We tend to overestimate what we can do in an average day
but underestimate what can be done over the course of a year
Today I learned that the Torrey irrigation canal is eleven miles long. Imagine organizing a group today to hand dig a ditch a hundred yards long, much less eleven miles. It’s not like those pioneer folk didn’t have stuff to do just trying to stay alive. It still takes a great number of people to keep the water flowing and apportion it fairly. And I never forget we live on the edge of a desert. It’s out of respect for the preciousness of that water resource that we planted a higher value crop like cider apples.
If I want something to get done, I have to put it on a list somewhere. Otherwise, it drifts off into a cauldron of swirling thoughts and anxieties. I’ve tried all sorts of organized list-making strategies, but it all comes back to writing it down somewhere and then taking the action.
The to-do list I made when I came home from Europe targeted all the infrastructure projects that had to get done before cold weather. Frozen ground has a way of impeding work, like digging post holes. The goats needed a shelter, we couldn’t plant fall veg in the hoophouse until it was erected. You get the point. We have been running ragged since July planting, hammering, irrigating, and cleaning up from one project so we could find the tools to start the next.
Mostly everything that needed to get done got done by October. The wood stove is installed, the hoophouse withstood a 60 mph windstorm, the garden harvesting is down to digging potatoes, picking Brussels sprouts and hunting for a forgotten beet or two.
On Friday, I made a new list, stuff to do this winter. On Saturday, after another day packed full of chores, R asked me when we would get a day off. He wasn’t complaining, but he was right. We need to slow down and enjoy the quiet season. We planned to take Sunday off and relax. But then we both woke up and realized we wanted to be outside while the weather was holding. So we planted bulbs.
In my defense, we discussed before I placed the order and 1100 bulbs seemed like a good idea at the time. Ok, I went a little crazy. Mostly they are daffodils and day lilies that went into a trench along the orchard fence. And if we care for them, they should come back for decades, maybe longer than us.
So we took a day off: R fixed some deer fence and ran the smoker while I dug potatoes. I found the long-missing sledge hammer after R finished the job by improvising with a 12 lb bell bar weight. The goats made a day trip to a temporarily fenced part of the orchard to eat weeds. Slate hunted voles; Mango did nothing. We finished planting and mulching the main bulb bed (I still have tulips and Dutch iris to plant in the hoophouse for cutting flowers). Our buddy Ed brought by some friends to see the orchard. We made a Monterey Jack cheese while watching football. I knitted a gift. The smoked pot roast finished in the crockpot with apples, onions and our potatoes went great with a Belle de Boskkop single varietal hard cider from West County Cider.
So we didn’t spend the day lazing on the sofa (that we don’t have yet); it was better. Cold weather will drive us indoors soon enough for reading and guitar noodling. Yesterday, we were together doing small, not-urgent jobs in the sunshine. Nothing that we did had a deadline or was on a critical path. We happen to like cheese, and spring flowers, and a deer-free orchard. We also like getting our hands in the soil, the scent of mesquite and the goats’ calls when they see us. It’s hard to call it work when the doing of it all is so rewarding. Why would I want a day off from all that?