Time management is crucial when farming on a small, independent, diversified scale. As a crew leader, I’m always thinking about this, because the vitality of the farm relies on efficiency and timing, getting the right people to the right job with the right tools at the right time. Sometimes it can feel like there is inevitably an obstacle to every best laid plan, especially when planning in accordance to unpredictable weather patterns and a host of other factors, like not having a green thumb mechanically, as in my case (which would be a… black thumb?).
And then I'll have one of THOSE days, those days when I feel like I’m cursed. Really. It makes me wonder if there is truly some merit in possibly wronging the universe karmically, and what I could have done to provoke its retribution? Or that maybe some kind of electrical energy emanating from my being causes everything I touch to short circuit.
On one of these days, still a little groggy in the grey spring morning...
Next on the list of my morning mishaps, I start out meaning to cultivate (for the non-farmers, this generally means “weed using a tractor”) the first beets, carrots, and spinach that have just come up in the field. The job should take less than an hour, but it’s important to get to the weeds while they’re small and vulnerable. This gives the equally vulnerable rows of veggies a head start before it rains and after the soil has dried out enough after the last irrigation. Half way through cultivating the patch, the tractor I’m using stalls out and won’t start again – and when it does finally start, it begins to bellow smoke and smell like – well, bad. It’s not happy. The oil and antifreeze levels are fine… what else can I check? Playing mechanical detective work can be like looking for a needle in the proverbial haystack. The little cotyledons of weeds wave their emerging true leaves at me tauntingly between the rows of carrots as I helplessly turn my back on them and glide the gimpy tractor back down the hill.
When I turn to my next task, weedwhacking around our rhubarb plants in preparation for a larger crew to mulch the patch later in the day, I get out to the field and start the machine, only to have it stall out and refuse to start again. Back to the shop… all the while the clock is ticking, ticking, ticking in my head – if I don’t get this job done this morning, what else would the crew do in the afternoon? Can we afford to wait another day? The weeds are getting ever bigger, and rain is in the forecast.
Farming means to have the flexibility to be on any given day a mechanic, carpenter, physicist , engineer, climatologist, etymologist, soil scientist, mycologist, bacteriologist, hydrologist, hydrogeomorphologist, mineralogist, biochemist, geneticist, taxonomist, ecologist, botanist, pathologist, sociologist, business planner, economist… all the while trying to align with the functions of a just society. Opportunity flowers with every act and thought.
Some days, though, it is simply a fruitful lesson in patience and perseverance.