When I was a child, our parents taught us the importance of dressing appropriately for the occasion. My mother and I would wear white cotton gloves to church on Sunday. I remember holding my gloved hand in hers as I listened to the click of her high heels on the pavement as we walked to the church on the far side of the park.

Every fall, I remember how I would carefully choose my outfit for the first day of school and watch as my mother stood at the ironing board, neatly pressing away any wrinkles and spritzing starch along the rounded collar.

I suppose you could say that the importance of proper attire has been deeply etched into my very being, but my, oh my, how my perspective has changed over the years. Even as an adult, raising our own children in the city, I would hesitate to make a quick dash to the grocery store unless my
hair was tidy, my jeans were crisp and my shoes were clean, but now when I leave the creek to head uptown, I almost consider it a badge of honor to sport mud on my boots and allow wisps of hair to fly out from under my cap.

I now know that these are the proud signs that I have spent the day properly attired, working outside on the farm.

Back when I lived and worked in the city, I would always wear pumps and stockings downtown. Yes, my heels would click with childhood familiarity along the city sidewalks, and my toes would feel the cold bite of winter if I had to travel more than a few blocks, but I was not alone. Everyone I passed on the city streets, likewise hurrying along between the tall buildings, sported the same attire. We were all dressed for success in the downtown world.

It need hardly be said, but I no longer own any pumps or stockings. This morning, as I dressed to head outside and do the animal chores, I smiled to imagine myself in my city pumps trying to make the animal rounds. I would not survive. The temperature gauge read a frosty 20 degrees.

I first dug deep down in my sock drawer and pulled out a pair of my thickest, insulated socks. These socks would never have fit into my pumps. I then went over to the closet and took down my favorite fleece vest to put on over my turtleneck shirt. I headed downstairs to the ground floor, and as I
reached the bottom step, I lifted my favorite thermal-lined denim jacket off of its designated hook. I pulled the hood up close to my neck. I could feel the warmth from the woodstove at the bottom of the stairs, filling up my jacket as I zipped it closed. I realized that I was actually beginning to
feel a wee bit hot.

I walked across the warm cement floor to head outside. Greg’s large rubber work boots sat just inside the door. I often borrow his boots to do my morning chores when the weather is cold. They are so much easier to slip on over my thick socks, but even more importantly, I have learned that pinched toes quickly turn cold, so when I wear my super thick socks, I am inclined to borrow Greg’s rubber boots for my round of morning chores.

Boots on, and jean legs tucked in securely, I reached for my leather work gloves. I was finally dressed and ready to head outside.

I felt the nip of the chill morning air on my nose and the crunch of hard frosted grass under each footstep. The sun shone brightly, just rising up over the hill on the far side of the creek. The world around me sparkled with frost in the sunshine. Our multi-colored horde of chickens rushed over and surrounded me, their gentle chortles greeting me. The pigeons cooed in their coop, waiting to be released. The world’s fattest goats starvingly bleated from their yard as the cattle bellowed from down in the pasture.

I paused and stood still, taking it all in. I was not in any rush. I was dressed warmly. I was dressed for success in our creek valley world.

Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in Ohio. Visit them at straightcreekvalleyfarm.com.