Rain and Foxes
For months after our son was born, Dina and I routinely woke in the middle of the night, panicked that our infant was tangled in the sheets. One of us would rip the blankets off the bed (much to the chagrin of our sleeping partner), frantic to find him before he smothered, only to realize that Wendell was safe and sound in his crib.
The midnight panic attacks returned this week when I woke to find myself again searching the blankets and shaking Dina awake. But this time, I was trying to save a tray of seedlings – not a newborn.
“You’re dreaming,” said Dina in her most patient voice.
Seething, I muttered about how she’d find out how wrong she was in the morning, and rolled over to return to my tortured dreams.
I can be a bit of a worrier – this much is becoming clear. And farming is not helping at all. I’ve held off on writing another post for a very long time – mostly because I’ve been short on inspiration and long on burdens. And who want to hear from a bummed-out farmer?
The string of unfortunate events I wrote about last time has only continued, and relentlessly so. Right after we lost our land, the greenhouse heater blew belching thick grey smoke and blanketing all of our tender green babies. Then we found out that we no longer had access to several tractors that were key to our production schedule. A generous friend, George – the patron saint of all down-on-their-luck farmers – offered his tractors, but neither of them would start despite days of patient, and then impatient, tinkering. Ultimately, Saint George loaned us his rust-free, shiny red “museum” tractor – a perfectly restored Ford 8N. And one hour into tilling our field, BANG. Universal joint- shattered. And with it, my sense of optimism and progress.
So on a recent soggy and miserable day, Dina and I pushed back against this cascade of obstacles to transplant 700 kale and chard starts. We’re really farming!! we shouted into gale-force winds, ecstatic at the growing rows of seedlings. But Mother Nature snapped her fingers – as in a record setting cold snap – and froze our babies solid that very night. All farming is a bit of a gamble, we consoled ourselves. But this time, the house may have won.
We recently recounted this woe-is-me litany to our friend Shannon. She listened patiently and sipped her coffee and replied simply.
“Sounds like farming to me.”
The good news is we do have land again. After some stressful, last-minute wrangling with the Lincoln Conservation Commission, we have an official year-long lease on two acres close to our original spot.
In fact, I was there early this morning to put a roof on our new storage shed. Rain fell again, but this time the air was still. A line of white tails punctuated the gradient of predawn grey. A herd of deer bounded in unison to the safety of dark trees, eliciting “gobble-gobbles” from a pair of startled turkeys. The pond shimmered and rippled under the spitting sky. I stared, hypnotized for I don’t know how long. Behind me stretched our muddy and unplanted field punctuated only by the ailing tractor, still parked where it last lurched. A brown fox slinked by, its bushy tail matted and sodden from a night on the hunt. Geese sounded. The sun glowed brighter behind low clouds. I began to work.
And that felt a lot like farming to me, too.