Time On My Hands…

Sharon September 19th, 2011

I’m finding myself not quite sure what to do with my free time.  Ok, there isn’t *that* much of it, of course – after all there’s the farm, the homeschooling, the four kids, the house, the book, the work on the ASPO-USA conference and my role as a board member, a couple of miscellaneous articles to write, and some other odds and ends.  Still, it does seem strange.

As you may remember, we lost pretty much all of our annual garden a few weeks ago when first Irene and then Lee hit the area.  The squash rotted, the beans drowned, most of the apples blew down, the sunflowers blew over, the corn failed to mature, the potatoes succumbed momentarily to hideous fungal diseases.  I’m not complaining – really, I’m not – so many people in my area suffered so much that there’s nothing to complain about.  But it did leave me with a problem – just as peak preserving season hit, I had nothing to preserve.  I still have some surviving tomatillos, but they aren’t mature yet, and the peaches made a crop, but those are put away.  There are a few herbs left to dry, and some roots to dig from perennial herb crops like marshmallow and elecampane, but that’s about it – nothing compared to the usual burst of time and attention.  Since most of the neighboring farms had the same problem, finding sources of produce to put up is also problematic – I should be able to fill the root cellar and get some fall raspberries for jam, but that may be about it.

There’s no fall garden – the storms hit in those critical few weeks after almost all the fall crops were in, and when it was too late to mature much of anything but spinach and arugula before winter.  I’ve a small bed of each, but that’s pretty much it.  The structure of the storms was to put a rapid end to the late summer workload.

Meanwhile, we had anticipated we’d probably have a foster placement by now (and it isn’t like the social workers can conjure one or like we really can wish some poor group of kids would lose their home) and all of a sudden, I’m at loose ends.  Ok, they aren’t very loose – in fact, I should be working every second on my book.  But, well, I’m not – and I can’t.  During times when Eric is working, I could be preserving, but I couldn’t be off on the computer while the kids make mayhem.

Perhaps conveniently, I’ve been sick for a couple of weeks – nothing exciting, just a progression of minor viral things that lay me low.  My theory is that they are trying to get me comfortable with sitting on my butt drinking tea and reading an novel – and I did some of that.  It wasn’t as much fun as I remembered, though.

The problem, I’m finding, is that I’ve lost my taste for sitting around.  Oh, in the evenings, after chores, sure.  But after so many years of being so busy and working so hard, I find myself at loose ends.  Sometimes it is nice – time for walks and snuggles with the boys and odd jobs I’ve been putting off.  Some things get done better than before – my house is somewhat tidier, I cook more innovatively, my mending pile has shrunk, but let’s be honest – most of the time I’m just not desperate enough to clean or hem pants ;-) .

Instead, I find myself missing the structure of the dehydrator, wanting an herb drying room filled with boneset and peppermint.  I long for curing squash and sweet potatoes and the work of digging turnips.  I’m not sure why I miss these things – more leisure is a good thing, right?  Some parts are nice, but what I’ve learned is that both body and mind long for the discipline and joy of farmwork – if I needed confirmation I love my life, when a portion of it was removed, it called out to me.  Strange, but wonderful – to know that the dirt and I miss each other.


11 Responses to “Time On My Hands…”

  1. Brad K. says:

    @ Sharon,

    Um, there are always the “homely” arts — knitting, crochet, mending — that keep the hands busy while keeping a watchful eye and ear on the doings of those young’uns that are safer with just that added bit of oversight.

    Mechanic work, painting tools, buildings, and various article that need touching up are as diverting as the computer. Re-organizing and cleaning the garden tools, sharpening and straightening what needs sharpened and straightened, putting a coat of linseed oil on wood-handled tool handles, cleaning and clearing seed starting supplies for this winter . . well, actually, checking supplies and planning seeds and garden for this winter, fall, and spring might be a reasonable something to consider.

    If nothing else, ask the boys to tour you about the farm, explaining what they find interesting and important. Keep notes on what they show you that you hadn’t noticed recently.

    Maybe, back in the olden days, you might have baked a batch of cookies and taken them to visit a neighbor or three.

    Or you could ask a local bookstore or library to host a book signing or lecture. I bet there are neighbors that don’t realize they live near a published author!


  2. Emily says:

    What are you going to eat this winter?

