One of the things with which I struggle the most here on the farm is the fine line between home and work. It's a tricky thing to balance. On the wonderful side, there is no commute, no clock to punch, and I have great leeway in deciding what to tackle on a daily basis. I enjoy farming, and so whether I'm dealing with the incubator, or greenhouse, or gardens, or doing things in the kitchen, it often feels less like work and more like what I want to do. On the downside, you have to be self-motivated to get real work done instead of playing on Pinterest for hours. You're also never really away from the "office," so the work that needs done is always staring at you, making it hard to relax and just enjoy some down time. You're working far more than 40 hours a week. But by far, the hardest part about working from home (at least for me) is the idea others have- that if you're home, then you're not at work. Some days, especially this time of year, it feels like the phone calls and the visits from folks dropping by unannounced never end.
Besides farming & blacksmithing, Dan is also a pretty well known handyman around the area. He knows how to do just about anything- concrete, block laying, carpentry, electrical, plumbing, roofing and some more things I'm probably forgetting- and because of the quality of his work and the reasonable rates he charges, he is often very busy. Spring and fall are by far the busiest times, when folks seem to want to get their projects done, and done right away, or are opening/closing camps for the year. It is a blessing that he is so busy he's booked up until about June for outside work right now, without ever running an ad anywhere- just word of mouth & repeat customers. Calls come in daily, anytime from 8 AM to 9 PM, even on Sundays. Since we don't have business hours, folks just call at whatever time is convenient for them, but it also means it's hard to get a break from the ringing phone if you're in the house. Some folks think it will work out better if they just drop by, although it still usually means I'm just taking a message because Dan's hard to catch at home right now. It's also tricky, because everyone thinks that their project is the most important, and surely can be squeezed in sooner. But, while the income this time of year is important, farm work is even more so, because what we do or don't get done affects our income for the rest of the year. So it's really important that Dan schedules time to just be here, taking care of the farm.
The first task of the year in the fields is always plowing, and the garden is located along the road. I know that it's really cool to watch the horses work, but I'm also kind of amazed at the frequency with which people stop by for a chat while Dan is working the team, as though he's not in the middle of anything important. Some are inquiring about work, while others are just being neighborly. Five or ten minutes isn't much out of a day, so it doesn't feel as though you're inconveniencing us, I'm sure. But when you're the third person that has stopped for a little chat in the past hour, it starts to feel as though we just can't get anything done. At that point, from our point of view, it's a lot more neighborly to just smile and wave as you drive by, without expecting us to stop working.
This time of year, folks are starting to come and visit the area, and some forget that we don't open our farm stand until the end of May. I am very appreciative that they take time out of their weekend to try and give us business, and I do understand wanting to stop and see the critters since they came all the way out. After all, I encourage folks to visit and even feed the poultry during farm stand hours. But...when we're closed, it's my front yard. Again with the fine line...how to balance being a tourist attraction with not having strangers tromp through my yard anytime they wish. Some folks stopped by last weekend- Dan told them that the stand wouldn't open for another month or so, and they asked to see the birds. They were just being polite before walking through the yard, but he misunderstood and came to get me because he thought they were interested in purchasing chicks. So I go out and ask if they'd like to see the chicks. Faces light up like it's a special treat and I knew right then that they just wanted a farm tour, that they didn't come knowing there were chicks here, much less looking to buy them. But we promised a chance to see the chicks, so I took them around back. It was a beautiful day, and I had laundry on the line. I secretly thanked my lucky stars that it was just a load of sheets and towels, not the other load I had ready. There is nothing weirder than random people wandering into your back yard when you have your undies out to dry. (Sometimes I wonder if I'm the only person who has to calculate the probability of strangers dropping in before deciding what to wash!) They really enjoyed the babies, and as I gently guided them around front again, I patiently answered all the questions they asked about the farm, the animals, the buildings, and how we do things here. But after a half hour or so, I was really getting ready to tell them to enjoy looking around but I needed to attend to other things, but they had their farm time fill and left. I was left trying to pick up on my own work where I left off 40 minutes prior.
It's not that folks are trying to be rude at all, and to some extent it's my own issue. I understand that if the kids had a blast on their vacation petting kittens and seeing the birds Saturday, and the farm is walking distance from the camp, why parents would send them down here to entertain themselves on a Sunday morning. But...sometimes Dan and I like to enjoy a relaxed Sunday morning breakfast together. It's kind of hard to relax and enjoy when there are random people walking all around your home, and even sitting on your front porch. However, I guess every job has a downside, and it could be much worse, because as a general rule our farm stand customers are amazing people! Yes, even the ones that drop in. While it can be exhausting, it's also nice to know that there are so many people genuinely interested about the experience of a real family farm, and who want to take time to find out where the food we sell really comes from, and how it was raised.
And with that I must be going...I think I hear a car pulling into the driveway....