December is generally a celebratory month on our New Hampshire vegetable farm. Our CSA season is officially over, our Farmers' Market season is winding down, and our time taking naps and reading by the woodstove is picking up nicely.
This year, however, it has taken us a little longer to recover. We had an excellent plan way back in February: all our new fence supplies would be delivered early in March, after the maple sap season, and before the full-on garden season. We would rapidly, happily and efficiently put up our wildlife exclusion fence, taking breaks from the possible brisk March weather by working in the heated greenhouse.
We would be finished with our big project by mid-March or so, and then we would have plenty of time to gaze gratefully at the new fence, come to us thanks to a Natural Resources Conservation Service grant. Plus we would have lots of time to plow, disc, spread compost, harrow, plant, weed, and get the vegetable distribution shed in order for the end of May, when we begin harvesting.
Yes, 'twas a lovely, laughable plan.
It turned out, despite multiple clear, firm phone calls and emails, followed by multiple pleading, begging phone calls and emails, all of which were equally ineffective, that the March fence materials did not materialize until the end of May. This had quite a decelerating effect on our plan.
Of course, we still gazed gratefully, but now it was not at a beautifully completed fence, but at enormous piles of possible fence. The piles included: 6 locust posts, 50 cedar posts, 150 metal posts, 5 rolls of woven fencing (weighing 330 lbs each), 500 plus staples, 1000 plus fence clips, three fancy new gates, and 125 one foot long white pieces of fabric to be tied at a four foot height so that the deer would see the fence.
And two farmers, who began to believe that lying in a pile on the ground might be a fine idea indeed.
But we had a fence-completion deadline to meet, and we swung into action. We had some help, thankfully, in setting the wooden posts. Then the two of us, and our farmer daughter, scrambled from garden to fence and back again for what seemed like decades, but was merely a matter of weeks. By the time the fence was really and truly finished, in early July, everything else on the farm was really and truly in a riotous mess, and we scrambled for the whole rest of the season, trying to catch up.
Did we ever catch up? Not really. But as we raced around, we reminisced about our early years of work, with a brand new baby, a brand new team of horses, and a brand new farm.
“This summer feels a lot like then, doesn't it?” we would say to each other, and “No big projects next year, right?” As the season advanced, and the farmers grew wearier, and perhaps a mite testier, our conversations turned into “This is the worst season ever!” and “No big projects ever again! Never, ever again!”
On the brighter side of it all, at the end of the season, one of our long-time CSA members said, “This has been the best year ever!”
“Really?” we said, a little surprised, a little doubtful.
“Oh yeah! Top three anyway! Definitely top three!”
Well, gee, maybe? Amongst all the scramble, we did harvest and distribute and eat a lot of delicious fresh vegetables this season. And not a single deer ate one bite of them.
(Well, except for that brief period when the troublesome old gate was down and the fancy new gate was not yet properly mounted. We cleverly solved this deer dilemma by leaning the fancy new gate on the fancy new posts. It worked like a charm, until the fancy new gate fell on to one of the plain old farmers, which may be what started the “Never, ever again” chant.)
But even better, this big project, this fine fence, is supposed to last for thirty years, which gets the farmers up to nearly eighty years old, at which time we might consider it appropriate to hand over big projects to other fine farming folk. Thus we will be able to spend thirty years gazing gratefully at our very completed fence, and the memories of a tough season will fade into funny stories. In fact, the memories are already softening, because it is December, and the garden year is over, and we get to celebrate the the holidays, and, best of all, we have the woodstove and the couch waiting.
Originally published in the Monadnock Shopper News, Dec 20-Dec 26, 2017