Not that it’s a bad question; I’m guilty of having made the same assumption. I had imagined putting a garden away in the fall and not thinking of it again until spring. I had imagined a break, with time to rest my back and read for pleasure. I even daydreamed of swapping out my Muck boots and mangy sweater for clean clothing and, who knows, maybe even going out on a date.
I once applied for a position as the gardener at a summer camp; it was a year-round position and could have been my first “real” job. (Salary! Benefits!) At the interview I asked what I thought was a very practical question (I had prepared many): “So, what will my responsibilities be during the off season?” My interviewer looked at me with regret. I did not get the job.
I am learning that farming, at least of the sort my partner and I are now practicing, is a year-round endeavor. Jacob and I met in college, at St. Lawrence University. Now we’re leasing 130 acres in Waterville, and we’ve just finished our second full year here. We grow organic vegetables, herbs and flowers, and raise cows, pigs, meat birds and laying hens. We’re trying to create a healthy farm ecosystem and provide as much of our own food as we can.
And so, boredom has not occurred to us in many months. The list of chores this time of year is long: Finish construction of a high tunnel that will cover spinach, salad greens, carrots and kale. Plant garlic. Harvest the last of the brassicas. Find a boar to breed our two gilts. Reconstruct the barn to make room for cows and pigs and then calves and piglets. Buy organic pullets.
The 2014 High Mowing Organic Seeds catalog has just come out, and we’ve perused it for fun, but before long we’ll be shopping in earnest. After Christmas, we’ll draw a garden map and begin the game of arranging crops. By late February, we’ll start planting seeds: first onions, leeks and shallots, then broccoli, cabbage and kohlrabi, then peppers and tomatoes. The greenhouse will fill with seedlings, the ground will thaw and we’ll scramble to get ready for the first market.
Yes, there will be a few weeks, when the days are shortest and the world is frozen, when even the greenhouse won’t need attention. Our only farm duties will be to feed the animals, morning and night. And yes, we’ll relax a little. We’ll eat the food we’ve grown—which is, after all, our favorite luxury. We’ll burn the wood we’ve cut, and read for pleasure. Maybe we’ll even go out on a date.