Thursday, March 25, 2010

Change is Bad

This is one of my favorite Woody Allen quotes, from a movie he made back when he was America’s darling, before he cheated on Mia Farrow with her daughter. He used the phrase to argue that where he was, the role he was in, the rut he was in, was better, more comfortable, than leaping into something unknown, something scary and challenging.

I say this all the time, especially to the new apprentices, when they walk onto this farm and there is nothing familiar to them. It’s all new, all change, all stressful and weeding through personalities, both human and non-human animal alike, adjusting to routines, to house rules, to what the other humans living at the farm are used to.

Shannon came up for two weeks and helped lamb. She overlapped with Sarit, who is new, and she filled her in.

I told her about all of the rules, Shannon said. Sarit’s eyes were big. No shoes in the house, nothing but butts in the bench that Kyle built (don’t pile books, backpacks, sleeping cats, etc here), hang the clothes on the line with pins, don’t leave dishes in the sink, wipe up the floor in the shower, clean the cast iron cooking utensils without water when Kyle is around, with soap and water when Jenn is around, put the lids on the Tupperware, don’t leave the tools in the field.

Sarit told the rules to Anna, who arrived yesterday. She asked to arrange the food in the pantry. I told her that she could re-arrange the milkhouse. Really, I was thinking that I couldn’t handle the change, but honestly, the pantry is a mess.

These two haven’t had any farm experience, and yet, after just a few days, they’re planting the farm’s crops, feeding the animals, helping me do the taxes. They’re awesome.

Did the cows get fed three bales of hay? This is a rhetorical question that I am asking, because I can tell they have. Yes, they say. Well, I respond, they should only get two. Sarit gathers the hay up and feeds some to Michael the horse.

Do you hear the sound that the chicks are making right now? That means they’re out of food and water. Sarit, Anna and Bradford give the chicks food and water. The chicks are happy.

So I intend these questions to be teaching type questions, not intimidating or self-deprecating, but I know that Change is also Scary. It means that there’s this person, who is usually clad in the finest velour and other cast offs garnered from the local thrift store, who has an air of authority about her that is sometimes offsetting, that seems, but doesn’t really mean to, question personal ability.

In March, the changes of season are so subtle that I can track them. The first turkey vultures are back. The red-winged blackbirds and common grackles return. The day lilies are creeping out of the ground, and the garlic and wild leeks are growing. The robins are crazily flying and setting up territories, the potatoes in the root cellar are developing eyes (which will later turn into roots when they’ve been planted) and the garlic and onions that have been stored are sprouting. There are hens setting on eggs to hatch them out, and the peacock is displaying his glorious feathers. Change happens every single day in March and April and May.

It happens every month, every week, every day, incrementally more subtle, but change, just the same.

I no longer work for the Country Animal Hospital, after eleven years there. A shock and a serious source of panic for me at first. I honestly never thought that I would leave there. It was a comfortable place to work and I loved the people. I think that I was a little too vocal about recent changes, and the economy has affected this establishment, as it has many, so there was a need to consolidate. I have had an amazing outpouring of support from the community, and I thank everyone. I believe that things are as they should be, though. The animal hospital needs to stay in business, and I was the most expendable.

I just finished up the Joy of Keeping a Root Cellar, to be published by the same company as the Joy of Keeping Chickens. I’m also substitute teaching and working with a friend landscaping. And I have way more time to farm.

So change isn’t bad- it’s change. And here is spring, at our heels, turning these browned fields into green-gold, bringing bird song, rebirth and warm sun.

Happy Spring.