Whistle While You Work

June 1, 2012

My favorite episode of I Love Lucy is the one where she and Ethel go to work in a chocolate factory and are assigned to wrap chocolates that pass by on a conveyor belt. The belt speeds up and they can’t keep up so they start stuffing candies in their mouths to hide them. Life on the farm is a little bit like that right now. The days speed by, and it’s impossible to keep up. You know what you’re supposed to do, what the next thing on the (mega) chore list is, but just when you decide to go plant that row of beans, a crow flies into the barn and gets stuck in a window, the dog throws up something he’s found behind the barn, three customers come down the driveway looking for eggs (and you’re all out), and Sugar the Aracauna chicken has escaped from the chicken yard again and is digging a dust bath in the perennials. And drat, you realize you forgot to check on the babies (the baby chicks), who are really teenagers now and eat and drink like crazy.

You must look pretty silly, you realize, with a hen tucked under one arm, a jug of water under the other, trying to shake a stick at a crow, and check the inside of the dog’s mouth all at the same time.

You finally decide to go inside and get some work done (work as in recipe-testing, writing, that sort of thing), but pass by the garden on your way in and realize every single bed needs watering, the cover has blown off the arugula, and you haven’t dealt with those earwigs that are eating the bok choy or the weeds taking over the chard bed. There are two hundred tomato plants, half of them knocked over by the wind, staring at you, saying, “plant me, plant me.” You check the farm stand and it is out of lettuce, so you have to decide whether to harvest more or to go out to the road and erase “lettuce” from the sign. There are eight flats of peppers and eggplant seedlings on the work table waiting to get transplanted into bigger pots and a flat of basil begging to go in the ground.

Back inside, you recalibrate and set a very simple goal—a recipe test using three ingredients—rhubarb jam. Whew, you manage to accomplish that, but then complicate your life by trying to pull off a grilled chicken recipe test for dinner. You go collect the last of the day’s eggs, trek to the compost pile, put Sugar back in the pen again, and go inside and start chopping ginger and garlic just as Roy pulls in.

Discussion ensues: Do we work or eat? It’s a toss-up…we thought maybe we’d finish digging the beds for the tomatoes tonight, but Roy also wants to get some work done on the babies’ big-girl coop, which has risen to the top of the priority list. He needs to move some brush, too, so as the sun slowly sinks, he moves from tractor to mower to tiller to shovel. From yard to garden to bed. I finish watering, organize the tomatoes, move bags of cow manure into the garden.

It’s time to lock up the ladies (the hens) for the night, set the rat traps (yes, rats), cover the brooder box, shut the garden gate. Move all the flats of peppers and eggplants back inside. Turn off the hoses. Cover the hay with a tarp. Rake. Pick up odd bits of trash. Watch the bunnies come out to feed. Shut down the farm stand, bring in the sign, record the day’s sales. Plan tomorrow morning’s harvest. Where did the day go? In only a few hours, the alarm will be going off, and we’ll be doing it all over again: Harvest, wash, water, weed, dig, till, plant, mow, tie, clip, cut, cook, grill, nail, sand, haul, stake, scoop, pin, rake, level, sweat, smile, laugh.

10 thoughts on “Whistle While You Work

  1. David Anderson

    I love that “I love Lucy” scene—a wonderful metaphor for contemporary life–a conveyor belt of “goodies” that is coming at us too fast. and we feel this need to consume it all…. I think I”m starting to write a blog post, so I will stop.

    Thanks.

  2. Susie Middleton Post author

    Well, you should continue writing that post as I would enjoy reading it! Plus, I need it. You’d think I would have learned by now…at least now I get frustrated over too many things that I want to do, which is at least better than being frustrated by too many things that other people want me to do! But recovery takes time…thanks, david and enjoyed your grace post a lot

  3. Nina

    Wow – I forgot what life on the farm could be like. I was a kid back when we did farm life for a while, so I didn’t have nearly the amount of responsibilities you do. But it’s amazing how much real work you are accomplishing compared to those of us who live in the suburbs who think we don’t have enough time in the day.

    These days I spend a lot of my time in front of the computer. My goal is to be more purposeful about making choices each day in how I spend my time and where I place my focus. The things that distract me are not nearly as important as catching escaped chickens, watering plants, replanting tomatoes … farm life is busy, but I can tell that you enjoy a full life and real living there.

  4. Susie Middleton Post author

    Hi Mom — your comment went through; sometimes it just takes a while! Well, I think of Dad a lot when I’m doing this stuff for sure! plants, plants and more plants! Roy finished the new coop this weekend and the babies are in their new home–will post pix soon!

  5. Susie Middleton Post author

    Yes, Nina, I enjoy it very much. I still have to spend time behind a computer but I always know that I can get up and walk outside at any time…it’s a very good life which I’m grateful for…thanks for reading and stick with your good direction!

  6. Sharyn

    Susie, Just found your blog via TheSplendid Table. Love it! I am a creative professional, too, and an avid gardener. When the art work makes my neck and eyes fatigued, I am off on a break to weed or fight the slug wars.

    We live on the opposite coast from yours, but live a lifestyle you would recognize. The garden fuels the art, which fuels the garden, which feeds us to fuel the art…

    I will be back and enjoy reading more about your garden, your book and a life that looks remarkably similar to mine!

  7. Susie Middleton Post author

    Hi Sharyn — So glad you found sixburnersue! It’s true — the garden really does provide so much inspiration–it’s almost overwhelming, all those little worlds of beauty out there! Will check our your blog and thanks, Susie

  8. Pingback: Moving Day—The Baby Chicks Get a Big-Girl Coop — cooking fresh and eating green with susie middleton

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