Friday October 24, 2014
Most of the time I find myself waxing poetically about life on a farm. Oh, the joys of raising chickens! Oh how wonderful the ripe tomatoes taste! Oh the bounty of roses and abundance of fruit from the trees! But sometime the reality of what it takes to get there is actually work and not always that bundle of kittens that I make it out to be. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy most of it but at times it is a labor that is not always of love.
I’ve mentioned before that I write lists of chores that I need to tackle daily on the farm and there are always ones that I fail to cross off and I guess I convince myself I can do them another day. Automatic chores like feeding the animals and daily light cleaning of stalls never make the list but let me be the first to tell you that those wonderful birds that give you eggs are pigs. They can turn a just cleaned coop into a mess and have you wondering if they ate a Mexican feast the night before that you were not invited to. When they slow egg production down in the winter or hide eggs you do question if all this cleaning is worth it or if they appreciate you! Our goats also love to wait nearby as we are cleaning their stalls and come in at the exact moment after it is swept clean to add a few more of their “pellets” as if to say “You missed a few”! Are they just toying with us? The animals are all free ranged after all but do appear to silently mess with our heads and workload.
Planning makes a difference in vegetable work. I made the unfortunate decision one year to grow too many cherry tomatoes plants. The first ones that ripen are a joy to pick but as many know these puppies produce hundreds of tomatoes that harvesting starts to feel like that episode of I Love Lucy where she works the conveyer belt and the candies just don’t stop. If you leave them too long they start to spoil and I hate wasting the bounty of what this plant has given me. Luckily, the chickens love tomatoes so I see it a great way to supplement their diet and I feel better. I’ve learned to only plant one red cherry plant and an orange variety called a Sungold that tastes like candy to feed the household.
The saddest job for me with crops is thinning. Thinning is the process of removing seedlings that sprout too close to each other so they do not compete with plant production. It is a necessity for the development of beets, lettuces and radishes to name a few but I hate it. I just feel bad. Here you planted these seeds, nurtured them, and they did this amazing feat of producing life. But then you have to play God and choose which ones you will rip out of the ground in their infancy as they are enjoying the first warmth of the sun for the sake of the others to produce. It’s just not fair and I know, a little dramatic. I’ve tried to save the bunch but you are just left with crowded plants, no produce and lessons learned.
And then there’s dividing Irises… Apparently they need “thinning” every 3 to 4 years to continuing blooming and not crowd themselves out. This year was my first attempt at the job. You dig them out, thin and replant a few tubers with plenty of space to grow. What I thought would be a simple dig and replacement job turned into two backbreaking days of suckness (Is that a word?). The tubers had grown so thick that I needed practically a sledgehammer to break them apart. These beautiful above ground beauties had launched a full-scale assault on the neighboring roses and any others in their path. The positives? I now have more iris tubers than I know what to do with but am hoping I will become very popular with my neighbor as I gift them out. Or am I being evil by doing so in hoping they too will share my pain in a few years with their own future horrible divide? For fun, I did price the tubers out in the store and discovered that at five dollars a pop I have a small fortune in my garage. Only next year’s bloom results will let me know if all that work was worth it.
I guess the general maintenance of some things is just work but without it irises fail to bloom and beets fail to produce. That’s just life, nurturing and what it takes to get what you want. Yes, I’ve chosen this life and I love most of it but I did not want to just paint some idyllic painting that failed to show that sometimes dividing irises just plain sucks.