When she bought the farm she had grandiose dreams of how it would be: growing all her own food and operating a little farm stand out by the highway or maybe running a CSA delivery on the weekends. She’d be tired but happy, dirty and fit, responsible to no one but herself and completely self-sufficient. It was such a naive but beautiful dream.
Looking back on journals from that time, from before she knew what she was getting into, was such a laugh. Such a treat on a cold winter day, her body aching to get back out to the soil and also grateful for a few months respite. She both dreaded and anticipated the first hard snow, eager to have a couple months to read, mend, try new recipes, and come up with new ideas for how to use her harvest.
She loved her life, there was certainly nothing about it that she’d change. But it wasn’t easy. Her mother had once warned her, “I’d never want to be a farmer. So much work and so little reward.” At the time that had made her decision all the more romantic, all the more laudable, all the more magical and necessary and pure.
Even in winter there wasn’t really a “break” from the farm. There were still animals to care for morning and evening, still fence to ride, tools and clothes that needed mending, supplies to order, decisions about planting the next years crops to make, and all the marketing stuff she didn’t have time to do during the growing season. Emails and newsletters and recipes and ideas and thank-yous and and and and….
There was never a time where she sat with nothing to do. Never. In fact, there were times where she’d realize she’d been staring at the fire for twenty minutes, completely lost in thought and she’d begin to chastise herself for the lapse before realizing that twenty minutes had created a truly novel idea. She’d quickly write it down before she lost it and then spend the next hour working on whatever sock needed darning or newsletter needed fluffing all the while the new idea simmering around in the back of her mind.
Her fourth year into the farm was her best yet. She’d finally broken even. She hadn’t made any money, nothing she could say “look, here it is, my profit. I am profitable!” but she also hadn’t lost any money for the very first year. She took this as a good sign and looked back over what she’d done that had made money and what she’d done that had lost money. She did this every year, of course, in a struggle to always do better and strive to make her dream a realistic reality, a sustainable reality.
She was looking forward to her fifth year and had just finished the design for the newsletters, the majority of their info for each month pre-filled and ready to go allowing for her one hour each month of current information (the part her subscribers claimed was their favorite). The weekly emails were also pre-formatted and ready with recipe ideas based on what she knew for a fact would be included in that weeks CSA no matter what, and also with a small space for her to add whatever interesting bit came up that week (again, her subscribers favorite section).
Her subscribers loved that her life seemed so free to them. The stories of the barn cat that moved in from nowhere and proceeded to have a littler of kittens. The rooster she’d decided to let live because he protected the flock from a renegade coyote one day. The goose she lost to a mountain lion after she failed to bring the animals in one night. Even when the news was morbid her subscribers loved it.
She was living the life they all wished they could live, but didn’t really want to live. They just wanted her fresh produce, to know they were supporting her lifestyle, to tell their friends how they personally knew the woman who grew their food. And she was grateful for it. All of it. She worked hard to keep them well fed physically and emotionally.
She spent a lot of time coming up with all the right instructions for bottling your kombucha, dehydrating your own beef jerky, canning tomatoes with an InstaPot. She worked hard to find not only the things that worked but that her clients loved. Some of her clients even tried the things she told them about although most of them again loved the ideas she provided more than the practice.
She would occasionally stop to think about the things she’d given up: marriage, kids, a solid retirement fund. She’d sometimes become nearly paralyzed with the anxiety of these things she’d chosen to miss out on in order to live her dream. But these moments didn’t last long, and didn’t happen often, and as the years went by they became less of a hazard.
And then one day, early in the spring, when it was still too cold to start working the soil but warm enough to be out doing things like mucking stalls, she broke a pitchfork. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, she’d just go grab a secondary pitchfork and continue her chores. But on this day, she’d already broken her main pitchfork and had been using the auxiliary fork when the unmistakable crack of the wooden handle met her ears at the same time as she tried to quickly right herself before falling, all the weight at the end of the handle suddenly gone and all her strength at the other end of the handle still straining.
She’d have to buy another, and it couldn’t wait. She’d be able to fix the first pitchfork with some soldering but that would take time and wasn’t something she could do today and still complete her chores. She’d have to go into town.
~~~That’s one hour~~~