Here & there: Farm livin’ is the life for me.

The Dayton Boys inspect a new rabbit hutch on a family farm in Preston, Idaho, June 25, 2017 | Photo by Kat Dayton, St. George News

FEATURE — My maternal grandfather really wanted his posterity to grow up on farms. He wanted us to learn the important lessons they have to teach. He yearned for it.

But I’m not sure he’d approve of all of my sons’ takeaways from a recent farm experience they had in Idaho’s Napoleon Dynamite farm country; you can’t help but say the word “penis,” even if your mom tells you not to; raccoons are “The Devil”; and REI machetes make great chicken decapitators.

But before I get to that, I better start from the beginning.

My grandfather was a second-generation Scotsman and a first-generation American farmer. He was of an era of work and toil and scarcity.

He loved waking with the sun. He loved working hard in the fields. He loved eating burnt toast and kippered herring for breakfast. I dare say he even loved manure.

He told corny jokes about his baldness saying, “I used to have a ‘crew cut’ but the crew pulled out.” He did isometric exercises, pumping one arm into the palm of the other hand every morning, from the time he turned 70. And he drank a glass of warm water at the start of every day to get his juices flowing.

He wasn’t really ever sick until he died – at the age of 92 1/2.

Some eight decades earlier, he’d been the pride of the Weber County Fair, snagging the blue ribbon for his prize calf.

My grandfather loved growing up on a farm so much he would often lament to my mother, when she started having children of her own, that she was at a great disadvantage raising kids on the California Coast.

“How can you raise kids without a farm?” he’d ask her regularly over their Saturday 6 a.m. phone calls.

Or, maybe the real question he was trying to ask was: Aren’t you afraid your kids are going to grow up without knowing the important things in life?

The name Oscar must come with farm life loaded as pre-set because my son, a city slicker by birth and the namesake of my grandfather, longs for farm life. He pines after the chickens and the pigs and the muck.

He’s confessed over more than one bedtime settle that he thinks he was born in the wrong place.

Lucky for him he has Dayton relatives newly in the farm life. My husband’s sister and her husband bought a “homestead” in Idaho two years ago after losing their oldest son in a tragic plane crash.

Drawn to work the land and to feel a connection disrupted by their loss, they relocated from Wisconsin to Idaho and began farming. They researched soil and animals and plants and machines.

Then they bought three milk goats, five egg-laying hens and a couple of pigs.

My boy was hooked after the first goat. And his love of their farm has only grown over time as the farm itself has grown. It is now home to mules, rabbits, chickens, cows, goats, beehives and … more chickens.

A few weeks ago, I dropped off said farm-boy-in-training at the family homestead, along with his 7-year old brother. They were staying there while my husband and I went out of town.

Four long, beautiful, hardworking, wild days at the farm. Without TV screens. Without much supervision. And without showers.

My grandfather must have been skipping in heaven. At least a little. But there was still the penis-talk, the raccoon devils and the chicken killing.

Clearly, my boys were learning different things at the farm than my hardworking, straight-laced Grandfather, right? Wrong.

You can’t really be on a farm without talking anatomy, including penises. Especially if you spend even five minutes outside a mule pen. (It’s all my boy could talk about for weeks.) And since then, we’ve had many good family discussions about procreation – both its power and its purpose.

And you can’t be awoken in the middle of the night to witness – and fight off with your aunt, brother and cousin – a grisly chicken slaughter at the hands of a razor-clawed raccoon without understanding the need to protect the innocents in life.

Then, there’s the intentional chicken slaughtering. I’ve been trying to help my boys develop a connection to food for years – it’s hard when the chicken breasts are so perfectly packaged in plastic wrap in the meat section of the market.

It took only one time for them to kill and prepare their chicken dinner to understand it in a new, more meaningful way. And to realize it takes too much work (for the chicken and the axe-bearer) to waste any part of it. That, and the old expression really is true.

Each of their takeaways – from machete- to penis-talk – was born from real-life farm experience. Each an important life lesson my grandfather craved for us.

He was most definitely skipping in heaven. And not just a little.

Kat Dayton is a columnist for St. George News, any opinions given are her own and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected] | [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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