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Running a farm doesn't mean knowing it all

The other day, I took my old, dead tractor battery to an auto store to switch it for a new one.

My hired man had taken it out of my tractor and loaded it into the back of my Explorer for me. It's heavy - I can't lift it. He told me to go into the store and tell them I had a battery in the back of my Explorer and ask them to come take it out.

So I did. A man carried my tractor battery into the store and set it down to examine its replacement. He looked at the wall of batteries and asked another clerk to come over. They looked at the battery and looked at the wall of batteries.

They asked me if it was the original battery that came from the manufacturer. I said, "I think so.  I'm pretty sure." They told me they didn't have that brand, had never seen that brand, and showed me the closest they could come to its size.

"How much wiggle room do you have?" The replacement they were suggesting was a couple of inches larger.

I said, "Can you carry that back to my Explorer?"

I'd never looked inside the tractor so I had no idea how much wiggle room there was or wasn't when placing the battery. The next morning, I went back to the auto store with my hired man in tow. He did know how much wiggle room there was for the battery. He helped me buy the right battery, then he installed it.

Recently, I had a conversation with someone in which they came to the following revelation and stated: "You're running a farm and you really don't know what you're doing a lot of the time, do you?"

I didn't take this as an insult at all (based on the conversation which led up to it) and neither was it intended as an insult, I'm sure. I felt myself beam. I said, "No, I have no idea what I'm doing most of the time!"

He said, "You like that. You're smiling!"

I do like it. In fact, I love it. It's an adventure. And I'm proud of it.

Yes, sometimes it's frustrating. I'm a single woman managing a farm. I am not mechanical or mathematical or constructional or tool-ish. I have to be shown repeatedly how to do simple things that I don't understand and which don't come naturally to me, and there are some things I don't even want to understand, I just want to point to a hired man and say, solve that.

Am I proud of being dumb about some things?

No. I'm not proud that there are many things I don't know or understand. I'm proud that I manage in spite of them.

No one can know everything, and there are many things I do know and do understand. And for what I don't know, I find the will and the way to overcome. Those things still scare me.

There are problems today that need to be solved, that I don't know how to solve, that scare me. But I will find the will and the way to overcome them - even if, and probably if - it means I need help, which is the hardest thing for me to ask for.

I do not run my farm alone. I run it on the wings of hired men, neighbors, friends, and family who help me. (Mostly hired men because I don't like to ask for favors, or even take them when they're offered, unless it's an emergency or necessary for some other reason.)

Over the past more than a year that I've run a farm by myself, I've adjusted and learned how to manage the seemingly unmanageable. That doesn't make me feel any less as if I'm running this farm. I know how to get help when I need it because I can't build it or lift it or figure it out, and I work to make it happen or, sometimes, give up a little pride.

And every time I'm standing in a store and don't know how to buy what I know I need, I know that maybe next time I will know better.

Or maybe next time I won't.

But in either case, I will still be standing.

Writer Suzanne McMinn lives in Roane County, where she writes every day in her blog, Chickens in the Road, at www.chickensinthe



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