I think I was in some kind of highly-functional shock. I'd never had that amount of time under my control before. I wasn't the kid who took a year off in college to travel. I also didn't move back in with my parents, join the Peace Corps, Armed Services, or move in with a boyfriend. My first job in the real world started a few weeks after my college graduation. I moved there from my college apartment. My entire life was school, college, work. It wasn't until I was nearly 30 that I learned what a summer was.
We're told it's our childhood summer vacations that are sacred. They aren't. You don't have agency, or money, or the ability to do anything without permission. It's just day care, supervised play. Going feral was very different. Quitting a life I had grown to despise for the terrifying freedom of self employment felt like breaking all the rules. It wasn't a summer off from school. It was Lord of the Flies. But instead of a bunch of boys fighting over a shell it was one badass bitch who just bought a British draft horse she didn't know how to ride with an inkling towards falconry.
(2012 is an insane year on this blog, I realize now.)
I look back on that first summer with such fondness. I also have a Time Traveler's excitement of getting it back. It will take sharing a first summer off like that with another person to get it. Like if I fall in love with someone and they quit their job and moved in. They would get to experience exhausting morning chores/milking/fence repairs/poultry moving and what coffee tastes like covered in a humid sweat. Then we'd for a few hours with neighbors and realize only after we're done that it is only 11AM?? WHEN DID TIME STOP! They'll feel it too. This amazement that not even half the day is gone and so much life has been lived. How could we sweat so much? How could a person do that much and forget to eat? And we'll eat great food we know and raised. Then take a break at the hottest time of the day to jump into the Battenkill and feel the entire world's temperature become comfortable again. Maybe a nap in a hammock before afternoon chores. End the long day with a good meal, cold beer, and a fire and music and barely believe we can wake up and do it all again. That summer will be glorious, and get the benefit of edits from my first one - mistakes avoided, better swimming holes, better food, better me.
Being a farmer is like being in any long-term relationship. It starts out with romance and energy and it's hard to believe any other world exists outside it. I have no idea what was happening in the world when I first fell in love with farming. It swallowed everything about me. I was this shy, farm-curious girl just flirting with the taboo of an Agricultural life. Experiments in bees, chickens, rabbits and a rural address were exhilarating changes to a suburban life. The I dove. I jumped into this dream of farming full time without the proper preparations or income to do so safely.
A few years in you realize the honeymoon is over and the little things that excited you and drove you, are now everyday. This is the point in any relationship where things either solidify or fall apart. For me, it was both. I was falling apart but it was the farm that kept me going, standing up, forcing strength from a scared girl. I made bad choices, thought book deals would never stop coming, and dealt with some personal demons I am not comfortable sharing just yet. Some day. That's another book.
I didn't leave. I didn't walk out on this relationship to pursue another lifestyle. I see this happen a lot. I see young women and men dress up in their coveralls and fill their instagram accounts with baby goats and mason jars on hay bales only to be sharing photos from a month in India a year later, or their city loft's new red sofa and french bulldog. I think agriculture was a fad for a few years. I think a lot of people wanted that feral summer. They got it, loved it, and then grew tired of it. That's not a bad thing. The presence this life insists on is insane. My mom always said even soldiers got leave every so often. Farmers do not.
I'm here. I'm not going anywhere. This summer will be (I think?) 6 years of self employment. It has been hard, exhausting, nerve-wracking, and life changing. It turned me into a woman who knows she can count on herself. Who is thicker skinned, harder, and more determined then ever. I am still here.
I am waking up every day now hoping to make a sale (which is really hard. Most people ask and back out) and figure out how to not hate the guy from the bank who drives by to photograph my home from the road to decide what the foreclosure market value is. But if you play hopscotch with disaster long enough you realize you PLAYING. You are still in the game. You haven't fallen. Focus on the next bill. Figure out the next sale. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Don't give up.
Every winter I think about the coming summer. To get there means catching up on so much. But if I can figure out today, and put more money in the bank than I take out - I can hold my head high and keep my promise to my dogs of a full belly, roof, and love. I get through one day at a time. They add up to a life you can be proud of. A life worth fighting like mad to keep.
I want to stay here. I want to keep playing hopscotch a little longer. I only want that game to end when I win it - when solvency is the new reality instead of resourcefulness.
I will get there. I'm certain.