Lessons from a Farm Girl/Ashley Curtis

I’ve often said that many of my most valuable and memorable lessons were learned on the farm, but it is not something I often sit and reflect upon. Although one of my first tractor driving experiences was my last – my family learned that I shouldn’t drive tractor – that’s just one of the many lessons I’ve learned while on the farm.

To me, each of these lessons points to one sign: you know you’re a farmer’s daughter if…

You’ve ever sat on an electric fence.

At age 5 (and to this day), I was a stubborn child with zero patience for anyone or anything. While walking to my grandparent’s house across the road with my grandma, I got bored waiting for her to catch up and decided to take a break. Unfortunately, my seat of choice was on an electric fence. My seat didn’t last long, but I learned not to sit or touch an electric fence. Perhaps the most important lesson of the day was to practice patience when possible. Although I need a constant reminder to practice patience in my life, I frequently think of that day to remind myself.

You have thought about or have actually chased cattle in heels and a dress.

It never fails, my family will be getting ready to leave or coming home from an event and the cows will be out. For some reason, cows never pick a day when everyone is home and working, but when everyone is busy and gone. On the night of my brother’s junior prom, the cows again decided it was a good day to get out… right before my mom and I were about to head out to watch the court announcement. Instead, my mom left and my dad, husband, some neighbors and I chased cows around the yard until they were back in their correct facilities. I think this is where I learned the importance of timeliness. After years of chasing cows, I continue to plan to leave 10 minutes early just in case something like that might happen… even in Houghton. We also learned the value of a good four-wheeler or gator and have now purchased a John Deere Gator for such instances.

Touring dairy farms is essential to every family vacation.

Last winter, my parents took a weekend off from the farm to visit my husband and I in Houghton. We planned to attend the Michigan Technological University vs. Northern Michigan University hockey game, but my dad made one additional request: Find a farm for us to tour. After some searching, I found a farm to visit near Lake Linden and we decided to stop by. Thankfully, the farmer was generous enough to show us around and took the time to describe how vastly different the growing season and available resources are in the Upper Peninsula. On my parent’s visit this winter, we traveled to Jilbert in Marquette. Lesson here: No vacation is complete without a farm-related trip, even if it’s just visiting a John Deere dealership en route to our destination.

You’ve ever made homemade ice cream.

Last winter, my family renewed an old family tradition of churning homemade ice cream. Although it was only my first year making the ice cream, we all hope it is something that can continue long into the future. On that December day, our shop was the ice cream making location for at least five churning stations and each of us, including my grandparents, parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, great-aunts and uncles and cousins, joined in the effort. The women rotated shifts sitting on the buckets which the men took turns churning. Afterward, we went inside my family’s farmhouse to eat our cold treat, socialize and listen to grandpa play the accordion. On that day, I learned that some traditions should and need to be carried on, especially those with family. I’ve always known family was an important part of my life, but on that day, I gained a new level of appreciation and love for my farm family.

It is because of my strong family ties that I have made the decision to leave The Daily Mining Gazette. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work in the fast-paced newsroom environment with many talented reporters who have shared their knowledge with me and I look forward to my husband completing his education at Michigan Tech and to the future, one I hope will include life in the country and churning ice cream with my family.

Ashley Curtis can be reached at acurtis@mininggazette.com.