End of a Long and Particularly Significant Period of Time
There have been days where I had wished we didn’t grow veges for a living. I got a bit jaded with the idea of getting out in the rain, picking radishes or lettuce with cold water trickling down my back, dipping my hands in an icy cold bath tub of water to wash the muddy produce and pack for the market. I got a bit weary of weeding the beans, bending over dropping leek seedlings in holes, battling the scratchy leaves of zucchini bushes and carrying bucket loads of fertiliser in the days before we bought a tractor.
But now I no longer have to do any of that, for we will no longer grow vegetables, except in a backyard plot. It’s been a big decision and one that can’t be easily reversed. We cancelled our organic certification and have been dismantling our vege production system - clearing out our packing shed, digging up irrigation, stacking sprinkler pipes, and so on.
It seems a bit of a harsh reaction to a bit of whingeing from me. I mean, my hubby had 100 times more reason to complain than I have, and he certainly did the lion’s share of work in all degrees of weather while I lazed around in virtual comfort waiting for hubby to bring the produce to me for cleaning and packing.
But no, it was not for my lack of support, but rather a lack of production and consequently, harvest income that led us to this decision. I mean, you can’t get good child labour these days! Our teenage daughter has left home and this reduced input has made a difference this past growing season. The weather of course, has been overly wet for three years in a row and who knows what the next year will bring. And the planets aligned in such a way that it was not looking good for our viability. Better to bite the bullet and put our efforts elsewhere, such as paid work and cattle farming.
But what a change! Gone is the environment where the whole family had a day in the paddock, getting hot and dusty and sharing a cut lunch together under the wattle trees. No longer will I be able to delight at the froglets hiding amongst the plants, watching fairy-wrens dart from bush to bush and dodging the friendly carpet snake who didn’t eat enough mice for our liking. No store-bought zucchini, bean or cauliflower has ever come close in taste, to what we grew ourselves in organic, biologically active soil.
There have been some interesting highlights, some life lessons for me, such as in Road Trip on A Tractor and the painful self-employment dilemmas described in My Brain is Full. I also recall the incident where hubby came home to report that police helicopters had 'buzzed' him flying quite low to inspect just what sort of green leafy crop was being tended in the secluded bush. We also had the joys of picking on a Sunday when hundreds of trail bike riders zoomed past on the Rivertree Trail Ride. (So much for peace and quiet in the bush.) Add to that the usual delights of getting your boots stuck in the mud while walking down the rows and trying to extricate yourself without fallling face first in the gloop. Then there were the dingos watching us from the wooded section just across the gully, and following the sounds of mysterious birdlife.
The vege paddock holds much significance for us as a family, and also marks a stage in our life that enabled us to be self-sustaining in a lot of ways. It was a work environment where you could come to work in your daggiest clothes, yell at the top of your voice (ummm… just for the sake of it, not necessarily at cranky unco-operative kids), munch on tasty snowpeas or cucumbers while walking along the rows, work for yourself and have deep conversations over the bean bucket with your spouse.
Out of all the possible vocations someone could choose, farming has been a ‘noble profession’ which my hubby could sink his teeth into. It involves honest, hard labour, dedication, perseverance, physical and mental determination while providing an essential service for our society. It is the end of this particular vocation that is particularly sad for us - knowing that even though we’ll still be farming, but with beasts and not produce - the direct connection with our customers is gone. Picking a lettuce and putting it into someone’s hands a day or two later is pretty instant gratification as far as work outcomes go.
So for us, it’s the ‘end of an era’. Although technically, an era is “a long and distinct period of history with an identifying feature” I guess for us it seemed like a loooong time. 10 years is a massive chunk in a child’s life, and that’s almost how long we farmed that patch of ground for. It’s nothing compared to the farming families who have worked the same property for three or more generations. But we are part of the post-modern culture with people who flit from one job to another in a couple of years, who move house every five, and who change phone plans every month. In terms of that mentality, we have out-stayed them all. From the time eldest daughter was in grade 4, through the birth of two more children and in years that followed, this veg patch has been an integral part of our lives. So long, little farm.