Updated: Sep 22, 2022
I take photos of the grain sacks or quilts or pieces that I start out with, before they become whatever I am making.
In part, I do this for my own memory.
As I am turning this piece into something new, it is a conversation and a balance between the then and the now. Even when I get to the wearable or usable thing… what it was when I found it - is still so important.
Some of the hand stitches or mismatched threads or pieces of metal rusted in place in the fabric - those will be covered up or taken out and not be able to be seen again. Who wants a rusted piece of metal in a jacket? But that it was there to begin with - that it was used as a tool to keep this feed sack going - this imperfection that likely brought the value of the bag down or out of use… ends up being something I just simply fall in love with.
It is often the imperfections that I love the most.
So I was doing my usual thing and taking photos. I had purchased this bag because it had a few words I was drawn to on it - Nebraska… Flour… Wisdom.
And then I flip it over and see this patch.
It’s a denim square, corners folded in, and whip-stitched to a hole in the sack, then sewn in place for strength. Not a big deal, it's just a hole… patched together, with a scrap of jean fabric.
Except… it also is everything - everything I know and admire about a kind of strength and resourcefulness that comes along on the umpteenth hour of being awake, the determination to finish a job, and to use every bit of grit and what you have on hand to make that happen. Farmers. They’re something else.
It was like I knew this patch.
I have never thrown a pair of jeans away. Oh, they get retired for sure. Busted out pockets, knees, entire seams. Giant holes in places a business owner can't go to work in. They’re washed & stashed away - and when the pile is big enough or the mood strikes, they become quilts or fabric for projects. It’s a strong fabric, a natural fiber, a color that I love. It’s also in our every single day, so it’s familiar. We have had periods of time where having money to buy fabric was absolutely not a possibility and I’ve discovered it’s hard to shake that out of your system. I will probably always hoard bits and pieces for this reason. I used to resent my old hand-me-down and saved fabrics a little bit… I used to wish I could just go purchase beautiful fabrics right off the bolt. We used what we had, though. The baby quilt that I made to tell Ryan we were having a baby was made out of our recycled jeans. The blue matches their eyes and the sky of a crisp harvest morning. And there's something so deeply profound in the everyday - that ends up being the part most treasured. THAT is who we are. What I love most. And see beauty in.
I was taking these photos, realizing the back was now my front - on a mid-harvest afternoon while the clouds above me were barreling in for a storm that the forecast kept creeping up in how much rain was expected. We need rain. But there is no way around that it also creates a few challenges in harvest.
For one, you will not be keeping that schedule everyone negotiated. For another, how soon we’ll be able to get back in with tractors is a big question. And if it takes too long, crops can mold. So the air was heavy. Time was about to pause. And in a harvest that has already been light, how we would be wrapping it up was a lot of unknowns.
So I took some photos of this patch I was feeling deeply connected with and pulled out some short ribs to thaw out.
I am not sure how they still burn their mouths, always diving in too fast, fully knowing after all these years that the way I love is with goodness straight out of the oven… but they do, they forget. They burn their mouths.
They have full tummies. And the storm passes.
But it was a drenching one. Trees down, fences broken. Eventually, the rain stopped.
And I did that rare thing of putting sewing and baking and animals and chores aside - to go to tag along with Ryan for a day.
Riding on roads we both grew up on.
Him & I in the cab of a semi, pulling double trailers, loaded with a beautiful crop of wine grapes. Grapes that we had tended to all year long. A job and an expertise - morphed into pride of a product and the income for the upcoming year. It’s a beautiful, beautiful moment. Mainly, probably, because I am in the passenger seat.
A shiny, pretty car in my side mirror disappears and I look to Ryan’s side to see if he notices - and if they’re going to pass - which seems impossibly terribly unintelligent.
And they are, they do.
Double yellow line, blind corner ahead of us, country road, double trailer, fully loaded.
It caught my breath, full stop, until the car is back in our lane ahead of us, zipping to the very important place it needs to be.
It’s just the beginning of this load, it’s just the first car of this drive, not at all unique.
I already know, I’ll be saying the Our Father a dozen more times before this load is delivered.
I said it when we were turning left, that long load following behind us as the gears grumbled and we ever so slowly cross that highway.
I said it for the truck I saw broken down,
and the one I saw returning from having already delivered.
I said it for the intense look on Ryan’s face.
All silently. It was a silent ride there, gears and brakes aside. Not even a swear word. Just head down, job getting done.
Have you ever heard the story of the farmer who told his child not to be a farmer? Of course you have: every farmer of all time has had this feeling at some point. I did today. For the first time, I thought to myself - may my children never know the feeling of bringing their entire year’s worth of effort, pride and income through a game of Frogger. Please for the love of my heart, do something simpler, safer, easier.
I’m obviously not cut out for driving truck every day. Not even for one second have I thought that was a part I’d want to learn. Thank God for Ryan. I said that gratitude prayer quite a few times, too. It takes a mountain of strength, skill, and calm to navigate that wild ride. Not unlike any other aspect of farming.
And while I could tell you I’m a farmer too, I stay on the quieter side of things. I am the quiet walk through the rows, the nurturer with a pocket full of seeds and too-hot-dinners for the table. I am the work jean hoarder with a bundle of prayers and gratitude.
Eventually, that old patched up grain sack will become a jacket or something. And now you know how it’s also my ode to farmers. Honoring a strength, a faith, a way of life - that I see every day.
And if you’re really lucky, you get to see it too.
Maybe in stitches on old patches. Maybe in a farmer friend’s perspective. Maybe it’s what you are. Or maybe you’re just a cautious driver with harvest on the road.
What ever it is, it’s a gift to be a part of.