Memoirs from the Frontline: Sundays.
Yamhill, OR: I have observed that most school children, and those who have regular jobs, don’t like Sundays. For some reason, Sundays, especially in the afternoon look cloudier, a bit colder and damper than usual. One’s body feels heavier, more inclined to be on the couch and perhaps watch a TV program that wouldn’t seem interesting on any other day. It is perhaps the mourning of the cessation of the joy and possibilities of the weekend and the inevitability of the ever nearing Monday morning which project onto Sunday its gloomy feel.
Not for me. Driving our 1984 box truck up the hill in Newberg coming back from Farmer’s market, I feel like a sailor coming back home from a long sea voyage. Or a soldier, reaching the shores of the mother country, injured, but alive. True, I am alarmed by the strange transmission noise worrying about the possibility of the eminent failure in powertrain (again like last Sunday). Other concerns keep pestering like the shaking in the frame and the chassis of the vehicle as if there is a fundamental conflict between the path each part of the truck has chosen to take for the rest of the journey or the vibration of the steering wheel as a result of some disagreement between the front wheels and the mechanisms which are supposed to keep them steady and on the ground.
Regardless, I distract my thoughts by imagining the moment I see the glorious yellow blinking light in downtown Yamhill, the singular indication of the proximity of what we call our home, a harbinger of having survived yet another week of brutal workload.
The pastoral and romantic picture of living on a small and diversified farm dims very rapidly at the end of each week. It has been 3 years since we drastically transformed our lives by starting a small farm in Yamhill and we have not have a single day off, no weekend, no Christmas, no birthday, nothing. We have dairy cows, chickens, vegetables, eggs, lambs, and for ourselves, cheese, hand churned cream and butter, jars of canned vegetables etc. Essentially everything which makes living on a small farm like a dream.
By 10 am on Saturdays, the dream starts to show some jagged edges though. Having milked the cows, fed the chickens, gathered the eggs, we start hand processing chickens for farmer market. We usually skip lunch, milk the cows in the evening, feed the egg layers before they retire for the night, and continue processing the chickens well into the night. Usually, we have a bagel or PB sandwich around 9:00 pm and then start loading the truck. Around 12:00 am on Sunday, we start cleaning the processing room which usually takes about 3 hours. We then come in for a bath ( there is a minimum presentability requirement for food vendors at the market). Right around this time, we divorce each other over who didn’t refill the soap bottle or left the dishes in the wrong sink or some such thing. Fortunately, right around this time we have to go out and milk the cows and feed the chickens and wash the eggs before being able to leave for the market and we agree to table our divorce proceedings for later in the day. We try to be very pleasant as we greet our customers in the market and to be honest having a large number of appreciative customers who are genuinely happy to see us does improve our mood.
Most of the activities after we pull our truck into our driveway resembles what one may expect from a robotics lab rather than a couple of farmers. We usually don’t speak much. One goes to milk the cows for the evening, one starts to unload the truck and put the perishable items not sold in the market into freezers, then cleaning the truck followed by feeding the chickens. We are back in the house around 6:00 pm. We may or may not eat supper as at that point there is a single minded objective to get to bed as soon as we can. There is a fleeting thought that we have a son somewhere on the premises, but the very real possibility of being able to rest in a horizontal position erases any such distractions. At this point all the animals including the bipeds are on their own until Monday morning.
We mostly like it that our town-dweller customers have a romantic view of living on a farm. For a few minutes in a week, it appears that they do get to live this dream as they talk to us during the purchase of a dozen eggs or a jar of raw milk. They complement un on how physically fit we are not knowing that it is mostly ibuprofen which calms the joints and relieves the pain in the back. They tell us that what we are doing is their dream and some even contemplate plans to later in life start something like what we do for living. Hard to come up with some civilized response, but we let it pass.
True, this life is not for the faint in heart or for that matter for the sane. Would we change it for the world? Not for a moment.