Like every job out there, the farm has great and not so great things about it. I happen to think the good outweighs the bad. If you want to judge for yourself, here is a list of seven hard things about the farm, and the next blog will be seven good things. I don’t call them bad because they aren’t bad. They are hard things, difficult things, complicated things. But not bad, or the worst. They are the not so fun parts of farming.
- Putting on frost cloths
This is by far the most miserable job here on the farm. Fortunately, we don’t have to do it that often. The row covers or frost cloths are essentially giant sheets (30 feet by 600 feet) that are put over the strawberries and sometimes tomatoes and peppers to protect the sensitive flowers and fruit from a freeze. The covers are heavy and will catch the slightest breeze. No one likes putting them out, or taking them back off. It is hard work and always coupled with the worry that you are going to lose part of your crop.
- Pulling rows
This I think is more of a personal problem. It is important that rows be pulled straight and tight. I can pull the row tight but straight, OH boy that is a different matter altogether. I have the attention span of a toddler.* Staying focused for the length of the field is nearly impossible, and the moment your attention wanders so does your row. This becomes problematic when it comes time to lay plastic mulch. Part of laying plastic mulch is scraping dirt from between the rows and using it to hold the mulch down. If the rows are too close or wander then you end up ripping up the mulch from one row while trying to put mulch down in the next row. This is obviously a problem. A problem that starts with pulling rows.
- The weeding
The act of weeding itself is not so bad. Pulling up weeds, I find to be quite cathartic. However, what makes this one of the hard things about farming is the relentlessness of it. This is a never ever ever ending task. Just when you think you have got the weeds under control you turn around and find they have taken over the other half of the farm while you blinked. While you can look back and see what you have accomplished in the past hour or half day it is always with a sense of dread, knowing not only will all your work be undone in a few days, but there is that other field, row, crop that you haven’t gotten to yet. This can be very discouraging, the weeding you did today, you will have to do again next week and next month and next year.
- The whole month of August
This is my least favorite thing about the farm. Seriously. August is just gross and hot. I have to say two of my brothers have birthdays in August so I can’t say I hate the month. But working during August is hard. I also feel compelled to add that September is no picnic either. But August is just discouraging. It has been hot, it currently is hot, and it will keep being hot. Except for my brothers I could skip the whole month.
- The dirt everywhere
Do not start a farm unless you are willing to accept the dirt life. It does not matter if you have a mud room, or sweep everyday, or have a roomba. The floors will always have dirt on them. ALWAYS. The dirt will also somehow end up in your couch, your bathtub, your bed, your clean clothing, and kitchen sink. It will probably clog all your drains, and your clothing will need a full rinse cycle before the wash cycle. After a particularly long day the dirt will be in your hair, eyes, ears, between your toes, and of course, under your nails. Personally, I have long stopped caring about dirt. I didn’t care very much before I started this*, but the two drops of concern I felt have long since evaporated.
- Never go anywhere
Unlike many, many things farms cannot be left to themselves. Plants and animals require care everyday of the year. Even on my “off” days, I work a couple hours. I always do. I couldn’t leave this farm if I wanted to.** If you have dreams of traveling, or visiting family in other states, or going to conventions*** banish them if you start a farm. I do miss it some, but not nearly like I thought I would. There is so much on the farm to keep me busy and interested that I do not feel like I am missing out on anything.
- More work than time
Last and most important, the work never ever stops on a farm. Ever. Even when you are “caught up” you still have to think of the next seasons, and the tools that need fixing or replacing or are going to need fixing or replacing. One of the hardest things about farming (or running a business of any kind I am told) is that you never stop working. You have to be able to work sun up to sun down then get on a computer or go into town, or work in the shop. This can be crushing if you do not know how to leave it when you are done. When you go to bed at night you have to leave what is undone, undone. You cannot carry all the things you need to do with you all the time. If you do, you will get nothing done. The amount of work a farm generates is endless in the most literal sense. For every weed you pull there are 1,000 seeds waiting to become weeds in your fields. For every crop you grow successfully, there is the next season and the same crop next year. Farming will drain you dry if you let it. You will pour yourself into the soil and have nothing to show for it in two months. You have to love it, and be a little crazy, and know when you are done for the day. ****
There are many, many, many very hard things about farming. You don’t become a farmer because it is easy or simple or comfortable. Farming will challenge you in ways you cannot predict. I have had days where I am convinced I made a mistake, days where I get nothing done. I do not want to ever tell someone that farming is easy or that anyone could so it, or for the faint of heart. Farming is for the strong, the brave, the clever person. While it may have it’s awful moments it more than makes up for it in the rewards it offers those that fight for it.
Until next time,
*Which is probably one of the things that made me suited to start a farm.
**It’s like Stockholm syndrome because you can’t go anywhere, so you tell yourself you do not want to go anywhere and eventually it becomes true.
***other than conventions about what you grow on your farm.
**** I could talk about this for a while so I will do a separate blog post about what this looks like for me and my farm.