I’ve planned out so many thoughtful, creative, official “first farm blog” posts, but I haven’t succeeded at writing them down. So, in the name of words on the screen, I’ll barrel forth.
I moved onto the farm about three weeks ago. The first week was a whirlwind. I had to get my body into the rhythm of early days and nights and protracted physical labor, and my mind into the reality of abandoning familiar surroundings and routines. There’s the shock of leaving behind one of my cats and my dear, wonderful roommate and moving away from friends I used to be able to pop down the hall or next door to visit with. Then there’s moving into someone else’s space, and trying not to be a bother to friends you adore, even though you’re living on top of them.
The last year, though, has been pretty constant change, so I was better prepared for the transition—and since I’m planning on living in a yurt, I ought to be amenable to a nomadic life.
With the help of a lot of neighbors and friends, we got the big greenhouse built AND planted before Ben and Patricia and Elliott went off to Germany. There wasn’t much to do in terms of preparing the farm for their absence, other than giving me a refresher course on the tunnels and a list of chores to accomplish.
Right before Christmas, Ben allowed a high school student to complete his school project on the farm; C was required to do 15 hours of farm work and write a report about it. Of those 15 hours, he probably spent 2-3 harvesting and 2-3 planting—in other words, about a third of it was what you expect to do on a farm. The rest of the work involved marking beds, pulling up drip tape, stakes, and string from the old pepper and tomato fields (in our defense, the baby was born at the end of pepper and tomato season!), washing and sorting produce, building the greenhouse, building a high tunnel, and weeding.
That’s exactly what I love about farming (and what scares me about doing it on my own)—it’s so diverse, and there are constantly new problems to solve.
While P&B&E (peanut butter and Elliott) have been away, I’ve washed all the produce bins, cultivated carrots, turnips, and spinach, washed racks to go in the walk-in cooler, washed the walk-in cooler, washed and packed eggs, cultivated berries, fed the chickens lots of leftover produce, cleaned the chicken yard, cleaned up the seedling tunnel and watered seedlings, built a low tunnel, raised and lowered tunnels as needed, got my truck stuck in the mud, got my truck out of the mud with help from a neighbor, finished pulling drip take, lay drip tape in the new greenhouse, et cetera!
I’ve also begun planning out my own agricultural ventures. In addition to helping with what Ben and Patricia have already established, I’m planning on adding flowers, mushrooms, herbs and my own chickens to the mix. I’ve spent quite a lot of time poring over catalogs and dreaming up the ideal chicken tractor—but, as of yet, I haven’t spent any money. I’m waiting to consult with P&B, and I have a very non-agricultural vacation coming up to worry about.
So far, I’m happy. I spend a lot of time laughing at Charlie, the dog, and laughing or yelling at the chickens. (I planted bulbs around the house, and it’s been hard to keep the damn birds away from them.) It’s amazing to spend so much time outside, but also surprises me how easy it is to not notice the nature around me. I have to remind myself to stop and watch for bluebirds or the resident red tail hawk, because I get so caught up in the work.
I’m ready for peanut butter and Elliott to get back. I miss hearing the baby laugh, and I miss waking up to coffee and good company (I’m so, so spoiled). I like hard, dirty, demanding work, but I like it even better when it’s shared with people I love. Being alone is too easy, in some ways.
Thinking of being alone, I listened and watched a few hundred starlings whipping around the sky this afternoon. When I was a child, I watched starlings at the bird feeder with my grandmother; as an adult, they are the subject of one of my favorite poems, “Starlings in Winter” by Mary Oliver. My family crest tattoo features a starling, for those reasons and because, most importantly, starlings are never alone, and as I watched the starlings today, I thought about how hard it is to be afraid when you are surrounded by loved ones.