Almost everyone takes a moment at this time of year to commit themselves to personal improvement in the coming 12-month. Many of the more traditional commitments are well known—losing weight, exercising more, quitting smoking, or spending more time with loved ones. And if any of these are your goals, by all means go for them! They are part of a cultural heritage that reaches back to the ancient Babylonians, who annually renewed vows to their gods that they would return borrowed items to their neighbors and pay off debts in the New Year. During the Great Depression, statistics relate that about 25% of American residents made a New Year’s resolution, in 2000 that number was approximately 40%.
Yet, as I look outside across the snow-encrusted barnyard, I cannot help but muse over how a quintessential agrarian New Year’s resolution might appear. Winter is an apt time for imaginative play, so enjoy the detour.
An Agrarian’s New Year’s Resolution
Dear New Year:
I resolve to finish most (well, at least many) of those projects I’ve always been meaning to get back to. It’s not that I’m lazy…it’s just that there are so many of them! To make an entire list would rival Santa Clause’s wishes from children, so instead I’ll focus on a particular project.
I resolve to finish stringing up the hog fences for summer paddocks. I know I didn’t get it all the way finished, but then the ground froze, and I couldn’t dig any more post holes. Come to think of it, that’s not quite accurate. I couldn’t dig any more post holes because the auger attachment for my tractor’s three-point hitch broke off its tip, so there was no digging any further at that point. …Well, that’s not really the end of the story, either New Year, because I did try to dig a few more by hand, which bent the post-hole digger’s blades. But at least we got by.
So maybe my resolution really is to fix the post-hole auger. Only, it’s not mine…it’s the neighbor’s. So, yes, it really should get fixed, which probably means that I need to take it over to my other neighbor who has a machine shop and welding gear and… But wait, his shop is currently full because they’re rebuilding the engine on my tractor, which broke down this fall. So I don’t want to slow that down because it’s our only tractor with a scoop on the front, and…
This is getting a long ways away from the pig pen. Maybe I need a different New Year’s resolution.
Ok, how about this. I resolve to have fewer weeds in my garden this year. Yes, I know, we got off to a very good start this last year, but by August things were getting a bit ahead of themselves and…well…there’s still patches I didn’t get ripped out before the ground froze solid. So, I’m sorry New Year, I’m not planning to go out there with charcoal and thaw things out just to weed quite yet, so we’ll get back to that in the spring. I’m sure the weeds will still be patiently waiting for me.
The only problem with that, New Year, is that I have the early symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, which makes weeding and other forms of pulling, pinching, and ripping at times very painful. So, what I really need is more folks around to help me get that job done instead of do more of it myself and consequently get myself checked into surgery sooner than I’d like.
So, New Year, maybe my resolution in this regard really is that I need to work harder at finding more interns to help us out on the farm this summer. Eager, friendly, dedicated, and hard-working young folks who want to mentor in the methods and theory of sustainable agriculture. New Year, if you know anyone like that, send them my way!
Ok, ok, ok, maybe I do need a better New Year’s resolution than that. Maybe I need to look at the real root of the problem behind the last two ideas, a good, hard, honest look.
How about this—I really need to stop being so lazy. Think of the time I’m wasting! This getting up at 4:00 in the morning is silliness, what with milking and all. If I got up at 3:00 instead, I’d have another whole hour to get things done! Aha, that’s it, that’s my new resolution!
Your Humble Steward
Maybe you’re hoping to clean out the garage, get a new roof on the shed, bring in more firewood for wintertime, or just learn how to say thank you more often—whatever your hopes for the coming year, I wish you all the best of success. Take each day at a time, as a new gift, and find the good that lies in each opportunity. Maybe fixing the post-hole auger is a moment to learn a few finer points to soldering and sharpening tools. Maybe finding more folks to help out on the farm is a chance to engender learning opportunities that expand greater appreciation for the efforts behind growing and raising food. And maybe getting up a little earlier to experience the summer sunrise will inspire our awe of the elegant beauty of nature.
As you ponder your New Year’s Resolution, light a candle in hope for the coming 12-month, make a wish for peace and contentment, and give thanks for the precious gifts we already share with one another. A Happy New Year to you! See you down on the farm sometime.
Laura Berlage is a co-owner of North Star Homestead Farms, LLC and Farmstead Creamery & Café. northstarhomestead.com