I’m writing this with a two-week old baby laying on my chest – steaming hot and sleeping peaceably but for the occasional reckless, floppy-necked head roll. She’s a real sweetie. I, however, am not. I haven’t been for a while. It turns out that farming while fathering is quite difficult.
My suspicion is that the core of the issue is sleep deprivation. Nights are less true sleep than fugue half-consciousness — waking up numerous times to varying degrees of activity on behalf of my wife and our tiny child. I roll back over, and sometimes return to sleep, and sometimes toss restlessly until that fateful moment when my alarm rings once more, often brutally early. Another day.
It manifests in odd, subtle ways. Working in the field on the most beautiful May Saturday, running repeatedly through my illogical resentments towards the members who are absent from the farm; trapped in the reality of the work needing to be done, and the sluggish pace of completion. Why does everyone have “flexible” written on their weekend time commitment, with no other information? Why didn’t anyone verbalize what hours they were planning on working this weekend? Why am I thinking about this again?
Bob comes over and walks mindlessly over a plot of broadforked beds. What was he thinking? He follows with another classic assertion of his knowledge of every topic.
Sighing as I step out of the car Monday morning to another rainy, gray day; knowing it’ll be all hands and knees in the shallot plot, and sighing.
The vague headache that slowly intensifies over the course of the long weekend, bringing me to a full laying position in the shallot plot, just to catch a breath and keep my head still for a moment. The tension running down my shoulders into my back. The ceaseless hamster-wheel of guilt, whether I’m at the farm or at home, knowing my presence is needed elsewhere and I’m not there.
Finishing lunch on Monday and searching for my bag. Finding it on the other side of the table, where the cats have removed my Main Grain box, and dug their noses ruthlessly into my cheesecake. God, I was looking forward to that cheesecake.
Leaving early to catch a headache-easing nap, and informing my wife that I need to leave again and spend a couple hours at the greenhouse before I’ll be home for the day. Seeing the disappointment in her face, though she doesn’t voice it, which somehow makes it worse. Why, I wonder from the depths of my exhaustion, does anyone choose to do this?
Then, standing in the greenhouse for two hours next to Corrina; seeding trays of new plants as we work into a deep personal and philosophical conversation about everything on our minds, I’m reminded.
Running to the greenhouse again, at 9 pm, to put some additional trays in the germ chamber that I’d missed before. There in the darkness; overpowered by the smell, the silence and the essence of the plants, I’m reminded.
Getting home and lying skin-to-skin with our sweet baby girl while my wife prepares herself for bed, I’m reminded.
I wouldn’t want to do this as a single, nuclear-family farm. It would be too much. Farming and parenting are brutally demanding professions, and together I can’t imagine a road out of the stress. I, personally, take great and necessary consolation in the cooperative structure of our farm. Realizing my sanity was on the line, I took a step back and trusted my partners. And things are progressing well — Ella is healthy; Fanni is happy, and our seedlings are getting into the ground in timely fashion, thanks to the work of everyone else. My sanity, though fleeting, has returned somewhat. My thoughts and prayers are with all the young couples trying to make a go out of organic vegetable farming while raising young children. It’s a tough, tough road.