There is a bit of truth to the fact that on the farmer’s day off, he or she only works until noon. The case being that there is hardly a day off from farming. There is always something to do. It might be true of any work, but for the farmer, on the farm or at home, there are weeds to pull, plans to make and seeds to gather.
Though I am not in the fields everyday, I do feel there is always something to consider and something to do. Even now, with the light drawing to a close earlier and earlier and the sunny days growing fewer, the harvest is high (that darn hardy kale will not cease) and it makes great sense to add compost and nutrients to the soil before the long winter.
Why there is still the need to plant garlic for harvest next July. Planting large cloves of garlic can lead to having many small cloves of garlic left over with the need to make garlic bread. And garlic bread we will make, as many parents and school cafeterias are ready to peel, slice and embrace the distinctive smell and taste to wallow through the school hallways.
At Holly Hill, all the drying garlic has been gathered from the lofts in the Hay Barn and brought down to pop. When popping, one separates the cloves into individual bulbs, while leaving the paper skin on the bulb. Most heads of garlic yield about 4 to 6 bulbs. When spaced about six inches apart, the garlics will have a chance to establish some roots before winter and the hard, eternal freeze settles in.
The green stems will most likely emerge come late February. For now, it is all about the preparation and pace of continuing with planting. Pace is a huge element of enduring these rare days off and need to constantly attend to responsibilities. I am reminded of how I use my time to handle the required work and time to reflect and write and ponder the upcoming year and next growing season.
On autumn Sunday afternoons growing up, when the football noise seemed to occupy our house, my mother read countless newspapers and books, took walks and sipped many cups of tea, all the while wondering why many of us stared at men running and tackling, hurting and injuring. She was not a farmer and did not fit the description of needing to plan, harvest or collect seeds. But she did need to pace herself for the long haul of raising four kids, cooking and tending to the garden.
Occasionally my brother and I would go outside to catch falling leaves or walk the dog, while trying to artfully throw and catch a football, without tackling or injuring, just enjoying an accurate throw and catch. But the rest of those Sundays could have been better spent. Never enough time for books.
I could have helped stir the compost that was in the backyard long before it became vogue, as is written about now by organically minded folks and farmers. The contact sport and damage that is football ought to be traded with hands-on contact with the soil and the earth.
I have lots of memories of players, great catches and time with my Dad at the games, but now the three hour (err 2 hour tevo assistance) window for watching a football game might be better spent taking a longer walk, mixing more compost or tossing the football with a willing daughter.
Not to mention seeds to collect and dry, contacting schools about their farm garden beds and figuring out which crops to plant in which field rows. So on this day off, on any given Sunday for that matter, I must consider how to best use the time each day. The Sunday papers are thick for a reason. The day beckons for relaxation.
And we have seeds to sow, plans to make and miles of farming to go before we sleep.
© 2014, Jon Belber. All rights reserved. Friends of Holly Hill Farm