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On the Farm - Surprised by the Expected

The last couple of weeks have been filled with last minute preparations for the winter weather that finally made its appearance. Bill and Liam sealed the old barn windows that leak cold air, wrapped the laying hens’ pen with plastic, and hung heat lamps over their roosts. They also closed the ends of the greenhouse. In the fields we dug carrots, pulled radishes, and cut kale and herbs. We spread another cover over the spinach tunnels while crossing our very cold fingers, hoping it will protect the precious crop. And next year’s garlic beds were put to bed under several inches of straw.

Even though we knew winter was coming, it was sometimes hard to believe during one of the warmest Novembers ever. As such, we weren’t prepared for it. I spent several hours last week grumbling about it - certain it was all Bill’s fault. He defensively reminded me that he had been busy taking advantage of the nicer weather to work on other projects. I eventually conceded that he was right (the truth was easier to see once my fingers and toes were warmed up by the fireplace).

It is funny though how we sometimes know something will be happening but find ourselves surprised when it actually is upon us. Bill and I have collectively experienced 93 winters in Wisconsin. No one could say this one snuck up on us, but it felt like it did. We weren’t ready.

I feel the same way about aging. I’m working a seasonal job at Lands' End. It’s been fun meeting new people and connected with others I knew of in a “we live in the same town” way but can now call friends. It has been satisfying to have a task laid out at the start of the day, work as a team, and then leave with the job successfully completed. My job packing boxes can be monotonous, but it allows my mind time to wander. Lately I’ve been contemplating getting older. I realize how much I value being able to move my body and do jobs that require strength, flexibility and some degree of speed.

Like this job and like farming. I wonder how many more years that will be true. I know that I look older than I feel and at some point that gap will narrow. And I will be surprised – and probably not pleasantly. I know I can’t stop it. My challenge is actually to accept it. Sometimes gracefully, others times fighting as long as I can. I selfishly want to keep participating and contributing.

That’s how winter presents itself to me; we can’t stop it, we actually have to accept it and figure a way to work with it to grow and harvest food for us all. This week we have another pretty full box for you as evidence that we are doing just that and will keep doing it right into the new year.

And if that means being surprised sometimes - even by expected events - so be it.

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