One of the pleasures of farm life is the killer commute. Of course, this day and age, not every farm worker actually lives on the farm. Amongst our crew this season, we have a couple hands who come in from Charlottesville and one dedicated fellow who drives from Richmond! At my last farm job, in Massachusetts, I had a short commute as well (though almost no distance seems short when trying to arrive by 6 in the morning). I won’t say that there aren’t good points to living off farm; in particular I miss the opportunity to pick up a dozen donuts and a professional coffee on the way to work, or a quart of milk on the way home. Living and working on farm, however, is a unique and pleasurable experience. This year, myself and two other seasonal workers have been able to take advantage of a comfortable three-bedroom house situated not 100 yards away from our CSA barn, greenhouse and pick-your-own fields.
Living on farm does come with a few responsibilities, the most obvious of which is animal chores. Right now the only livestock we have is our 75 laying hens, which we have to go close up in their coop every night after sundown and open up first thing in the morning so they can spend their day out in the open air and sunlight (or in the shade underneath the coop wagon as is often the case when the day is warm). Certainly not a great hardship, as the coop is only about a two minute walk from the house, but nonetheless I would imagine a few rock-paper-scissors games over the coming season come nightfall.
Mostly, though, living here at Bellair is great, especially for those like ourselves who enjoy farm work and being outside. Two things I noticed right away the first night I was here – how quiet it was (by quiet I mean the absence of human voices and the sound of engines and roads – there are plenty of other sounds, more on that later) and how bright the stars are. Perhaps this will finally be the year I learn my constellations! The quiet, on the other hand, can almost be disconcerting to those not used to it, but being able to listen closely without distraction to the sounds of birds, frogs, insects, the wind and the rain is very special.
I also enjoy seeing the farm views and fields in all times of day, seasons, in the light of the moon or in the dead of a dark, overcast night. Living and working on a farm is a great job for simply paying attention to things, for observing, for watching the way things change and develop, little by little or in great big steps, day after day, week after week, hour by hour, etc. Watching the weeds explode as the days get longer and warmer, watching the wispy leaves of the carrots grow taller and straighter every day, watching the river and creeks that wind through the farm rise and fall, muddy and clear with the rain and the seasons, watching our hens grow up…of course in any life and place there are an endless number of things to watch and learn from but perhaps you’ll excuse my bias in thinking that farming is a particularly rich opportunity for a curious mind and eye.
I have a favorite view, looking up a fenced pasture from our house towards a sparse line of trees to the West; I’ve made a point of taking a few pictures to document how the vista changes with time. The picture above was taken during a particularly beautiful sunset a week or two ago.
Anyway, there’s too many things to see out here for just us few to hog it all – come out and take a look at Bellair Farm yourself and see what’s going on, and experience this uniquely beautiful part of the country from root to leaf.