Why Writers are not Farmers

I spend many hours a day chained to my desk writing articles and providing supportive services to my clients. After several hours of staring at the computer, with a pair of glasses to protect my eyes, wrist braces to prevent repetitive stress injuries, and repeated breaks to stretch my tired hands, back and hips (um and butt), I walk outside. I look for Paul who is somewhere on the farm. Sometimes I sit at the “dinner” table on the patio and allow my mind to drift. I think about how lovely it is to feel the sun on my face, the breeze on my back, and imagine the dirt between my fingers. I fantasize about what it must be like to be a farmer.

By contrast, Paul, who is the actual farmer in the family, spends his days out on the farm. He goes sun up to sun down doing what farmers do. He varies his routine each day. Some days it’s planting fruit trees that he started as seeds in containers and that are finally strong enough to fend for themselves. Other days he is pulling weeds and vines. And no, we don’t use some chemical to do this. He does this entirely by hand.

Sometimes he trims the grass, which grows at an alarming rate thanks to days that split themselves between endless sun and rain without ceasing. Some days he tends to the compost pile and picks up manure left by our goats. He loves those days because he gets to add them to the plants and he knows they love it! I can only imagine that during those times he fantasizes about having the fruit trees mature and bearing fruit.

It’s hard work and by the time he comes home for the evening, he is tired. He frequently takes a nap at lunchtime and another one as I prepare dinner. There’s no glamour in his job but there is pride in seeing the fruits of his labor and boy is it laborious.

On the weekends I do get to indulge my fantasy and join him. I find the clothes that I wore the week before, although dirty from sitting, not sweaty or a hint of smell that suggests I work for a living. He gives me a task: "Dig several holes and transplant the plant that I started as seeds into the ground."

He always overestimates how much he thinks I can accomplish in one day. If he were doing it, he would work five times as fast. Little more than a weekend warrior, with music accompanying me, I spend equal amounts of time daydreaming and playing in the dirt. I sift it through my fingers and pretend I am a farmer and not a writer. Once something is in the ground, I don’t move swiftly, as does he.

I make sure the mound is perfect and that whatever I have planted is perfectly straight. I don’t pour liberal amounts of water on the plant. Instead, I pour, and pat the earth. I pour, and pat the earth. I repeat this until the mound is sufficiently saturated and I am comfortable this little guy stands a chance on his own. I stare at it and am so proud of myself. I actually feel myself beaming with pride!

After some time Paul will walk over to where he left me and break my concentration long enough to say, “Oh Sarah, nice job! You managed to get one plant into the ground.” Before me lay at least 15 more small somethings–spinach, lettuce, some kind of bean or some tropical fruit that he started from seeds–with only one thing in the ground.

I check and two hours have passed. In that time Paul has managed to chop down 50 coffee trees that if left to themselves come autumn would be too tall to harvest more than five beans apiece. He’s sweating; he’s thirsty and my bet is that he’s unsure if he needs a shower or a nap more.

“Did you have fun sifting the dirt through your fingers?” He asks me.

“Oh, I did! It sure beats sitting on my ass and writing.” I reply.

“Think you can manage five more plants after lunch and before dinner?”

“Oh, I will do my very best, I promise!” I do really have wonderful intentions!

We go inside and I prepare lunch whilst he lay himself in the hammock and nap for 15 minutes. We eat and as we’re eating I tell him about the glorious day that I have had. I describe the songs the many beautiful birds sang, the warmth of the sun, how many times the dogs came to visit me and how dirty my nails got as I dug my one perfect hole.

I also tell him about a beautiful hawk, with an incredible wingspan, who averted my attention momentarily as he, mid flight, must have seen some animal he could eat. I spared no detail as I shared about how quickly I jumped to my feet to watch as he swooped down, surely approaching Mach 10, and caught whatever he spied and then went on his merry way.

"Man, we have a beautiful farm!” I tell Paul.

“Yes, we do!” Paul replies.

“We have such a wonderful life, don’t we?” I ask him.

“Yes, we do!” Paul replies.

“I want to be a farmer like you, full time. Maybe I could write only on the weekends.” I declare.

“Probably not a good idea. We’d starve at the rate you do things.” Paul replies. “I am glad you had a fun day out there.”