Three Calls Deep
It’s late Friday evening, and I’m sitting at the head of a large table protruding from the corner of the dining room at Clancy’s Stone Lion Pub in Custer, WI. In front of me the table stretches, lined with Hungarians nearly as far as the eye can see. We’ve just gotten our menus and are navigating the transmission of cuisine language, along with the complexity of Clancy’s two-side dinner choices. Then there’s drinks: beers going all around, and flights of whiskey for the brothers. I was trying to help Fanni help someone else understand a side menu option when my phone rang.
“Hey Lee, you got a couple minutes?”
“I was hoping to talk market pricing with someone, and Logan and Polly aren’t picking up; it should only take five minutes.”
“Well man… it’s not an ideal time but I guess I could talk for five minutes quick.”
I stepped outside and lavished in a breath of the fresh, calm evening air. The sun was setting and the scene was perfect. I grabbed a pad and pen and started taking notes as we discussed.
“So, I think we should go up to $2.50 for radishes. Our prices haven’t changed since we started, and I don’t think that will be a big barrier for our customer base. Logan is going to want to go higher, and Polly is going to want to stay at $2, but try to convince them to go $2.50.”
“… I think lettuce heads could go up $0.50 as well. I know Polly’s not going to want to…”
It continued like this for 5 minutes or so, and by the time we’d finished the pricing talk, I was quite enjoying the space and quiet of the outside world, versus the chaos inside the Lion. I got him talking about farm leadership roles, and we milked about 10 minutes out of our phone time. “Well,” I finally interrupted him, “I should probably get back inside and see what’s happening.” I did, and we ended up with wonderful meals of baked fish, broccoli salads, tangy coleslaw and roasted red garlic potatoes; and just the right amount of liquor.
It’s Sunday morning and all of the burners in my kitchen are flaming ambitiously, as I cook an American breakfast for my Hungarian houseful. Wok of grated potatoes; huge bowl of Rising Sand eggs; cast iron skillet of smoked pork belly. Finally, I finish the feast, and we wrangle everybody to the table. I sit down and began digging in at long last. My phone rings.
“Yo Lee, you got a couple minutes?”
“Well dude… can I call you at 11:30?”
I ate and pondered his question. Though simple, and the basic starting point for all of his phone conversations, something in his voice told me it would be interesting, and disconcerting.
And it was. At 11:30, we held a heart-to-heart about our leadership dynamics around the farm, and the issues we’ve wrestled with since inception. As we become more comfortable working with each other, it has become easier to take the liberties of extra time off with increasing spontaneity and decreasing time-sensitivity. We have all increased our barriers from excessive work, and the result has been a potentially troubling exodus from field work days. Hashing out these impending difficulties was a positive reminder of the meaning of ownership, and a slight kick to re-prioritize the farm: spending more family afternoons there on the land as Ella becomes more independent, and Fanni’s time frees up. We hung up, and I felt inspired to re-up my commitment to my working partners.
It’s late Tuesday afternoon, and I’m bringing in a plate full of bratwursts from the grill at my folks’ place. My nieces run madly around the kitchen, chasing their grandmother, and the table fills with wonderful food, as families collide and laughter boils over from every direction. The jalapeno poppers, burgers and pork chops make their way in from the grill; and the fruit, veggie and potato salads from the kitchen. We all gather and dig in. I finish filling my plate from the wonderful bounty, and my phone rings.
“Yo, what are you up to this evening?”
Again, I stepped outside into the kind air of the summer evening, and hashed it out with my beloved farming partner. A welcome break from the hustle and bustle of the table inside; we discussed the possibility of unloading our new sickle-bar mower from the truck later in the night. That way, I could get an early start on Wednesday – hitting the road in our F350-XL, to pick up a load of stones to spread at the farm. I looked in the window, at the madness of families gathered, and pondered the possibility of a solo morning truck cruise, and some spacious manual labor on our land the next morning.
“Yeah man; let’s do it.”