It never ceases to amaze me how quick things can change from slow to go on the farm. Not that there is ever a lack of things going on, things to do or things to fix, but there are periods when the “something” is a whole lot of “somethings” at the same time. Last month it felt like spring was just starting to settle in after months of cold and prep and waiting for “go time.” Now, after a week of 90-degree weather, it seems as if we’ve skipped an entire season and jumped head first into summer and everything that comes with it. Winter coats are still hanging on their horseshoe wall hooks, snow boots are intermingled under the bench with flip flops, and the air conditioning is suddenly running as fast as we are.
I don’t mind hustle. In fact, I like it and at times thrive off it. Knowing things have to get done and done quickly in order to get to the next thing puts everyone into high gear. These are the times we come together and grow together as a family. Our kids see what it takes to make this farm work, sometimes like a well-oiled machine and sometimes like a machine needing oil. Even so, one way or the other, what has to get done, does and this time of year it’s constant. They watch their dad leave at dawn and come in well after dusk for nights in a row. They see us work together to get hay raked and baled and hauled to the barn. They do their own part shuffling us around on the gator to get where we need to be, saving extra trips and precious time. They blow and wash off equipment after it’s been used, while we move to the next field or next thing. They don’t know what they are learning right now, but one day they will. I know they will, because I know I have.
Not growing up or working on a farm until I married into one, I honestly had no idea what I was getting into, I only thought I did. I knew it was hard work, time consuming and at times stressful, but I didn’t know the ins and outs. I didn’t know the extent of sacrifices physically, financially and emotionally, and in a way I’m glad I didn’t. While the learning curve has at times been steeper than I’d like, it’s built strength and endurance that were worth the climb.
One night recently my husband stepped in the house at 9pm covered in grease, dust and sweat and the first words he said were, “If I have another day like today, I’m quitting.” I knew he didn’t mean it, but I also knew it meant something, so I listened to the what and why behind his worry. After a tall glass of tea, a plate full of supper and him telling me all that happened, he was back to talking about tomorrow with the optimism he usually wears better than I do. He had learned some lessons that day, though and in them, taught me some, too.
Lessons in the hustle can be hard and sometimes costly, but hardly unimportant and rarely without reward.
The thing about lessons is that they are always there for the taking, if we take the time to grab them. My husband has been farming his whole life and on that day, learned there was more to learn. Hearing him say that was a light bulb moment for me. I consider him an expert at what he does, but even experts have opportunities to better themselves and even more so, teach others from the new, in addition to the old. While some things are out of our control, some things aren’t and some things can be built upon to do better the next time around. On the farm – and in life – as long as we are drawing breath, there will always be next times to put into practice what we learned this time.
For us, “go time” is far from over, it’s just begun. Hay harvest is a several month long endeavor, and the old adage about making hay while the sun shines is truer than true. The only problem is that the sun doesn’t always shine when we need it to, so we have to make the best when it does…and when it doesn’t. Right now we have over 50% of our hay that needed to be cut a few weeks ago and rain in the forecast the next seven days. Holiday plans to visit family will probably be cut short, instead spent by long hours in the tractor. In-between hay chores, there is corn to plant, tend and eventually harvest. So much is dependent on weather and inevitably this time of year, there aren’t enough good days to spread out the work evenly. Instead, everything seems to need to be done at the same time. This is farming and I wouldn’t trade what we get to do, even if at times the stress of getting it all done is overwhelming.
Life can be the same. There are times we feel expected to get all the things done for all the people and all at the same time, but there’s only one of us. As a mother, photographer, writer and farmer, I’m feeling that pull more than ever right now. I’ve been asked and ask myself if there can be balance in the hustle? I think there can. But I think sometimes it comes in the imbalance.
We can’t give all we have to everything and everyone all at the same time. We do the best we can with what we have when we can give it. I’m trying my best to learn to prioritize and it’s not a lesson that’s coming as fast or easy as I’d like, but it’s coming. In the end, I’m not sure we can do much more. I’m not sure I can, anyway. And I see the same on the farm. We have fields that need to be planted in corn, but we can’t get hay off of them yet. So, we wait and work on other things we can do. What needed to be done yesterday may not get done until tomorrow (or next week), but it will eventually get done and from even my short years of experience, it all tends to work out in the wash. As in life.
The hustle may come and go and sometimes stay longer and stronger than we want, but what we learn in it, helps us get through it – this time and next. While it feels really good to be going, it will also feel really good when the constant going is gone. The promise and fulfillment of getting it all done is a great incentive to keep plowing through until it is…and the next season of hustle begins.
How do you handle life’s hustle and what lessons you’ve learned? I’m all in for learning from yours, too.
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