Honestly, there are few things sillier than a New England vegetable farmer in December. A December farmer is prone to tumultuous tears and loopy laughter, prone to giddy gales of glee and riotous roars of relief, prone to alarming amounts of alliteration and crazy columns.
Why? Because another harvest season has been surmounted! We pulled it off again! Three months of pre-harvest work, followed by six months of harvest work: week after week, vegetable after vegetable, planted, watered, weeded, picked, sorted, washed, and distributed to CSA members and Farmer's Market customers. But now it's over!
Every bad bug or dreadful drought or foul flood of the season is now in the past; every worrisome weed or irritating irrigation incident or determined deer forcing a fence is just a memory. Now is the time we get to rest and read and revel, wonder and write and wax eloquent (or weloquent, as the case may be).
Now is also the time when ordinarily vexing things (such as the excessive use of alliteration!) seem charming and delightful. Sink full of dirty dishes? Wow! That's fantastic! We have lots of time to wash them! Laundry room floor covered with dirty laundry! Wow! That's fantastic! We have lots of time to wash it! Bedroom floor covered with clean laundry? Wow! That's fantastic! We have lots of time to fold it and put it away!
Email inbox overflowing with messages? No problem! We love sitting in front of the computer! School carpool drivers gone traveling? No problem! We'll take an extra shift! (Or hey! Too many exclamation points in one short Shopper column? No problem! We vegetable farmers get the Dizzy December Dispensation!)
In the same vein, ordinarily agreeable things on the farm become even more pleasing once the harvest season has ended. For example, there are many times during the year when a farmer might come across a draft horse in urgent need of petting under the chin and scratching on the withers. In the gardening season, the petting and scratching is more likely to lead to full-on grooming, harnessing, and going out to the field to plow or disc or harrow.
But in winter, pleasant petting and scratching just leads to more pleasant petting and scratching, which is satisfying to both petter and pettee, scratcher and scratchee. The horse are winter-warm and fuzzy, and smell so sweet, and they like a good massage very, very much. Especially when it's followed by munching hay out of the manger, which is followed by soaking up the sunshine.
Sunshine, of course, is another one of the ordinarily agreeable things that are even more pleasing this time of chilly year. Weather, in general, is more pleasing in the winter, when a farmer is not trying to persuade vegetables to grow despite hail or drought or flood. In winter, there's only the snow to shovel from the greenhouses, and the wood to bring from the woodshed. Gosh, what's a howling snow storm or an inch of ice matter when you don't have any tender lettuce transplants or just germinated carrots struggling to survive?
Darkness, too, is more enjoyable this season of the year. It is always kind of nice when it gets to be dusk in the summer: time to hang up the tools, time to lead the horses out to pasture, time to enjoy a quick salad supper and fall into bed. In December, since it's dusk in the middle of the afternoon, it's all kinds of nice in the dark: a leisurely meal, and a long evening in front of the fire, considering sewing repairs or tool repairs or inside-of-the-house-falling-apart repairs, but not actually doing them. Because it's only December! We've just finished the season! We have all winter! First let's have some fun!
Even holidays are more vegetable farmer friendly in the winter. In the summer, the world always seem to be going on vacation or swimming or watching fireworks when there's hay to be cut and raked and picked up, or weeding to be done. But in the winter, that same world kindly offers millions of potlucks and parties and concerts and holiday fairs and festivities, just at the perfect time for a celebrating end-of-the-season vegetable farmer. And, as you can imagine, it's especially pleasing, and well-nigh irresistible to a silly, dizzy, wild December farmer, to send this alliterative greeting out to the world: Happy Holidays! Ho! Ho! Ho!
Originally published in the Monadnock Shopper News, Dec 21 - 27, 2016