I’ve allotted myself just 20 minutes to sputter out these words. I’ve put on my calendar that I’d like to share information on this virtual connection to the farm at least twice a month this season. I plan, I budget my time, I run through my day thinking about what words I might say in advance of the actual project deadline. This is a lot of what it is like to run a farm. Planning, more planning, and some sort of actualizing that might imitate the plan… and you’re off to the next thing.
Last night I was at a beautiful little gathering of good women and a fine chef to discuss making a home apothecary. I left the workshop with some new recipes, and also a reinforced idea that my lifestyle is a novelty that isn’t understood. Because I put myself so fully into my work, it is not really ok with me to not be understood. And I’m not very good at speaking up for myself in those type of situations.
There is a double edged sword to explaining the life of a farmer – I should leave it at explaining my own life. I find incredible satisfaction and depth in the work I do. My head and body are always busy, I get to work beside interesting and motivated people, and I’m seldom bored. If I am, it’s my own fault because I’m not awake enough to reach deeper into where I’m at. On the other hand, describing a farmers’ life can sound like a list of complaints. This is not that. Farming can be simple work, it can be tedious, it can emotionally and physically draining. My work day starts at 5:30am and I often try to plug in an hour or two or more after the crew leaves my house at 7:45pm when we’re done dinner. There are even longer days once farmers’ market season begins. I typically work about 100 hours a week May-October. It’s only April and I haven’t picked up my pleasure book in two weeks. This winter’s to-do list still has items from 2012 on it. (On the other hand, I set my own schedule and traveled quite a bit last winter).
Someone asked “how I do it?” I think they meant “How do I actualize the lifestyle?” that I do. I choose it. I then sometimes feel like my own energy for this work is dismissed once it becomes apparent that I don’t have children. Not having children doesn’t mean choosing and activating my lifestyle is a cake walk. It means that I can prioritize differently. This spring I got up in the middle of the night to feed bottle lambs. I may not have done that if I did have children of my own. I also value eating dinner with our crew – another decision I may choose differently if I had a more traditional “family.” Canning tomato sauce is important to me, so I pick a Sunday, or several late evenings, during the bitter end of tomato season and I do it. Burning propane to heat the greenhouse during this cold winter didn’t feel good to me, and now my seedlings are feeling further behind the spring game than I’d like. As a farmer my life is no different than any of yours. I choose and prioritize what feels good to me, and go for it. I make compromises, cheer the successes, and try to shake off the failures. I don’t think any of our lives are easy. Some of us may put more sweat equity into our dreams. All we can do is make decisions and go…
And I find a plan really helps. The following is the rough outline that I and two crew mates made for the coming season. We’ll be flexible, but it gives us something to go off of that helps to maintain our sense of balance and leaning into our ideals.
Sunday: The crew is off, except one fine woman who takes care of animal chores and milking. Lee and I take care of house stuff, paperwork, grocery shop for everyone, and sometimes make it to the beach.
Monday: AM – Big group project; communication with wholesale accounts; PM – Group field walk / learning moment; small harvest; Beth and two 2nd year employees check in about independent projects; we seed micro greens, 1-2 people cultivate or prep planting beds; 3pm-5:30pm Beth does paperwork
Tuesday: AM- Harvest PM- 3-4 folks wash and pack, 4-5 folks transplant
Wednesday: AM – Finish Harvest PM – someone delivers goods to Portland, direct seed in the field, finish transplant related tasks (covering, irrigation, etc.); On-Farm CSA pick-up and open community event “Farm Happy Hour” 4pm-6pm
Thursday: AM- Rockland farmers’ market; hand cultivating PM – greenhouse seeding, micro seeding, late afternoon harvest, post market clean-up and paperwork
Friday: AM – Harvest PM – wash and pack; prep beds for planting, cultivation, flaming, row cover; transplanting
Saturday: Portland farmers’ market; crew works on overflow projects until noon.
and then there are regular chores – making dinner, cleaning up after ourselves, record keeping, animal care, greenhouse care… emails, moving irrigation pipe, fixing the broken part on the tractor, ordering more packing supplies, going to the bank, talking with the family who shows up in the middle of the field…
And now I’m fifteen minutes over my allotted time. Next. I move on happily. And feeling enough completion to do so.