A Personal Take on the Job at Hearty Roots
So, I’ve been working on this Ph.D. in pastoral poetry for a few years. And I came to work at Hearty Roots last May to give my mind a rest. Last summer and this one, I’ve neither taken nor taught a summer course. Not one foot has been set in an archive. I have left all the serious thinking to Momma Boss Miriam and Poppa Boss Benjamin. I blindly follow where they lead. I dumbly dig wherever they say to dig. And that suits me fine. It’s more than fine, really. But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from reading all this pastoral poetry, it is that nerdy, aesthete navel gazers like me too often attempt to beautify farm life, ignoring the extremely hard, exhausting work that goes into growing food. It is not that beauty cannot be found in it. I certainly think it can. But, for some reason, I feel it is important to take a moment to dwell on how hard it really is.
There are plenty of things that are hard about writing a Ph.D. dissertation. It’s not worth measuring one kind of difficulty against another. But let’s it put it this way: on a good day, reading and writing without any extended breaks, I will have hit my stride by eleven or twelve at night. I feel no particular pull to go to sleep. Even if I have to wake up early the next morning, I can type with reasonable clarity well past midnight and expect to be astute the following day. On the farm, there is no typing, no pacing the house
trying to clarify a connection in my mind. For the most part, I just dig around in the earth. I do it in every kind of weather for nine or ten hours each day. And when I get home, I am lucky if I can keep my eyes open for two or three hours before I collapse. If I am up past eleven I have reason to worry about how useful I can be the next day. The dust that has saturated my socks and covered my feet and ankles over the course of the day gets dream-kicked off onto my bed sheets overnight because I am simply too bone weary to bathe on weeknights. On weekends, I do shower. Oh God! I shower and it is beautiful. There ought to be poems about that. But weekends cannot be taken lightly. The rest and rejuvenation are a necessity. I must be sure to get at least one really good, long, sober sleep. Otherwise, I’m dragging the entire next week.
I am not complaining. I believe this work should be hard. It is the way we feed ourselves. It is one of the few truly essential jobs. If that is not worth the labor, what is? And we do it ethically. We do it well. We grow great tasting, healthy vegetables while doing relatively little harm to the environment. But all of these good things are the fruits of real labor. The hardness of the job should not be passed over. The hardness seems to be part of what makes it what it is. That’s worth a moment’s consideration in a world that is ostensibly at work to make our lives less difficult.