Confessions of a Farmer: Of Fiction, Fairies, and Farming

By Terri Smith –

In my workshops I keep telling people that one of the most important things you can do for your garden is have it be a place that you love to spend time. If you enjoy hanging out in your garden, you are more likely to be in your garden more, which means you are more likely to do more in your garden. I have been telling this to lovely groups of people at least once a week for a few months now, and then I come home, do the bare minimum of chores, and fall asleep reading on the couch.

A bit of silliness can help with the weeding. Photo: Terri Smith

It’s hard to live so far out of town and keep a balance between work, social, and farm life and still have time to rest. I don’t really have what many would think of as a proper “job” at the moment, and yet for the last six months I have gone to work at least five days each week. Some days I even drive for two hours to work in Williams Lake just for the fun of it! Right now, I’m doing a terrible job of finding balance, so, not surprisingly, I caught a cold.

I hate being sick at any time of the year, but gardening season is one of the worst. So much outside is changing so fast and I’m missing it. This is the time of year when weeds can take over in a day and different flowers bloom and are done in the blink of an eye. It’s also filling me with anxiety because, wow, is that quack grass ever growing fast! And those raspberry bushes I planned to set into orderly rows are still a jungle, and my old compost has still not been turned my new compost pile is not built… and the list goes on. I’m trying to listen to what I tell my classes: slow down; gardening should be pleasant. Start small.

Things want to grow even without your constant interference. If you mess it up, just rake it out and plant again with whatever comes next. And then I walk outside, get flustered and wonder what it was I had planned to do when I first opened the door. I feel I am getting behind.

I did start a lot of seedlings, though! I started more seedlings than I could fit in front of our windows. I have a vague memory of deciding last winter that I wouldn’t plant so many seedlings this year. Specifically, I was not going to worry about planting peppers or onions; but rather, I was going to buy more locally. So, what’s with this tray of several hundred onion seedlings and five each of five varieties of peppers?! Do I really need over 200 basil plants? Well, yes, obviously I do need this much basil. But perhaps 135 tomatoes are a few too many.

And here’s my biggest fear, my secret confession, the thing that keeps me awake at night: I’m scared that I might just be lazy and that’s why I’m getting behind. I have a reading addiction that is even stronger than my farming addiction. I didn’t know this back when I was a full-time farmer. Sure, there were those moments that I would pretend to be dealing with very important paperwork when I would just shut myself up in my office to finish a particularly engrossing novel; but overall, I managed alright. I was a high-functioning bibliophile who was not a danger to myself or others. But now, I read at all the usual times, like in bed and in the bath and in the goat pen, but I also find myself reading at more unusual times. I read while I’m setting the table. I read while watering the seedlings. I keep reading as I get up and walk into the dining room when Mark calls me for supper. It’s becoming a problem, really. I walk into more walls and stub more toes than most people would find acceptable. I am pretty sure it’s the WASPish work-ethic I was raised with that is causing me so much angst. If I were employed as an editor I wouldn’t be worried that I was lazy because I read so much. I’d be doing a fantastic job! But I’m an erstwhile farmer (I just looked up ‘erstwhile,’ because, as an avid reader I recognized that it sounded like the right word, but I wasn’t really sure I actually knew its meaning: it means ‘former,’ perfect!) and reading does not leave me with anything tangible to show for it other than overflowing bookcases.

So now that the growing season is upon us, I have told myself that I am allowed to read so long as I only read farming and gardening books from now till August. (Did you spot the loophole? I didn’t say they had to be non-fiction!) I am also going to create an even cozier reading area in my garden.

Don’t Piss off the Fairies. Photo: Terri Smith

I will find a way to balance my farming habit with my reading habit. I do so love my little garden. It really is true that when you make your garden into a place you want to visit you visit it more often. The fairy herb garden I pretend to have created for my nieces fills me with delight every time I am near it. Consequently, it is the most well-weeded and cared for section of the whole garden. My little greenhouse is a close second as it is right beside the fairy garden with a lovely path of beautiful stones leading to its door. Inside, I have a few antique garden tools and other oddities that make me happy.

It isn’t silly to add these small unnecessary treasures that bring us joy anywhere in our lives. Dostoevsky said, “Beauty can save the world,” and humans have been debating this idea ever since. But when I see how much better my garden grows for me when I find it beautiful, and how much better we eat as a consequence, I believe him.

Terri Smith is a non-certified organic vegetable farmer in the Cariboo. She is passionate about writing, art, goats, and feeding good food to good people. She believes in following your heart, living your dreams, and taking care of the planet.

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