The Farmer's Footsteps - Presence
My previous blog installment was all about balance at the farm, and how MAYBE Todd and I were achieving it in life. Quick update: still working at it! As anybody who has done any kind of dance or exercise knows – balance requires stamina, persistence, and incredible strength. Every day that we are present at the farm and in our work, we seem to be getting a little bit closer.
People have asked both Todd and me, “what does your work day consist of??” It’s a fair question, and our days can be just as mundane as they once were. We have a sit-down meeting once a week, with an actual agenda that’s populated by topics/issues that we email to our farm email account. Our meetings cover everything from animal feed to marketing to why I haven’t written the next blog post (oops), and our discussions help us structure our schedule for the week. Meetings with your spouse are not all that much better than any other meeting, and we still have to work to stay on topic and be fully engaged in our discussions!
We have a set of chores to do every day – move cows, move chickens, feed chickens, gather eggs – and honestly these tasks don’t always take that much time. When we do the bare minimum, we can get onto and back off of the farm pretty speedily. But the lasting effect is just that – bare. Our long-term vision of stewardship for the farm and the land requires being both physically and mentally present at the farm, and it involves everything from arduous work to quiet observation.
To be honest, Todd is WAY better at the quiet observation part. Often, after he moves the cows to a fresh paddock, he likes to sit and observe them. He watches how they interact with each other, how much grass they eat in one spot before moving on, if they lay down or keep standing, how often they’re chewing cud – you know, all those very interesting cow behaviors. During these quiet moments, Todd is able to refocus and he ALWAYS comes to me with zillions of new ideas!
Sometimes our days consist of the unexpected. Rain and severe weather override all other plans, and we have to drop what we’re doing to go to the farm and prepare the animals for whatever Mother Nature is pushing our way. During these rushed moments, we are all in and focused on the single tasks at hand. Some of our tasks are less intense but still just as unexpected. Right now, we are working with a consultant, and I spent a day running around taking photos of grasses, cow manure, bulls, chickens, mobile coops, fencing – if it was on the farm, we sent a photo. Never in my life did I imagine I would be considering the best lighting and angle to photograph bull testicles…but here I am (free photo tip: a cloudy day and a zoom lens that lets you stand FAR AWAY are your best bets!!).
The best days at the farm are the ones when both of us are there together, after the routine chores are finished, and we can work on some of our on-going projects (like the farm store!). We are learning to forget “multi-tasking” in favor of “single-tasking”. It helps that 1) we don’t have electricity at the farm yet and 2) cell phone service isn’t the greatest. One of the most liberating things about being self-employed is that you have incredible flexibility in what you do during your day – but you’re also the only one doing it. If you aren’t at the farm or at the house working, whatever task or project you had planned just doesn’t get done. We are learning that the hardest part is committing to OURSELVES to show up and follow our timelines.
The bottom line is that producing food is not easy, and producing highly nutritious food in a non-conventional way is a huge challenge. It’s a challenge we are excited to pursue, especially when we hear from you guys about how much you are enjoying what we are able to provide for you! As we continue to work, problem-solve, and put our focus and energy into our farm dreams, we can really see things taking off!