Farm Life Lessons: At The Mercy

I’ll never forget when someone told me they didn’t know how a farmer did it as they were completely at the mercy of the weather and the markets.  And it’s true.

Water in the Field
Standing water in the fields
Standing Water with Tile Inlet
Even with the tile inlets (small orange dot towards lower right) the water has been standing and draining for days.

The last few weeks have been a bit stressful for farmers in our area – torrential rains and a winter that won’t let go have really held back planting.  Usually farmers have a third to half their crop in by now, if not more.  Mother’s Day is almost here and I have seen very few planters in the field.  I heard that we’re four weeks behind in weather.

The day after we planted the garden, the horrible weather returned – rain, wind, even ice.  We covered the broccoli transplants (that made a comeback!) and when I took the covers off the next morning, there were some chunks of ice falling from the plastic.  Of course, it didn’t stop there.  We had about four inches of rain within a week.  Fields flooded – and still are.  A neighbor put in a reported 50-some miles of tiling and there was still standing water.

I know I’m repeating myself – but farmers have no control over two things that impact their livelihoods the most – weather and markets.

Sometimes I look at the chaos in my life and wonder how a farmer copes; then I remember watching my dad and uncle – they just did what they could when they could.  If it was raining, they “wrenched on equipment” (a never-ending process it seems!) or any number of other jobs that needed to be done.

It also helped to teach a valuable lesson – I don’t have control.  And not in the “I can’t control this what am I going to do!?” sort of way, but the “It’s not up to me, but to God, and it will work out so just do your best” kind of way.

In 2007 I was introduced to endurance riding.  Never in a million years did I expect to be riding a horse 25-50 miles, let alone 100 in one day.  But one thing my mentor/friend told me was you can’t look at the end or at the whole 100 mile ride – you have to look at the “loop” in front of you.  We couldn’t look at the 100 miles of trail because our job was to get the horse through the next 10, 20 or so miles first, then conquer the next loop, and then the next.  It made little chunks of accomplishments and before we knew it we had succeeded in our goal – riding 100 miles with a healthy horse.

Farming is kind of the same way – you can’t look at the harvest as there’s no control over it.  You just have to take it one day at a time and conquer that goal for the day, then move on to the next obstacle/job.

To often I find myself looking at the “big picture” and get wrapped up in the details and worry about the end.  Both endurance riding and farming has shown me that you can’t do that – accomplish what you can, and be happy with the results.  I’ve been getting frustrated lately because it seems like everything I’ve planted this year has died or gotten eating by rabbits or moles.  Then I see the new tulips we planted last fall and I remember that there is a part of me that can grow something, even if it wasn’t my initial goal.

What about you – do you take on big projects or do you break them down into smaller, easier obstacles?  How have the recent rains and floods affected you?



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