Carol Jane Remsburg
The air of spring is perfumed with the farmer's choice of fertilizer. It's May and it could be chicken, cow, horse, or even hog manure. It happens every year but we consistently pray not to have hog manure spread. I think they only do that when in dire need for there is not other potent reek across the land than what a well-fed community of hogs can produce.
Being a girl of a rural background one sniff will tell you what is what. We know the passing whiff of fertilizer as well as a wine connoisseur. Everything has a distinct scent, odor, or perfume. It just comes down to what it all is. This year, thankfully, it was "chicken litter" and not "hog waste." Trust me, on a scale of 1 to a 100; even the foulest of chicken litter as fertilizer rates a gagging 30. Hog waste tops past the 100-mark which can make you psychically ill. I don't care if you close all the windows, light scented candles and put 15 air purifiers into overload—that stench of "hog" isn't going anywhere for weeks to come. Having endured it thrice over the last 16 years I'm human enough to tell you that for two weeks you gag. If you ever relocated to a rural home during this time—you'd sell the house at a loss and run fast and far away—you'd never return.
Often this laying out of fertilizer happens in spring and fall. It's spring now and seeding time. Farmers enrich the soil with what they know works and plant. Then they wait. They hope for rain after an already sodden spring. The sun then shines and the weatherman gives no clue to when or if it will ever rain again. The farmer isn't the only one who hopes and prays. During this time I cannot hang out laundry or open my windows during this mild period for that stench might migrate indoors. It matters not that it be chicken litter—the mildest of all—for that I still cannot breathe during the night. My windows remain shut.
The warm breezes blow and the evenings allow for a freshening. It still hasn't rained but I concede. It isn't too cold and it isn't too hot. The outside air is always welcome after winter's stuffiness.
Until the rain actually comes to finish the seeding and germination of the planting, that "smell" which was tortuous seeps indoors. I can't fight it. I want the fresh air. It's just that the fresh air is farm fresh. If you've ever lived a country life then that initial waft that closed your nose almost two weeks ago no longer tears up your eyes. It becomes the scent of work, toil, and hope that this season's crop will help to cover the loan you took out for it.
My home resides next to a farmer's field. I bless him and am grateful for his hard work every year. Those few weeks in spring and fall when the stuff flies I hold onto the fact that it isn't forever. This summer's soybeans or the stiff rustling of the tall corn give me solace. That field isn't mind but I treat it as it were. The farmer's work is hard and never easy. As his neighbor I feel part of his labor.
So the next time you smell something other than a skunk in the road know that our farmers are working well into the darkness to provide for us—all of us. That scent of farm fresh will never be marketed in any bath and body shop but for those of us who live nearby it can be comforting. It's reliable and real and just part of life. Nothing is pretty and fresh forever.