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We’ve all had it happen. We’re walking along when a smell strikes, and seemingly out of nowhere, we have an intense memory flash — a memory associated with that smell.

Some folks mention this when they enter a school long after graduating, saying that the smell of the hallways and the gymnasium floor can bring back strong memories. Most people experience it when the first spring lawn is cut. They inhale that freshly mowed grass aroma and recall fond summer experiences.

Some of these smell-associated memories are widely experienced across the population, but I think there’s a few that are specific to us who live along the rural routes. I wanted to share a couple of mine with you.

The smell of diesel when an old John Deere tractor first starts up is one. It’s that chug of exhaust that pumps up and out of the old vertical exhaust pipe on the front that instantly transports me to my childhood, and to the memory of Dad and Granddad running those tractors, me perched on the side. It’s the smell of fall hayrides and the family working together and of innocent happiness.

Another foundational scent is the smell of the river, which is overtly different depending on the time, tide and season, but has a powerful scent that remains the same. For me, it’s the smell of early morning duck hunts and late evenings spent fishing. It’s an aroma of camaraderie and relaxation — the feeling that everything is right with the world for a moment.

The smell of an old farmhouse basement is another one. I know, this seems weird, but if you have an old basement or dirt cellar, you know what I mean. It’s earthy, slightly damp sometimes and dark. It’s also the odor connected to shelves of canned goods and jars of delicious jelly, to playing hide ’n go seek, and to jumping out to scare unsuspecting cousins. It’s also the fragrance of Carhartt gear like boots and rain slickers.

The smell of the horse barn is a classic favorite for a reason. Fresh shavings, new hay, the sleek coats of the horses, the warm chuff of their breathe, and leather and oil and fly spray. I can plant my nose in the spot right behind a horse’s ear and take a sniff to ground myself on any hectic day.

Then there’s the aroma of an old tobacco barn. There’s nothing like it. Slightly sweet, slightly spicy — a core memory for those that have that scent impression locked in their soul.

The smell of the irrigation system in a plant nursery brings me memories, too. When I was a kid, our farm was a tree and container stock nursery, and we had dozens of acres under irrigation. It was not the large center-pivot irrigation system on wheels for field crops. It was the kind of system that shoots water from a single, high-powered sprinkler nozzle mounted on a tall pipe, with dozens of pipes placed strategically around the field. Our irrigation pipes pulled from the pond, and when it was running, we had the pond water odors — a little fresh water, a little algae, a little fishy, that hung over the farm in a fine mist. That smell I would recognize anywhere, and goes along with the “tik, tik, tik,” sounds of the sprinklers turning and the dull hum of the generator motor in the background.

The smell of hay is fragrant, both in the field with the first cutting and in the barn when it’s brought in. It captures the smell of sun, rain and sweet, dried-grass bales.

The smell of my Grandma’s perfume is evocative. In college once, when I walked into the campus admissions building, I got a big whiff of Grandma’s fragrance. My brain instinctively thought, “Gram?” and I swiveled my head around looking for her. Of course, she wasn’t there, she was an hour away on the farm. It was someone else wearing it who had walked through, but in the moment, the scent trigger was so strong I believed it for a second.

Tomato plants have a green, peppery, slightly bitter smell that reminds me of summer and hot garden dirt every time.

I know folks have their own scent memories, too. I hope you have time occasionally to pause, smell, smile and remember.

Source: Get a Whiff of That! There’s Nothing Like the Smell of the Farm | Farm and Rural Family Life |