As I grip my wife’s hand, fingers interlaced, and walk to the top of the hill with a picnic basket clutched in the other; deep in my heart I know as a farmer, and father, I have so much to do, yet as a husband, this is the most important activity of the day.
Before us lies a sprawling field with commanding two hundred and seventy degree views of some of Maine's most prominent western ridges. In the mid-ground, hardy rock walls with their sun bleached stones intersect in harsh contrast against a dark carpet of green, ankle high grass with a distant ridge lit in vibrant hues of yellow’s, oranges and reds that glow in the emerging morning sunlight. As a layer of fog rises up from the valley below us, the moisture of the morning dew is apparent from a light breeze carrying the crisp scent of damp corn slowly maturing in a field just beyond the rock wall. With only a slight breeze, the morning’s breath gently rattles the tassels of the corn as we just talk; of children, of our home, of our future; the type of conversation that is nothing, yet is everything in a marriage.
There are hundreds of hay bales to choose from, yet the choice is easy as we spread our quilt over the wet grass at the apex of the hill which affords us the best view, placing our backs against the baled up pasture that acts as both a back rest and a wind break. As deer gracefully graze at the edge of the meadow far in the distance, we begin to dine on carefully wrapped breakfast sandwich’s laden with thick pieces of bacon; fresh eggs and a layer of cheese all stemming from our farm as they are pulled from the picnic basket. Close behind are pieces of toast, smothered with butter and sweetly flavored with cinnamon. A mason jar of fresh cider is splashed into two tumblers as we greet the morning, and in turn the morning greets us.
The draw is too much, and I watch in silence as my wife delays the indulgence of her breakfast, and pries her shoes from her feet, mumbling something about wet shoes on the soft blanket, though I know there is a yearning inside her that begs to walk barefoot across the field as one last hold out of autumn before the green blanket of soft grass with nary a bramble in it, is replaced by harsh, cold snow.
It is a hard reality; the hay bale we so nonchalantly lean against is our sustenance. As farmers, everything we have is equated to the miracle of sheep being able to convert the green round rolls of grass, into delicious red meat. The picnic basket, the food within, and even the shoes she has now taken off, have all been purchased from this conversion. In addition, thousands of dollars have been invested in the tractors and equipment to produce these simple geometric bundles of grass, as well as hundreds of gallons of diesel fuel that provided the energy to do so. Even more equipment, more fuel and more labor is needed to transport these hay bales from this field to the sheep’s mangers so the miracle of conversion of green grass to red meat can continue to take place.
And yet, all this escapes us as we simply enjoy the morning; basking in a simple pleasure of farming life, merely enjoying our wind break, taking pictures of the beautiful bales gracing the morning meadow in all its splendor on top of a simple Maine hill, and posing on various hay bales for pictures and posterity.
The simple round hay bale; for us, sustenance and survival literally rolled into one.
Farming is not always picnic in the back forty with wife and children in tow; it is also full of stress and worry too, and I say that so people are not disillusioned. However there are times when it is essential to just grab your wife's hand, go for a walk on the farm, and make likewise plans together in the true interest of marriage. I am not sure how many times to do this qualifies as "a lot of times" we do this, or "just a few", but Katie and I try to do this as much as we can, a struggle with 4 young daughters for sure. But it is so essential; for the farm, for each other, for our marriage...
Don't get me wrong, we get outside with our daughters too...a lot actually and in every season...but this thread is about couples.
Ours is often in the shop at the edge of our two acres ranchette-in-town. Years of doing things, we have put this shop back into doing things we like to do, more of metal work and craft than of what comes of the earth, but still. Open the big door that faces south and look that way onto the larger chunk of our turf, and the tomato plants in rows, the squash meandering across the thick straw mulch... bring a couple of sandwiches and a soda (for him) out and pause to wipe off, perch on something and munch. Years ago, we spent three years in similar surroundings and now have our own once again, to make things. And just enjoy our day. Trade admiration of projects, laugh at the failures, be proud of the successes. And sit there and know peace, time marked by the sun... slices of the red orbs out there in what we are now enjoying... maybe someone we know stops by. We do more mark time by the calendar these days, instead of each hour, each minute. That's nice. Right now the day is 'dew' (or 'soggy' if it rained), muggy, hot, it broke (temperature) and hurry to get the late chores done, and 'feed the mosquitos' (aka dark) then wander out as the night cools again to do things some more. Even he has learned to take a nap during the hot, and work late at night when it is cool, the buzzing of the fat brown beetles (they are so round they look like they will burst) that sound ominous... the cicadias went to bed so it's quiet. The yardboys come wander through and tell us we should go back to the house and pet them and feed them, and we give them love anyways if they get close. If I'm really lucky the one will even put up with a bit of lap sitting and petting, he's not exactly tame but...
It's finding those moments when you can just be yourself, do what you want.
In marriage, the caring is the best part. You're not twenty any more, but. That's what counts. 2 am is often the best time of the day lately. We'll see when fall bites us, but. One shop plus one RMH, ought to be nice this winter. We shall see.
Travis, it sounds like you've gotten to the caring part.
22 years ago today I got married and have been married every year since. Okay, so it might not have been to the same woman, but I got right back on that horse! I love being married though, commitment and trust, and just doing things together. Katie (my current wife) loves life on the farm having come from in-town life. We laugh because she said she always wanted "a few acres". But I do think more now before I speak, and while things bother me, am slow to say anything, "being gentle on the gentler sex" as the book suggests, and has worked better for me.
It is not limited to my wife only. I try to dote on my daughters individually as well. (I have 4)
As I was having a picnic with my four year old, a woman walked by and said, "She does not know how lucky she is." I reflected on that, and how sad it is that there is advertisements on TV telling fathers to take time with their kids. Yep I have had pony tails put in my hair and had my finger nails painted an aqua ble. What does it matter, they had fun (and nail polish remover is available).
Ruth Stout was famous for gardening naked. Just like this tiny ad: