HOMEGROWN Life: A Melancholy Season

| 10/8/2013 10:40:00 AM

Tags: dairy farming, FarmAid and Homegrown.org, California,

sheepSummer is such a busy time. There’s really no chance to reflect, to absorb, to acquaint oneself with things beyond daily life, the grind of chores, the work of the farm.

When autumn arrives, in all of its colorful glory, I start to notice things. It’s not just the change of leaf color or the feel of the air. We move from hot summer days to the crisp coolness of waking up in darkness and days ending much sooner in faint light. The light bends in brilliant ways, making the beginning and ending of each day a painting, untouched by Photoshop.

For me, there’s always a certain melancholy to the farm in fall: thoughts of everything I had planned to accomplish during the warm months, ideas for how the summer would stretch into autumn and then winter. But there’s a sense of accomplishment, too, in making it through such a busy schedule, sometimes stretching from the wee hours of the morning into the dark of night. There’s also a sense of loss at not being able to spend more time with friends, relaxing and enjoying all there is to enjoy about summer in Maine, especially living near the coast. I’ve come to understand that we all feel it, all of us who work to provide folks from elsewhere with their farm-fresh products, their time on the water in boats and kayaks, their fresh-caught lobster suppers.

On the farm summer is almost a blur, connecting those early days of spring, when lambs and kids and calves and chicks and all other sorts of creatures are born, to tending the expanded flocks and herds in the fall. Before we know it, it starts all over again, with the cycle renewing itself.

I think it’s the perpetuation of that cycle that lets melancholy wend its way into my mind. Thoughts of how each day begins and ends much the same. Thoughts of why I’m willing to work as hard as I do, just to produce what in the eyes of megafarms would be considered a paltry amount of products. Thoughts of spending the rest of my life with the animals I love and have come to depend upon for keeping me grounded.

animal friendsI have more time to spend in the barn now, quietly watching the girls as they interact with one another. In her usual seasonal way, Frannie is trying to dethrone Dollie as Herd Queen. It’s quite comical. In the order of the herd, Dollie goes first at milking time. I’ve already dried her off, giving her a good long break this year, so she only steps onto the milk stand for her grain ration. Frannie is convinced she’ll be moving into first position any moment now. Before Dollie lumbers up off of her knees following a long night of rest, Frannie is already crafting her approach to the gate. And each day, her attempt is thwarted. Sometimes Dollie crawls on her knees to the gate, as if to show Frannie she’s not the least bit intimidated. Other times, Dollie’s gentle reminder comes in the form of a head-butt or a push to the chest.

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