We have this tree in our front yard that was supposed to be a weeping cherry tree, but instead is sort of a creeping cherry. Every year the tree creeps a little wider as if it were trying to blanket the whole yard. Jason wants to cut it down (it is a pain to mow around), but I love it with my whole heart. The horticulturists believe the graft was messed up and I just have to love the messed up unique things even when they’re inconvenient.
You see, I really thought I wanted a weeping cherry there close to the red bud to put on a spectacular spring show. But a weeping cherry I did not get. I got this bumbling creeping thing that hardly blooms at all but spreads it’s giant awkward wings and puts on a show of its own, albeit a comedy. A tree that makes me laugh, how’s that for unique? How many of you have trees that make you laugh?
So I was looking for the metaphor here, but perhaps there is none. Perhaps it’s just about finding the small joys in the everyday mundane. A tree that makes me laugh. A daily smile. And that is enough.
We thought we were immune. We thought it had so much to do with the conscious effort we put into being a great place to work. But it turns out it must have been plain dumb luck. Because here we are mid-March without a full farmily in place. I try hard not to be afraid of the unknown. I know that things always work themselves out. But I can’t help the human part of me that wants to at least influence how those things work out.
So we talk sometimes about exit planning. Usually we talk about it in times of deep stress, which can happen, if infrequently. But I feel like I just learned, after 15 years of being here working this land, not to worry about our future as farmers as much—that we’ll figure out how to survive and keep farming. Farming is a tough career choice. As Americans, we have always paid a much lower percentage of our income for food, which makes growing food a very tight margin to live by. But it is also a deeply satisfying career choice. Feeding people gets you down to the very basis of existence. Your job always feels important on some level. This is one of the things I love about farming.
But now, we too, have fallen victim to the strange economy in which we’re operating. Our costs have risen dramatically, we’re in a record-low unemployment situation, and we’re, for the first time, encountering trouble filling out our fantastic farmily.
Every year offers up a new problem, it seems. Whether it’s a new pest or disease, a new weather pattern such as the 90 inches of rain we received a few years back (for reference, 50 inches is “normal” here), the Covid-19 uncertainty, or what have you. And we’ve pivoted, adapted, learned, and survived. But we have never ever had a dearth of applicants who wish to do this work and participate in this lifestyle. So of course, it’s terrifying. It’s the scariest new problem to arise, borne of our own hubris in thinking we were immune to this common theme because we had “put the work in”.
So here comes the ole’ exit-planning chatter again. “Can we do this with just the current crew?” “Should we downsize?” “Can we go back to working constantly, including nights and weekends?” And the fear of the answers, and the wondering what-in-the-world-else we might do, and back to the scrambling, and “am I too old for this?” Apparently, we have just joined the club of every employer looking to hire. It’s not a club we wanted or intended to join, but here we are, speaking the same language—scrambling to figure out how to get the work done with fewer of us.
I have mixed feelings about March. I never seem to be ready. I start to scramble to get those last minute trips in while I still have a weekend, and head to the gym to make up for any slack time I spent “wintering” over the past two months, and then there’s the Masterclass lessons to catch up on, and what about all that reading I was going to do this winter?!
I feel like a cartoon character holding desperately to the out-of-control spring car with my feet plowing the dirt beneath as the daffodils and the peepers and the calendar all ignore my pleas to slow down! Time just keeps Marching, whether I am perpetually surprised by it or not.
And so here we are full on in the planting frenzy, discovering all the things we should have been doing in December, like little squirrels finding all the nuts we stowed away for ourselves last fall. Maybe someday we’ll master this cycle, but the odds are, after 16 years, decidedly against it. Perhaps instead, we should just accept the March madness as part of the seasonal cycle.
I’m sitting at a counter overlooking the parking lot in a strip mall with mediocre at best coffee in a Styrofoam cup having just eaten the best bagel breakfast sandwich of my life (and I like to consider myself an expert on bagel sandwiches). I tried to go to Cracker Barrel or Waffle House, but 11am on a Sunday in Mt. Juliet, TN is the right time for everyone else too, and a good bagel sandwich was exactly what I wanted. I just dropped one of my oldest friends off at the airport after a night of celebrating love. It’s not the first wedding of strangers I’ve attended as my friend’s “plus one”. I just tend to say “yes”.
It was a long time ago that I was taught by a Jesuit brother that we are the Universe’s ability to reflect upon itself. I must have decided in that moment that I’d better show the universe the best of itself then. And while life certainly brings with it a necessary amount of pain and suffering (how else would we recognize the joy?), have been on an infinite path of joy ever since.
Part of that infinite path of joy involves the word “yes”. I try to say that word as often as possible (within reason, of course). I mean, I don’t recommend this practice for teenagers as teenagers don’t necessarily know what “within reason” means, but “yes” for adults most often leads to the Universe’s best. Or, as my friend David says, at the very least it leads to adventure.
It’s this little word that has led so many adventures, both large and small. And those adventures have led to so many moments for the Universe to reflect fondly upon itself. The natural beauty, the best of humanity, the laughter, the awe, the joy. All these things and more contained in that simple little word: “yes”.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.