Farmer John Writes: On Love and Opinions
Harvest Week 2, June 30th – July 6th, 2020
(If you missed it, please check out last week’s issue of Farm News, Is the Weather Your Friend? for important updates about the farm and community site protocols.)
Love on the Farm
I can reflect on love interminably. I used to meet with my friend Shanti every Tuesday for brunch. We planned to choose a different topic to discuss for each brunch. The first topic we chose was love. After a long brunch, we realized we had not covered the topic of love thoroughly enough, so we decided to continue discussing love at our next brunch. We had many subsequent brunches, and for each brunch, we chose always to discuss love. Love is an inexhaustible topic.
Love on a farm might be a little different than love elsewhere, as farm life is in certain ways unique to farm life, but then, we are all prone to all sorts of love.
Love is the theme for this edition of Farm News. I touch today on just a few of the many ways in which the manifold forces of love shape us, cause us, and compel us, especially in the context of a farm.
(For another view on love, check out Farm News, Week 11, 2019: Farmer John Writes: About Interest.)
I saw a crew member recently who looked completely different from how she had been looking since she started working for me last season. It was love, I was sure. She had found love, or love had found her. The powers of earth, romance, sweat, and muscles were coursing through her. She seemed more complete, more realized, transformed, as though she had discovered herself while on a fantastic journey to her destiny.
As I gazed on this field worker, I thought back to years ago when I was milking cows along with our hired hand, Normie.
I said, “Something happened on the bus today that I don’t understand.”
“What happened?” he asked, as he knelt down to remove a milking machine from a cow’s udder.
“This girl got on the bus, and I suddenly felt very warm everywhere and I think my face got red.”
“What’d she look like?”
“She had a rosy face…and pigtails.”
“I think I know who that was. Did she get on on Middle Manchester Road?”
“What you experienced is love,” he said, as he poured milk into the stainless steel bucket. “You fell in love.”
I was nine years old.
There’s Loving and There’s Being Loved
Back then, we had a horse named Polly. Our neighbors, the Tuttles, loved Polly. I think the Tuttles loved Polly even more than we did, because they often called to ask if they could borrow Polly. It happened so often that we finally said, “why don’t you just keep Polly over at your place, and we’ll call you to get her back when we want to ride her?” Polly went to live with the Tuttles.
The Tuttles had a beagle that came over to our place all the time. He finally just moved in. We named him Lunk. Lunk was Bill Tuttle’s coon dog. Tuttle would come over to take Lunk coon hunting, but as soon as Bill set Lunk loose to tree a coon, Lunk made a beeline for our farm.
So we ended up with Lunk, and the Tuttles ended up with Polly. I suppose it was because the Tuttle kids loved Polly more than we loved her, and Lunk loved us more than he loved the Tuttles.
Sometimes I ask a person, “would you rather love or be loved?”
Garlic, Shareholders, Love and Opinions
For those of you who were shareholders last year, you know we had a tough season, the roughest season in decades, due mostly to flooding. We usually plant our garlic in the last part of October, which we then harvest the following July or early August. At the latest, we plant the garlic in early November. It germinates and then we mulch it with straw to protect it from extreme frosts and then it goes into cold dormancy during the winter. That’s the only way we can get the nice big bulbs of German White Porcelain Garlic we are known for, because it gets planted in the fall and then goes dormant in the winter and then surges back to life in the spring. Garlic might be our most beloved crop.
For 20-some years, we have always managed somehow to get our garlic in the ground on time—well before Thanksgiving. Due to the relentless flooding, we planted our garlic for this summer’s harvest after Christmas–on December 30th. I have been farming here for over 60 years and we have never before done tillage and planting in the month of December. Late last December, we planted 18,000 cloves of garlic into cold, muddy ground. Up until then, the flooding and freezing had been so bad, I was sure we would not get the garlic planted. When late December arrived and we had a winter thaw and we planted the garlic, I was sure that it would not germinate and then go dormant before the ground froze again. I knew that, even if it germinated, it would likely die because we would not be able to mulch it to protect it from the heaving winter frosts.
I can think I know things and I can be wrong. I knew we wouldn’t get the garlic in—wrong. I was sure that if we planted the garlic in late December, we would not get a crop—wrong. I was convinced that if we didn’t mulch the garlic against the winter cold, much of it would perish—wrong. My attitude and opinion had nothing to do with the outcome of this garlic crop.
I noticed that I thought my opinions on the fate of the garlic were informed, clever, seasoned, and right. I noticed I had a bit of love for my opinions…they were mine. I had earned them.
The garlic crop looks splendid today.
What caused the outcome of this great-looking garlic crop? In despair and desolation, I spent a lot of money and effort putting in a garlic crop that I knew would fail. Doing the work, or, as they say in Landmark Education, being in possibility, caused the outcome. My opinions, judgments, moods, and attitudes had nothing to do with the outcome.
My opinions were wrong. The crop didn’t fail.
My love for garlic and for our shareholders was stronger than my love for my opinions.
It’s okay to have wrong opinions. Just don’t let them get in the way of your success.