It’s taken me a year, but things finally seem right. When I quit my job last year to go back to school and spend some time on the farm, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next, but when forced to describe it, I would say “something where my life and work are integrated”.
When you commute an hour plus to and from a job in an industry that means nothing to the average person, in a role that you have to spend 20 minutes describing so people have some sense, but not really, of what it is you do all day, it’s hard not to feel the jolt of transition each morning as you leave the house and each evening as you return. Its tough not to feel the anxiety creep in on Sunday night, or worse, the Monday night after a long weekend, when you realize that tomorrow the “work” starts again, and you are locked out of ‘life’ for the next five days. Weekends are very clearly marked. And treasured. Long weekends are a rare gift. These things are held separate, in time and space, from the job. At least they were for me.
For me, because we’re so far from my past workplace, not only in miles but in culture and lifestyle, my social circles were also distinct. I’d certainly invite work friends out to the farm, and many of them have chipped in on a “field day”, but overall, these two worlds rarely mixed.
All of that has changed. But it’s taken some time to get used to. To accept. To become a part of. Now, the days flow together. There is no set schedule – no alarm clock (CSA and markets aside). The people I work with at the Plymouth Farmers’ Market are the same people I share food and drink with at their home or mine. The same people with whom Dave and I sit around the fire outside in the fall and eat some delicious farm-raised beef from the grill. In fact, some days, at the market, we grill up some food while working, and eat, laugh, and talk while doing our “farm thing”. Some of the people who come pick up food at our CSA are also the people with whom I go visit thrift shops, or sit on the farm stand and eat bread with while CSA members pick peas and feed the goats.
Many days I work harder and longer than I did before – and Dave does every day – but it’s not ‘work’ like work used to be. It’s just part of what we’re doing. It’s exhausting, and dirty, and hot, or sometimes cold, but it’s real.
Sunday, I do some school work in the morning and then join Dave at Soule to move the irrigation. It’s warm. I get sprayed by the sprinkler. I’m covered in mud. The piping is heavy as we carry it from the peppers to the squash. But we aren’t rushing. We aren’t trying to meet deadlines. We’re just doing it. And it’s beautiful out. And quiet… except the birds. And there’s a breeze. My arms get tired. There’s dirt all over my shoulders where I carried the pipe. There’s mud between my toes. I’m sweating. But none of that matters. I’m just doing what needs to get done.
Don’t get me wrong – no deadlines doesn’t mean no stress. And it doesn’t mean there isn’t always more to do. Or that you can’t get enough done. It’s just that you can’t rush a zucchini. You can’t hurry the rain. And what needs to get done really does need to get done. You’re growing food. It matters. People get it. People need it.
I used to set requirements for a product that would store the email for big companies, particularly those regulated by the SEC, so if there were lawsuits, or issues, people could get those emails. Now, these companies do ‘require’ this. And I don’t want to disparage my old company, or what many of my friends are still working on. But there is a big difference between doing that and growing food.
I think that old stress has finally dissipated. I still wake up early sometimes dreaming of work, in this case shaking the excess water from swiss chard and laying it to dry, over and over and over again. But it’s different. It’s real.