Monday, 7 May 2012

Life on a Monday Night in a Water Tower Town...

First and foremost, my uncles would like to inform my readers that I gave them far too much credit in my first posting. They are a little worried about any of you showing up to the Vyn Farm and expecting to see brains and brawn and an efficient and synchronized approach to farming. They tell me mostly they just try things out and hope and pray they work. (Needless to say, I still think they do a pretty darn good job)

A few new things to report from the Ridge, we’ve got about a third of the soybeans planted and the earlier planted corn is just coming out of the ground! Exciting stuff!

As a salesman, my dad always taught me to start off any talk with a joke. I guess that counts for blogs too right? So here goes, “A city slicker wanted to buy land in the country so a real estate agent took him out to show him a property down a back dirt road. The city slicker saw the land and was concerned that there was quite a lot of rocks in the field. “Oh that’s ok,” said the real estate agent, “rocks are actually quite beneficial.” He went on to explain that the rocks absorbed sunlight and heated up the soil more quickly. Also, if it rained and got muddy the cows could step on the rocks and not twist their ankles. And lastly if there was a big wind the rocks would help the top soil to not blow away. The city slicker still looked pretty puzzled and wasn’t quite convinced as he pointed the neighbours field. “How come all his rocks are piled up on his fence line?” he asked. The real estate waved his hands and said, “Oh, he’s just been so busy he just hasn’t had time to spread the rocks out in the field yet.” (If you're a true city slicker, you’ll probably still be waiting for the punch line...let me know if you need further explanation haha) 

Last week and this week, most of our nights are focused on picking rocks because the planting is slowing down. Throughout much of my life, telling people I spent my Saturday or night after school “picking rocks” was the source of much amusement. I told my co worker a few days ago that I went out to pick rocks and he said something along the lines of...”Oh. Is that what you people do for fun in Ridgetown?” 

We don’t pick rocks for fun, that’s for sure, but it isn’t the worst thing either. We pick the big rocks out of the fields so they don’t get in and wreck the machinery. My dad says picking rocks is like shoveling snow in a snowstorm, you just keep picking even though you know there every year there will always be more. And that is true. Every year more have been worked up to the surface because of frost. Even when you’re in the fields you think you’re done and then you hit a rocky patch. Stew explained that the rocks are distributed according to how the glaciers rolled through back long ago. It all sounded a little too “Ice Age” to me, but remember Stew’s got the brains, so I just listen and agree with what he says. 

When you’re young and helping pick rocks, you get to the drive the tractor that pulls the flat bed we put the rocks on. This was how I first learned to drive a tractor. At first, this seems like the best possible situation. You don’t have to walk and keep up with the guys, you can sit in the air conditioned cab and rock out to the tunes. Considering this is how I felt about walking when I was younger...

...I was quite pleased to get to drive the tractor. Little did I know just how hard this job is. It’s a blow to any kids confidence. You’re constantly being motioned forward by the person who is walking ahead and wants you to hurry up, while trying to not get too far ahead of grandpa Dick who usually would trail in the back. And heaven forbid if you don’t keep your tractor tires straight and start crushing the plants in the opposite row. Thankfully, I’ve moved on from that job and enjoy far less stress actually picking rocks. Stew’s girls, Michelle and Brenna, have taken over driving the tractor and they do an awesome job, though they tell me it’s just as stressful as I remember it to be. 

Richard tells me how we rock pick is special because we use pitchforks. I highly doubt we are the only farming family who does this but Rich has a special connection with his tools. When I was in high school he helped out with my school on a volunteer weeding project at a seniors home. In typical Richard style, he took a few of his finest hoes that he had bought for hoeing the fields. He was proudly explaining on the bus on the way to the site  just how properly contoured the Dutch hoes are compared to the useless Canadian hoes. Considering I went to a primarily Dutch Christian Reformed school, I don’t think he realized why all the prepubescent boys and girls on the bus were laughing at his fascination with Dutch hoes. 

In case you’re interested, we pick rocks with a 6 pronged pitch fork with about an inch and a half between each prong. The rule of thumb is that any rock that can fall between the prongs is too small and not worth picking up. That rules works well unless you’re rock picking in your own field where you care just a little bit more. We were picking rocks in Greg’s field tonight, and he was pretty much picking up gravel. 

One thing I’ve learned from picking rocks is that a farmer’s job is never done. It’s no 9 - 5 job at a bank, they have things to do 24-7. You really need to love the land in order to appreciate the kind of hours you need to work. When you’re working and able to have good conversations with family or watch a beauty sunset, that’s just a few perks of the job :) 

When I was picking rocks this past week, I saw a huge rock up ahead and was so focused on grabbing that one, I realized I was missing a lot of other rocks as I was walking. Maybe this is a bit of a stretch, but it reminded me to be excited for the future but never to loose sight of the here and now. At that moment, I was picking rocks with people I love, watching the sun go down on another day in Ridgetown. I know there will be days this Summer where all I will want to be is back in BC, but focusing on what I have in front of me right now is so important. In the old words of the country artist Alabama, “I'm in a hurry to get things done...Oh I rush and rush until life's no fun...All I really gotta do is live and die...But I'm in a hurry and don't know why.” That’s what I’m gonna do this Summer, enjoy it one day at a time. 

When I told my coworker my thoughts on using the big rock as an analogy for focusing on the present instead of worrying about the future, he laughed a lot. After I wrote it out, I see how lame it sounds. Trust me, I’m not one to work through a poem and discover it’s deep and philosophical meaning (I remember spending 45 minutes in High School English focusing on the meaning of the colour blue in a poem...ridiculous), but as for this analogy, I’m stickin’ to it :) 

That's all Ridgetown has to offer for now, check back in a bit for another post...and while you're waiting check out the Alabama song (unless you're in a big hurry to get things done...)

Alabama: I’m In A Hurry (And Don’t Know Why) 

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