On an overcast Saturday morning my family went to visit friends of ours on their lovely rural homestead near Guilford, N.Y. They had extended a very generous offer to allow our two families to share the cost, labor and eventual harvest of this years potato patch on their property. Those of you who have read my writing in the past know that my family maintains a thriving urban farm on 1/16th of an acre so we were thrilled to have such a wonderful opportunity come our way because space is always in high demand.
I am, of course, a bit biased, but I do believe we happen to live in one of the most beautiful areas of this great country. Working with my family and friends to prepare the patch this weekend only reinforced my opinion. Birds called from the naked woodland which is still stretching forth from winters slumber.
Our children, all six combined, laughed and hollered as they ran from the potato plot to the hog pen and everywhere else imaginable in between. I paused from shoveling manure to watch the guinea hens holler at a neighbor who patiently waited atop his rumbling tractor as he left his cornfields to go cut lumber.
If you have planted potatoes in the past, you know how labor intensive they can be. I expected the worst but I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly time passes when among like minded people. We shared stories and laughter while taking turns working the rich dark soil. We talked of politics and farming, of family and of our winters adventures. We eventually broke bread and shared a delicious meal prepared by our host so that we were able to finish our work on a full stomach.
Over the years there have been a number of positive aspects that have lured me into the gardening and farming lifestyle. I have always enjoyed the solitude. I love listening to the wind touch upon the tall grass and brittle leaves just long enough to elicit a response as it sails off into the distance. I find myself attempting to blend in with the wildlife that drift like shadows along the boundary of my property. The song of individual birds become familiar to me and I can smell rain in the air long before the clouds darken.
But I am not alone in this physical mediation that takes place when working in the soil. Anyone who is a steward of their land and loves the Earth below their feet as I do knows what I am talking about through their own private experience.
But, with that said, this weekend made me realize that there is so much more to homesteading than the individual pleasure associated with it. There is true joy and friendship in the shared labor of land.
More importantly, the example that I believe we set for our children that afternoon rejoicing in our work and in one another's company will produce a harvest as plentiful as any seed we may have set in soil on that cool April morning.
As a fourth-generation micro-farmer, Tobias Whitaker had strong early influences in regards to responsibly working the land and taking pride in producing his own food. Tobias is currently working on an urban homesteading book and is also exploring ways to increase his yearly yield and lengthen his growing season. You can visit him on facebook at Seed To Harvest: Bossy Hen Homestead or online at Seed To Harvest. Read all of Tobias' MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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