I feed the pigs and stand for a while, listening to their comical chomping. Leaning on the paddock rail, I can't help giggling at their lip smacking sounds. I push away from the fence and plan my morning's tasks. On any other day, I would call my work "chores". But today, I decide, I can't bring myself to assign such a negative descriptor to the jobs that need doing. It's just too nice a day for negativity. Recent International events have left me feeling blessed and fortunate to be standing in the tall grass on my hilltop farm. I may have a day of labor ahead of me, but I'm not on a plane that's falling out of the sky, or in a neighborhood that's being shelled by bickering political groups, who are killing people while they throw their tantrums.
My gloves are stiff with caked-on mud, and I wiggle my fingers to stretch out the rigid leather. Weeding is the assignment for the morning. Knowing I have a bucket full of cucumbers waiting at home to be pickled, I pick up my pace and drop down next to my row of leeks. Although my husband has never really tried leeks, he claims not to like them, and never passes a chance to hurl a "leak" joke at my head. I, however, am immensely proud of my humbly sparse row of tiny wee leeks. A member of the genus Allium, along with garlic and onions, leeks are an ancient food that can be traced back to Biblical times. Wales takes special pride in their leek industry, and in the past, the plant has even been featured on the back of the British Pound coin. None of that really matters to me as I settle cross-legged on the dusty landscape fabric. I'm just proud that these lovely plants have chosen to grow.
Not all seeds that are planted on our farm make the same decision as the leeks. Countless times, we drop seeds into carefully tilled and amended rows of soil, only to be swallowed by the dirt, never to be seen again. Or, equally frustrating, a vigorous and lush row of weeds will emerge.
"Oh look," I sometimes say to my husband, "There's a nice healthy row of clover! Funny, I thought we planted lima beans there."
On this particular gorgeous morning, even the weeds look good to me. As I toil, I hear the rattle and clank of the Amish Shire horse teams working in the next field, gathering the hay that will feed them over the long, cold winter. A group of bullfrogs croak and grunt among the cattails at the edge of the pond. A gust of wind stirs the pointy leaves on a nearby willow tree and the red-winged blackbird perched at the top calls out in his delightfully bright, and enthusiastic song.
I finish my jobs and put away my tools. The reward for my work is a tour of the gardens: from the berries and herbs in the permanent enclosure, to the seasonal crops in the large, rotational bed. Large, yellow squash blossoms are fully open to the sun's rays, alive with our SweetBees doing their best to help us harvest lots of shiny, dark green zucchini. Cucumber vines are stretching out with their curling tendrils, trying to reach into neighboring rows of peas and tomatoes. There are big cukes, ready to harvest, and tiny baby cucumbers with their blossom crowns still attached. Berries decorate the raspberry bushes in shades of white, pink and bright red. Black raspberries dot the ends of tall canes, round and petite but packed with flavor. Perennial herbs erupt out of the ground, small and delicate, but robust growth is sure to guarantee plenty for winter storage.
There's a lot to do on any farm. Summer is always busy, and my plate is full with farm work, family and job demands, and looming home renovations. It can be overwhelming at times, but on a peaceful, cool, and fresh day like today, anything seems possible. Looking out over my small but growing farm, bursting with beauty and goodness, I agree. My plate is full. And I am so grateful.