lessons learned: farming boots and defining ourselves

Saturday, I sat down for a rest in my driveway.  I had been hoeing, planting, and mulching for quite awhile, and I needed a break.  As I watched the chickens strut around the perennial bed, I happened to glance down at my boots.   The shiny, bright flowers were hardly recognizable for all the dirt, paint, and scratches covering the surface.  For a fleeting moment, I experienced the bittersweet longing for my new boots, my pretty boots that celebrated Spring, growth, and life.

As I studied the footwear, I noticed a splotch of cherry red paint, a reminder of the cool June weekend my daughter and I painted the chicken coop.  I cherished the rare gift of connection that mothers of teen girls often dream of.

Merging with the paint was a scar from the post hole diggers I’d used at the goat sanctuary when I learned how to put in a fence.  Hot, tired, and sweaty, I came home and physically melted on the couch filled with pride at reaching a milestone in my farming journey.

Turning my feet sideways, I noticed weeks and weeks of dirt and crud caked in the treads.  From March until October, I’d cleaned out chicken muck in these boots, turned compost in these boots, and hauled mulch in these boots–jobs most would consider undesirable but are critical in maintaining what brings me such pleasure.

As I sat in that driveway, I reflected on how my boots had aged.  Most of the tasks that boots accomplish are not glamorous or joyful–they are jobs that are dirty and challenging.  And just as those experiences shape the boot, “dirty and challenging” events also shape our lives.  It’s how we choose to put them to use, however, that makes all the difference, that defines us.

I’ll keep wearing my boots for as long as they’ll have me.  I kinda like seeing that splotch of red paint as my toe pokes through the compost and muck–it gives me something to smile about.

71 Comments on “lessons learned: farming boots and defining ourselves

  1. I love the analogy you shared here. I would much rather have the mucky boots along with the memories made than those that had not been tested and tried yet. The muck gives ’em character. 🙂

    Thank you for sharing the food for thought!

      • Dearest Cameron, I apologize for my delay in doing this sooner. Yesterday afternoon and evening were quite busy around here. But I wanted to personally present you with the Beautiful Blogger Award. You may accept it in any way you wish, but please know that it is intended as a warm cyber hug from me to you simply as an expression of my joy in finding you and your blog. Hope you have a GREAT Friday and an even better weekend!

    • After “upcycling” running shoes and old Dansko clogs for several years, I transitioned to boots–wear ’em all the time except when it’s hot and humid, then it’s back to the running shoes or bare feet!

  2. Lovely, as always.

    The first three weeks on our new farm have been spent scrubbing and digging, painting and sawing . . . Every morning that I wake up and flex my swollen hands I know that I am one day stronger and so grateful to be here doing this work.

    Thanks for the reminder. 🙂

  3. This is a really beautiful post. You’ve given dignity and meaning to something most people would consider mundane, and you’ve done it eloquently. I really enjoyed reading this.

    • Thank you, Elizabeth. Part of what compelled me to start this blog was to help people learn from the simple things that are around us, both in nature and in our homes. I’m always glad to hear when folks make a connection. Thank you for taking the time to comment. ~Cameron

  4. Love your boots! I hope they last a long time and you have a wonderful farm. What types of vegetables are on your farm?

    • Oh, all kinds of stuff–mainly greens and berries bec/ my little farm has lots of shade–kale and chard in particular. I do well with tomatoes in one spot so I focus on sun drying tomatoes then buy other kinds at the farmers’ market. Herbs do well for me. Cucumbers in Summer. Garlic, onions, and leeks through the winter then harvest in Spring. Trying beets and turnips for the chickens right now–I figure even if I don’t get any root, they’ll love the greens in the winter. Black-eyed peas, green beans, and sugar snap peas do very well for me. Every year though, I pick a “let’s try this one” veggie or fruit just to see what I can do. Some years are good; others, not so much, but farming for me is about learning from and communing with nature–process not product.

  5. I’m drawn to All Things Boot, and it was a pleasure reading your thoughts on yours. Best wishes in all your farming endeavors!

  6. Charming post! Tip: when your boots are finally no longer wearable, upend them on fence posts. My aunt did that on their farm, and with four kids they soon had a whole fence line decorated with outgrown or worn out boots, all with their own stories to tell, much like yours.
    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  7. I usually don’t “follow” fresh pressed, in fact I rarely follow anyone, but lady, I like your style. I’ll “follow” you 😉 Best ~kl

    • Thanks so much–I am touched by your comment. Wow! I had someone refer to me today as a “girl with grit and gumption.” I love it! Please stay in touch and let me know what you think about the blog. ~Cameron

  8. You provide a lot of lovely contrasting elements in this post. Your boots themselves are girly and painted with flowers but are worn and covered in muck. I think even the fact that you maintain a blog, a internet technology, while maintaining a farm is a beautiful contrast.

