Tending is Not Quite Toiling

There are many pleasing options for a New England vegetable farmer in January. Our harvesting ended in November, and our cram-in-all-the-rest-of-the-work-before-the-weather-gets-too-bad month of December is over. Mostly the January options feature lots of resting, but resting with just enough effort involved to ward off the guilt of not working at full-on-high-gardening-season speed.

Tend to the wood stove: We have to bring in wood from the woodshed, which allows us to admire all the fruit of our past labors of cutting down, bringing in, cutting up, and stacking all that firewood. We have to re-stack the wood in the firewood ring in the house. We have to build the fire. We have to periodically fill the stove with wood. We have to adjust dampers and flues. We have to clear out ash, and sweep the hearth. We have to lie down in front of the stove, and read our books.

Tend to the work horses: We have to feed hay to our four horses three times a day, which allows us to admire all the fruit of our past labors of mowing, raking, loading, and unloading all that hay. We have to break the ice on the water trough. We have to fill the water trough, every couple of days. We have to clean the stalls and as much of the barnyard as we can, of whatever manure that hasn't already frozen to the ground. We have to give our horses little turnip treats, and pet them, and kiss their noses, and enjoy their contented hay and turnip munching.

Tend to the kitchen: We have to plan our meals, and then fetch the ingredients from the chest freezer or the root cellar, which allows us to admire all the fruit of our past labors, all that chopping and blanching and freezing and canning and drying. We have to cook our meals. We have to wash the pots and pans and plates and silverware. We have to eat the meals, yummy meals made from our very own yummy garden vegetables. We have to get our bellies full, and then miraculously, in a little while, they are empty again, and we have to eat another yummy meal.

Tend to the greenhouses: We have to shovel the snow from the sides of our greenhouse, if the piles heap up too much, which allows us to admire all the fruit of our past labors, digging and drilling and hammering and sawing and swearing as we built each greenhouse (including the fourth and final one, completed just this past December 31st). We also have to dig the greenhouse beds, in preparation for next spring. If it's warm enough, we have to harvest and wash and eat some locally, biodynamically grown incredibly yummy and hardy and beautifully green spinach.

Tend to the taxes: We have to do this in January, as farmers taxes are due sooner than other peoples'. This could be an experience which allows us to admire all the fruit of our past labors, entering in and tallying up our accounts faithfully and dutifully every month all year. However, it is more often a wistful, rather painful period of wishing we had faithfully and dutifully entered all our accounts every month all year. Still, we can anticipate how free and gleeful we will feel in April, when we are enjoying the spring garden work, and all those other peoples are gnashing-their-taxes-teeth.

Tend to the seed catalogs: We have to use our mighty farming muscles to extract the catalogs from our post office box, which is bulging full of seed catalogs this time of year. We have to marvel at all the incredible varieties available, as well as marvel at the linguistic heights the catalog people reach in naming all the new varieties. And we have to try not to order too many of these tempting, fascinating new vegetables, in consideration of both our budget and our labor next year, which, of course, in January, are all in the future, and rosy indeed.

Originally published in the Monadnock Shopper News, Jan 21 – 27, 2015