CONFESSIONS OF A FARMER | The Reluctant Riser

"I'm much more cheerful after morning coffee, especially when the sun is shining." Photo: Curtis Seeger

“I’m much more cheerful after morning coffee, especially when the sun is shining.” Photo: Curtis Seeger

By Terri Smith —

Today we are enjoying yet another beautiful, sunny, September day. I was worried for awhile that the weather was going to skip September altogether and move right on into October. It’s nice to see the sun again, but I’ve got to admit, I’m not sad to be entering fall. It’s a relief to see the sun setting noticeably earlier each night and rising noticeably later each morning.

The record-breaking frosts we had all last week have meant that the summer crops in both greenhouses have all been killed off. We replanted one with fall salad greens, but with temperatures so cool at night now I often don’t open the greenhouse till 9 or 10 a.m. and close it again at about 5 p.m. It’s sad to say goodbye to all the tomatoes and cucumbers, but nice to not have to rush outside at 6 a.m. to open greenhouses.

On harvest days we can’t actually start working before nine o’clock as there is still just too much frost on the plants. This means we have more humane working hours in the garden now. We work something like nine-to-five, like normal people. We have longer, more leisurely breakfasts now, and sometimes even a second coffee before we go out to work.

I have a confession I feel I must make here: I’m not a morning person.

Farmers are supposed to be morning people. They’re supposed to love jumping out of bed to greet the day before the sun has risen. I always enjoy such experiences when they have to happen. Nothing compares to a sunrise. But in the heat of summer when we start work at 6 a.m., I must admit that I drag myself out of bed all grumbly and prickly, only after Curtis has put on the coffee.

Everyone just laughs at me when I’m grumpy; I guess I’m an amiable grump, but no matter how much I try or how early I go to bed, I’m just not a morning person. I’m fine after the first hour (and second coffee), but really, I prefer evenings. I always have a creative surge of energy at about nine o’clock at night. This is when I like to write or read or paint or clean the house.

It took a long time, but I’ve made my peace with being a reluctant riser. It’s a shocking truth, I know, but not every farmer loves mornings. I should maybe have just let you hold onto your illusions; the idyllic image of the cheerful farmer hoeing with a smile at the crack of dawn, but I think it’s important to be honest. I’m not saying I don’t get up early when the season calls for it. And I don’t like to sleep past nine o’clock, even on weekends, but I think seven is a sensible time get out of bed. Six is pushing it, and five is getting close to cruel and unusual. Before five isn’t even something I want to talk about!

This is a tough confession to make in the Cariboo. I’m sure I’m going to hear about it. This is the part of the country where you’re no one if you’re not happily up before the sun. I used to feel tremendously guilty for not enjoying the sound of the alarm going off at 6 a.m. I have also noticed over the years that it’s a matter of pride around here to relate to everyone casually in conversation just how early you get up.

“The dogs were making a hell of racket at about 5:30 this morning,” one neighbour related over coffee at another neighbour’s place. “Would’ve been pretty annoying if I hadn’t already been up for an hour.”

It’s taken me awhile to figure it out, but I’ve also noticed that up-every-day-at-the-crack-of-dawn stories tend to not be true. I know there are farmers, ranchers, and others out there who love early mornings, but they aren’t usually the ones bragging about being up at such ungodly hours. As for the rest, well, after hearing such stories for so many years growing up here and believing them, I starting doing a bit of investigative research and dropped by to visit or phoned a few friends or family members before seven, and you know what I found? Either blurry-eyed people still robed in housecoats, sometimes even still in bed, or phones being answered in that raspy morning voice we all have when we haven’t used our vocal cords all night. It made me happy, and I must admit, a little smug, to be up before the so-called early-risers.

So as fall turns to winter and we move into the dark time of the year, let’s enjoy getting up with the sun at a more reasonable time.

Terri Smith is an organic vegetable farmer in the Cariboo with Road’s End Vegetable Company. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Literature and a diploma in Art.

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