Sense Memories

Posted: May 3, 2010 in dairy farms, New York, Seasons, spring
Tags: , , , , , ,

Have you ever caught a scent that triggers a distant memory? Perhaps, the whiff of an apple pie or Tollhouse cookies recalls warm feelings of grandma’s kitchen.

My earliest memories are associated with farm smells. In the day to day, they are faint and seldom thought of, but when I encounter those odors, the full emotion floods my thoughts. Not clear images of specific events, but feelings of fascination and wonder, satisfaction—like a feeling of things being as they should be, and admiration.

According to science, the olfactory bulb is part of the brain’s limbic  system and is closely tied to the amygdala and hippocampus, which process emotions and associative learning. So a scent associated with an emotional stimulus creates an emotional memory.

Technicalities aside, it is spring, and riding through farm country means encountering the smells of barns being opened after the winter, ground being readied for planting, and cows turned out to graze fresh grass.

The pungent, slightly fermented smell of corn silage, especially freshly chopped corn, brings to mind corn cob pennies, Papec wagons, wheelbarrows and September. Though corn is chopped in the fall, the last stores of silage are being used up, and with the barns being Bugs on windscreen also come with spring in farm countryopened, the scent of feed at milking time wafts out across the road.

Fresh wood shavings combined with fresh cow manure (not the rancid gag-a-maggot stench of a manure lagoon!) recall  fairground livestock barns and admiration—those cows and barns were pristine, groomed for show, the best examples of husbandry, and lots of hard work.

The smell of sod recalls shiny moldboards, smooth turves curled over, and the tail ends of night crawlers evading a surprise suntan.

In all of it, there is a feeling of rightness, freshness, starting clean, and progress.

  1. Steve Manning says:

    The timing of this blog entry is funny. Just last night a group of us (vendors attending the STC conference) were discussing just this thing. For me, I have a strong attachment to the smell of printing plants (paper, paper dust, printing ink, machine oil. It evokes memories of accompanying my dad to work (a printing plant, obviously) on occassional trips in to the plant on weekends.

  2. Lori Comeau says:

    Well, I learned 2 new terms to day – Moldboard & Turve. No one used such “flowery” language to describe these processes and spring smells when I grew up on the farm in Haverhill!

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