I have written a great deal about what hard work farming is and the challenges that farmers face daily, and many would wonder why we have any farmers at all. Low pay, long hours and dependence on unpredictable forces, the weather being a big one.
As spring arrives and the joy of shedding layer upon layer of clothes, and now having the ability to enjoy a beautiful day, the black flies and ticks come out! Nonetheless my son now often refers to me as “Ruth take forever Holmes.” I assume it is due to the fact that I now can take time to, as they say, smell the flowers!
I like to walk through my group of sheep noticing how each new lamb is growing and enjoying their antics. When I pass out hay to the mothers, the young lambs all look at each other and take off as a group looking like a school of fish running the length of the paddock and upon reaching the fence turn as a group again and race back to their mothers. I would watch it all day if they continued.
I also love it when, after collecting eggs from the chickens, I bring my basket into the store and am greeted by my two granddaughters, Greta and Delia, who inevitably want to help box eggs. Yes, it takes forever, but to watch them carefully picking up and brushing the shavings off and gently placing the eggs in each slot in the cartons is such a joy as I watch how they gain confidence and ability. Yes, there are on occasion dropped or broken eggs, but that is what dogs are for, right?
Greta will keep up a stream of conversation about princesses and castles whether they are hay castles or ice castles. Once while Josh, who works for us, and I were shoveling out the chicken house — the worst job on the farm — and we were grumpy and smelly and really wanting to be done, Greta showed up in her satin pink, glittery princess dress complete with diamond tiara and pink full-length gloves. We could not help but smile and, when she embarked on her princess stories and sang songs from the one movie she has seen, “Frozen,” we finished the horrid job smiling and laughing.
Having my grandchildren close by and being able to watch them for my kids is a big intangible joy. The kids are incorporated right into the farm work that I do and they love it as much as I do, most of the time. I do admit that my grandson was a little dubious the day Josh and I showed up at Peterborough Elementary School to pick him up on my Thursday pick up day, but when I explained that we had just picked up the sheep from MacDowell Colony where they often graze and I would have been late picking him up, and then promised an amazing snack, he seemed happy enough to go with us. Working a job that I can take some time to enjoy beautiful sights and having the ability to spend quality time with my grown up children and growing grandchildren offers an intangible, but overwhelming feeling of euphoria.
Ruth Holmes is one of the principal farmers at Sunnyfield Farm, a nonprofit community farm in Peterborough.