Ho. Ly. Mo. Ly. That just about sums up my thoughts on our first spring on our first attempt at a real homestead. Wow. It’s a lot of work. I’ve heard those words uttered before- yeah yeah, farming is hard work. Obviously. It’s manual labor and any type of physical job can be considered hard work. What I didn’t realize was just how constant and time consuming hard work can be. It’s not just that you’re tired and aching and sweating. It’s that you’re emotionally invested in October already- when you envision fields of corn stalks, pumpkins as far as the eye can see and a Thanksgiving feast made from all of your own ingredients. But. It’s only June. And all of that produce is sitting in a paper bag on your kitchen counter in the form of seeds that arrived in March, when you still had energy to be excited about them.
Well, June came and went. It was the longest, but shortest, month I’ve ever seen. Does that make sense? It seemed as though everything needed to be done at once. The ground needed to be prepared, the seeds needed to be planted, the seedlings transplanted, the perennial gardens weeded, the strawberries and asparagus needed harvesting, the pregnant goat might be going into labor any minute, the fence needed to be fixed, the eggs in the incubator were hatching, the egg production in the barn was exploding, the turkey hen was setting on eggs- or was she?, the lawn needed to be mowed, the compost pile turned, the animal pens cleaned out and the chicks in the grow out pen needed to be moved into a larger space. Plus my husband (and muscle and mechanic and father to my children and support system) went to Alaska for two weeks. There was that, too. (And just so that it doesn’t sound like I’m looking for a pity party too much, we won’t mention the full-time job, 3 dogs or 2 children that require at least a little bit of my energy. Or the annual summer/birthday party that was looming at the end of the month.) Okay, I mentioned them. Pity me. Thank you. I may have overdone it by promising 10 gallons of homemade ice cream and much of the rest of the menu. It was my own darn fault and I learned my lesson. I digress.
The days got longer in June. Which was a blessing and a curse. There was so much to do that I needed the extra daylight- but that also meant that there was no excuse for bagging in early and getting a full night’s sleep. Once we got home from work and school, the goats were milked, the eggs collected, the animals fed and the dogs exercised, there was still more that needed to be done. The gardens needed to be weeded and watered, the kids needed dinner and a bath and we were overdue for a phone call with Grandma. Some of it got done, some of it didn’t. We ate spaghetti more than I care to admit and the kids weren’t always sparkling clean when they were tucked in much later than usual. Our gardens are smaller than they were in my mind, but they are larger than they were last year. It’s progress.
And then there was the haying. I was lucky enough to be inducted into the haying team on a cool spring day, picking up first cutting bales in our family’s field. With all of the help and excitement it hardly seemed like work. But I know it will get worse. (And to be fair, Harley, his parents, and grandparents did the second batch without me on a much hotter June afternoon.) The hot, humid days of summer are growing the grass just fast enough to ensure that we’ll be out there again before the autumn breeze arrives.
Between the rushing and planting and milking and watering and harvesting and cleaning, there is an ever so small window for fulfillment. But it is there. It is evident. And it persists. The reward is in the sun-warmed strawberry that you grab as you walk by the garden that is perfectly ripe- and you just can’t pass by without tasting it. It’s in the spinach salad that was washed by the rain from the thundershower that swept over your property to relieve you from watering after dark (again) and then kept on going. It’s in the raw milk yogurt that you toss into your lunch bag as you’re heading out the door, and then allows you to think about home and how you miss it during your lunch break while driving in the company car. And most of all- it’s in the smiles and giggles of the children as they play with the baby goat. It’s in the developing muscles you see in your son as he pushes his mini wheelbarrow around the yard. It’s in the flower that your daughter hands you from amidst the weeds she’s helping you to pull. It’s in the sense of pride that you have when you finally lie down at night to count your blessings. Dirty feet and all.
Come on July. Bring it on.