including one that may be my favorite picture of myself that I’ve ever seen; it’s the one where I have dirt on my nose.