  3. Nicole says:

    There are some wonderful things about living in a technological age (ample running hot water, for example), but it has eliminated the historic period of relative rest at the dark of the year. Periodic sabbaths are good for man and beast. Go ahead and catch up on your sleep and your to-do list. Something will happen soon — that foster placement perhaps — which will suck up your free time and then some.

  4. You have yarn (right? you DO have a stash of yarn, I hope…?). You have people who will need hats and mittens and scarves. You have access to Ravelry.

    See, you don’t have free time, you have as-yet-unfilled-knitting time! ;)

    Seriously, knitting – and spinning – has got to be the most guilt-free way of resting. I am under doctor’s orders to get more rest just now and I chafe at it … I have stuff to do outside, but I know I need to not be doing that right now. So I knit. I am working on Christmas presents, because well, I do want to have presents for a bunch of people, I have stash yarn and patterns (but don’t have money to go shopping), so I am knitting. And not feeling guilty about having my butt in a chair instead of outside. ‘Cause, see, I’m still being *productive* (yeah, that Protestant Work Ethic can lead to some serious guilt about resting).

    But I hear you. Not having your seasonal tasks when you expect them is disconcerting.

    Let me know if you need pattern suggestions. ;)

  5. Thrivalista says:

    I second Emily’s question. I know you prefer to eat locally, but if local couldn’t “produce”, wouldn’t it be better to put by food that isn’t quite as local, while it is at least in season?

    Can you get bushels of this or that from farmers in the next valley (or two) over? Come out our way & stock up, its pear/apple/grape/squash/onion/potato season!

    I’d be really, really uncomfortable about NOT stocking the cellar and larder as full as I could, given current trends. I don’t know how you stand it!

    ::bites fingernails::

  6. Lorna says:

    I wonder if you’re not in mourning. After all, your area has experienced a great deal of weather trauma and while your farm appears to have survived mostly intact, I assume that your larger community is dealing with a lot of loss and uncertainty. Things may never be the same again for them. You have a great deal of empathy and compassion and I’m sure you are feeling the effect of this; you may be in mourning with and for your friends and community. Whenever I’ve been through an ordeal it always takes me a while to settle back in to my routine life and you can’t do that because the flooding took away your routine. I may be off base, but I know that’s how I would be feeling if I were in your place.
    Take care,

  7. Sharon says:

    Maybe so, Lorna. I’m certainly sad about it, although I feel like our circumstances are pretty easy.

    Re:knitting, the problem I have with knitting and spinning (which I really enjoy) is that they are done sitting down. I spend so much time at the computer sitting during a book push that I find it very hard to do any work done seated. I *can* knit and walk at the same time, but ummm…I’m not the most coordinated person. I should be knitting more – I do love it, but I think the really big push has to wait until I have more to do on my feet.

    I’ll do a post on what we’re planning to eat, because that is a good question.


  8. Bill says:

    That’s quite a blow. Sorry to hear about it. I’d imagine a mobile canner/preserver expert would find a market among those with more produce than time. In the interest of preserving your mental health, I’d be willing to allow you access to my kitchen;-) 50/50 split on proceeds?
    All the Best, Bill

  9. Sharon said: “the problem I have with knitting and spinning (which I really enjoy) is that they are done sitting down.”

    Guess you need a great wheel! :)

  10. gael says:

    I have so enjoyed your posts over the years about the seasonal activities of your farm.

    Occasionally losing a crop b/c of natural disaster happens and is a part of the long-term cycle of farm life.

    How does an area recoup? All the farms around you are in a similar position. Same goes for Vermont.

    I know the Native Americans would have corn storage pits in hills for just such an occasion.

    And the Mormons store food for three years or so and rotate it.

    The north east has been hit with a tornado, an earthquake, and a hurricane all within 6 months- unheard of in my lifetime to have these three events so close together here.

    And last winter brought severe weather to most of the US.

    So how do we work together in these times of disaster brought on by weather/earth changes to feed our selves and our community?

  11. Joe says:

    My fall garden will be a real experiment in intercropping. Two weeks ago, it was under 12-14 inches of water. The seeds I planted have begun to sprout, but they’re all not in neat rows anymore. They’re all jumbled up at the down-stream end of the garden.

    Since I’m starting with zero expectations, this will have to be a good harvest, right?

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