Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Switching gears

It's Week 2 in the city and as I look back I see that I am writing precious little about the farm and probably too much about politics, family, and self.  But, this in itself is a not unimportant lesson to share about farming - no matter how much you love what you do, everybody needs a break now and then.  I'd venture to assert that this is more true relative to farming than to almost anything else because of the sort of relentless nature of this particular beast.

After "Don't raccoons kill your free range chickens?" the question I get asked the most, in one form or another, is "Isn't it just so much work?"  And, honestly, I still haven't formulated an accurate response.  Yes.  And, no.  Sometimes.

It's hard to explain I think primarily because of how our particular culture defines "work."  No, I am not up at 5:30 milking cows or goats, slogging around the back 40 all day, putting up jars and jars of preserves, cooking supper for the family and farmhands, milking again at sunset and then falling exhausted into my grandmother's featherbed.  No, my days actually look nothing like that.  

Neither am I commuting 2 hours each way to sit in my defined space and talk to people via phone, email, or direct human contact 8-10 hours in order to forward my company's product or my organization's goals only to arrive home in time to make supper and collapse in front of the TV.

But, I do have 48 animals and literally countless food and ornamental plants and trees depending on me for their very life.  My body is in action in fits and starts, mostly to do with the heat and/or the rain and also the time of day and the volume of baaing or crowing that permeates the house.  But, always on the shoulders and the brain - is there water?  is there food?  is there shade?  are they eating the trees?  are they destroying the baby yucca?  is that a dog I hear?  did Rob get chicken food in yet?  did I run out of sheep grain on Wednesday (when Gary's closed) AGAIN? 

Is the fence on?  is that a child I hear?  is a lamb caught up in electric netting again?  And, recently, on one of my few days home, why hasn't the cat moved from the rug all day?  (b/c he'd been in a fight and required a trip to the vet and antibiotics to continue on in his merry mousing ways)

So, I'm not ashamed to admit that the city life is a nice break.  I'm also relieved to feel a pinch of homesickness winding its way into my heart and thoughts.  It IS nice to sit in the cool, clean confines of a large coffee purveyor wi-fi'd and iphoned and hip (immediate brown splotches on my white top notwithstanding), but after only these few intermittent days I am catching myself - Mark's excellent caretaking aside - wondering...

I wonder what Mark's up to, if the sheep are baaing, if the chickens are pulling up the baby yucca, if the young willow has water, if there were eggs today, if...if...if....

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