June on our vegetable farm is when this farmer fantasizes. About what, you may wonder? Resting on a beach, swimming in the ocean, summering in France, taking a nap? No, it is none of these.
In June I fantasize about being a draft horse. What an exquisite thing to be! First of all our draft horses are gorgeous, strong and sleek and elegant. Everyone admires them. All the nice people who come to the farm in June to start picking up their CSA shares say hello to the red-faced, sweaty farmers, but what the people really want is to linger with the draft horses. Everyone wants to pet the horses, feed them, say sweet words to them.
Of course the size and the beauty and the good nature of the horses can’t help but attract such kind attention, but there’s more. People are awed, intrigued, fascinated, by the very manure a draft horse produces.
Yes, the red-faced sweaty farmers certainly prize the poop, shoveling it up and making big shrines of it, covering it with a heavy cloth to protect it, checking it periodically and oohhing and ahhing over its transformation into rich black compost.
Then there are children of a certain age, and of a certain relaxed, liberal parentage, who revel in horse manure as well. Those adventurous, happy children take enormous pleasure in removing socks and shoes and then walking barefoot repeatedly through the freshest, squishiest pile of horse manure available. It’s hard to resist, and enormously satisfying, particularly when one watches the faces of any nearby adult.
In June, the horse manure is especially nice and squishy, since another draft horse delight this time of year is green grass. The horses are out on pasture, and that makes for happy horses. They buck, they kick, they run, they snort. They’ve got lots of room, and they’ve got lots to eat. They can doze in the shady woods, and then eat. They can gallop around and then eat. They can rest from galloping and eating, and then eat. Oh, what a life!
In the pasture there’s no halter, no lead ropes, no harness! And yet in June the horses are in fine shape, muscled from the spring plowing and compost-spreading, discing and harrowing. They are in fine shape, feeling good, feeling fit, but there is a lovely lull now in draft horse duties, before haying season and fall preparation of the garden come on strong. A horse can feel wild and free, on the plains or the steppes, living out an unfettered wild horse life!
Then of course, there are the times in June when a draft horse welcomes a halter, demands a halter, or at least demands a person come open the gate and give access to the cool, fly-free, dark stable. June can be hot and buggy, and at five or six in the morning the horses come galloping to the gate. Let us in!
And what do we obedient farmers do? We let them in. We scratch their itchy chins and bellies. We feed them tasty scraps from our harvesting: outside leaves of lettuce, already blooming pac choi, wilted greens, carrot tops, just in case the horses work up a hunger loafing in the stable.
We also admire their calm and beauty and good nature as we race around sweaty and red-faced all day, saying hello, how are you back to our nice CSA members, and weeding and planting and planning and harvesting and keeping the accounts and making lists and feeding ourselves and washing the dishes and fixing the fence and and and . . .
Oh to be a draft horse! In June!
Originally published in the Monadnock Shopper News, Jun 11 – Jun 17, 2014