    Perhaps my favorite line was “I cherished the rare gift of connection that mothers of teen girls often dream of.” How very sweet that is. I hope those boots continue to be your partner in life and all the “dirty and challenging” events to come. Thank you for sharing!

    • I appreciate your thoughtful comments and insight–love the idea of the contrast between farm and technology. You’re good!
      Hope you’ll come back and visit~Cameron

    • Being a child of the 80s, the connotation of “awesome” used to seem pretty trendy to me, but now in my spiritual life with nature, I spend so much time being filled with awe that your comment seems right on target–thanks so much~Cameron

  9. Pingback: lessons learned: farming boots and defining ourselves | birdmanps

  10. ‘ Most of the tasks that boots accomplish are not glamorous or joyful–they are jobs that are dirty and challenging.’

    it sure went through unpleasant and dirty tasks…but in a way, it helped you beautify your garden..!

    I like the way you see things..

    *btw Hello from Kuala Lumpur Malaysia.. 🙂

  11. Beautifully written post. Now a city person, I miss my small town/farm upbringing where gardening was an annual ritual and a sort of cultural touchstone. Thanks for the memories.

    • Glad I could evoke the memories for you, and thanks for sharing that with me as it truly touches my heart. Come back anytime you need a connection with small town farm life. ~Cameron

  12. A girly girl with grit and gumption! Love the way you laid this out, it’s not only beautiful but very touching. Great job.

    • I love this! I will say, I am not really girly (although the new boots would seem otherwise), but I pride myself on being a “girl with grit and gumption”–I’ve never said it like that but I’m using it now. Thanks, Mountain Gypsy~Cameron

  13. Oh joy, another boot lover – I posted on this subject not so long ago too! What a lovely story and much sweeter than mine…which is slightly darker 🙂

    • You know, that is what I hope my writing will do for people–touch them in a way that is personal. I appreciate your letting me know that~Cameron

  14. I love BOTH versions of boots! The promise of good things to come … the cherished memories of times gone by … the strength to carry you over the next hill (or through the chicken coop) … just love this perspective and very happy to have stumbled onto your page!

  15. I very much enjoyed this post. I think it is not just shoes that have the memories etched into the surface. Old jeans might have rips or stains that bring out some memory in the wearer.

    I also like this post as the wellies are very pretty both clean and dirty (in an admittedly strange way). I think I am having welly jealousy.

    • You are spot on with the jeans–my first pair of overalls are really a testament to my life as I began my little farm. While they have retired to my blanket chest now, I pull them out now and again and smile in gratitude for all the stories imprinted in the denim. Thank you for stopping in~Cameron

  16. YUP. Boot for thought 🙂

    Aaaaannnnd I can’t agree more…. “I’ll keep wearing my boots for as long as they’ll have me.”

    Lovely post.

  17. Great post! Memories have a way of lingering :). But the best memories are usually the ones that got our boots a bit muddy. Well said.

  18. What a lovely post. I completely agree with you. New things seem plush and luxurious. Old things mean so much more though, they tell a story and evoke memories that keep us comfortable and warm when we have to do those dirty and challenging jobs as you described. I hope to have a pair of dirty boots one day!

  19. I enjoyed your story very much, do you have the equivalent for inside the house ? My ugg boots could tell many a tale and even though they are split and daggy, off come the work boots and on go the uggs. May your garden be plentiful.

  20. This is so lovely, how the scars, wear and tear represent positive experiences, I hope the boots will last a long time for you!:)

  21. If only boots could talk. What tales they would tell! You could write a children’s story about boot recounting their adventures. They are close to the ground so they see the things that we do not see

  22. Id much rather have muddy boots filled with memories then brand new ones that have not been used yet. They just remind you of all you’ve been through 🙂 Beautiful post ^^

  23. Good story. If boots could talk what would yours say? “Job well done” or “I’m working in delight” or simply “Inspired”

  24. My favorite visual is you and your teenage daughter painting the chicken house. Farms provide time with family like nothing else can. And messy boots can be like a journal of accomplishment! Good on ya!

  25. Pingback: One & Done Sunday #24 | JM Randolph, accidentalstepmom

  26. Great post! My boots are very like these, except they don’t have those cute decorations…just plain ol’ black boots with mud & grass stuck to the bottoms. But they mean being able to get out and about on our ‘farmette’ and do stuff with hubby. 🙂

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