December is a restful month on our vegetable farm. Sure, there’s lots of things to do yet: feed the four workhorses, three times a day; finish clearing out the two greenhouses; roll up the last of the irrigation hoses and the last of the row cover; fix everything that’s broken over the season; put away tools, machinery, harvest buckets, crates; catch up on office work.
But the long haul of the year is over, the pressure of regular planting, cultivating, harvesting, production, is over. After nine months of unremitting farming, December lets us take a deep breath.
Or at least my farming fellow does. I have a harder time letting go of my lists. Granted, I love to make lists, love to cross tasks off my lists, and I also love to make lists for other people, so that they too can have the wonderful pleasure of accomplishment.
Accordingly, I start my December day with a mental list: breakfast, morning writing, pay the bills, calculate just how much oof-we-don’t-want-to-but we-got-to off the farm work is necessary to make the rest of the winter’s budget. Then sort the green tomatoes, cook the potatoes with problems, tuck the winter potatoes and carrots and beets into the root cellar. And outside: put the honeybee equipment away, finish clearing the small greenhouse, get some more wood into the woodshed, reorganize the tool area, clean the horse stalls . . .
My list is always much longer than any possible day could contain, but hey! It’s first thing in the morning! What a day it could be! What a day of accomplishment and crossing off of items!
After breakfast for the horses and for us, I am still full of list enthusiasm, and I ask my farming fellow what his plans for the day are.
“Oh,” he answers, yawning, “ I don’t really like to have a plan for this time of year.”
I laugh. “No, really,” I say.
“Well, I could make one, if you really want . . .”
“Yeah,” I answer, thinking of the nice list I could make for him.
“Well . . . I was thinking of washing the dishes this morning . . .” There is a long pause. “And then there’s that music I want to go to in town tonight . . .”
I am smiling, letting the plan sink in. I am smiling, and then laughing. A lot.
“What?” he says.
“Here’s my plans,” I reel the list off.
“Wow,” he says. “You’re going to do a lot.”
“I might not get it all done,” I admit. “I thought you might like to do some of it with me.”
He nods slowly. “I might,” he says. He picks up his book, puts his feet up on the couch. “Ah, I love this time of year,” he says happily, “you work outside a little, you work inside a little, you read your book a little . . .”
Oh, I like this funny fellow, and his long pauses. In fact, I like his pauses a lot better than my pauses. My pauses are to come up with more work to do. His pauses are to rest. Yet if my fellow ever felt inclined to make a list, he would get as much or more crossed off it by the end of the day as I would on my list.
Pause. I watch the December farmer enjoying his book on the couch.
Pause. Maybe it would be good to read my book for a little while, too? Because it’s December. December is a restful month on a vegetable farm. Right?
Pause. And without rest, how can any kind of work, farming or otherwise, really be sustainable or green?
Pause. Exactly right! And then there’s tomorrow, too. Tomorrow we could cross lots of things off my nice list . . .
Originally published in the Monadnock Shopper News, Dec 26, 2012 – Jan 1, 2013