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A Time and A Season
Ethel Mae, age 16 in 1900 - Granny
I just finished a summer-long marathon of preparation for a festival where I sold my soaps, salves, jams, as well as a bunch of other homemade stuff. For weeks my kitchen looked like a small production plant. Since the close of the festival, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on where I’ve been and where I’m going. A number of years ago I left an extremely stressful job (counseling trauma victims as a Licensed Professional Counselor) to pursue a more “simple life” and I found it in farming. But I wouldn’t call it a simple life. Old McDonald’s Farm, or any other children’s songs or books depicting farm life paint a rather idyllic picture. Likewise, I have never seen an advertisement selling milk or eggs or fresh vegetables or any other farm product that shows a farmer mucking stalls, trimming hooves, breaking ice off watering troughs or soaking wet with sweat from hoeing in the summer’s sun. Don’t get me wrong – I find great joy in my work on an urban farm as well as my homestead, but the pictures I post on Facebook or on my blog are always pretty – the lovely at the end of a lot of hard work. I love making and selling my own soap and creating products that don’t contain chemicals, and I enjoy canning what I grow using organic practices. But here’s the challenge – finding balance - a balance between hard work and rest, like planting and weeding gardens and then actually sitting long enough to notice the beauty of what I’ve grown.
Then I think of my Granny – my grandfather’s mother. She grew a garden large enough to not only feed her own family, but to feed other families fortunate enough to purchase her produce. Once Grandpa moved her further out of town to more land, she drove twenty miles from home by horse and buggy to sell to her loyal customers. And on top of that, she had seven children, no indoor plumbing, no electricity, and cooked on a wood burning stove long before living off grid was a popular lifestyle!
I guess what I need to ask myself is why I’m doing what I’m doing, and that question brings me back to my homestead mission statement which reads, “To create a peaceful and fruitful oasis (homestead) that supports both physical life (us, the earth, animals, and all living things) and emotional well-being in a financially sound way.” That sounds so lovely on paper! Now how do I make it a reality? While the festival was one of the ways I’m trying to be financially sound, too many 15 hour days negates the peaceful part of my goal. Then I think about Granny and remember that her gardening, weeding, picking, and selling season was just that – a season. Winter always follows the hectic pace of spring planting, summer growing and fall harvesting. In the cold of those months the weeds lie dormant, the bees stay tucked in their hives awaiting warmer weather, food preserved in glass jars line the shelves waiting for family dinners, and even the chickens take a rest from daily egg laying. So in those moments I feel bone weary and question my sanity for beginning my farming career so late in life, I remind myself that no season lasts forever, and before the cold retreats in the spring, I will be looking at seed catalogs and recipe books - eager to do it all over again.