The other morning, while Eric and I were having our morning tea/coffee, he asked me out of the blue, “What’s the difference between ‘diligent’ and ‘vigilant’?” My answer was pretty much right on the money, and after double-checking in our handy-dandy dictionary, we both agreed (while laughing out loud) that these two words pretty much summarize our lives as parents & farmers. The combination of these two words describes our daily work as caregivers of our children, husbandman and husbandwoman to our stock, and steward of this land we call our farm.
diligent ~ having or showing care or conscientiousness in one’s work or duties.
vigilant ~ keeping careful watch for possible danger or difficulties.
So, here’s a little story from my day. Not the one I intended to write about for this post, but one that seemed more suited to my musings about diligent vigilance than what I had planned. Here goes:This afternoon, I wanted to accompany Eric for evening chores to try to get some good photos of the livestock, the chickens, and our diligent (well, sometimes) livestock guardian dog on duty. There “wasn’t much to do,” claimed Eric, “just collect eggs and pick up some net (fence)”… I was trying to time my photo session with the evening’s sunset because I knew the light in the pastures would be gorgeous with all of the autumn foliage.As soon as we entered the pasture, however, we could see one of our rams was loose, not at all where he was supposed to be, and working his way towards the flock of ewes. Uh-oh. You see, we aren’t planning on putting the rams in with the ewes for another three weeks or so, the difference between March and April lambing. And since we rely entirely on grass for feeding our pregnant/lactating ewes, those three weeks make a huge difference come springtime. Anyhow, snapping into our diligent vigilante mode, first priority is advancing the big livestock herd into their next paddock, putting more space and more fence between cycling ewes and a curious ram. Then, quick, grab some fence to manipulate the ram back where he belonged. The sun is setting now. I see my photo opportunity setting as well. Once the ram was successfully wrangled, on with the show. But suddenly, Eric’s chores just increased because he moved the animals into their morning’s paddock, which meant he needed to get another paddock set up for the morning. Meanwhile, the children and I hop onto the golf cart and head to the chickens to fetch the eggs. I hear Eric holler, across the hollow, “would you please pick up four nets?” I’m not certain that it was a question, but more like an exasperated plea for a little assistance. “YES, DEAR!” was my reply, so I set to work picking up the requested 650 feet of fence while the children gather the eggs. At this point, darkness has descended, and we worked by the pale light of a narrow sliver of moon.
Fast forward a wee bit, we’re feeling like we’ve got a handle on the situation. Then Eric says “Cher, come here a second, I want to show you something…” He leads me into the upper garden, which the livestock are now bordering on two sides, and lets me witness the cows in their eager hunger, pushing hard on the garden fence (non-electrified) to get at the hedge of honeysuckle that had taken hold there. That fence was erected fifteen years ago, and a few of the cedar posts holding that fence up have rotted. We realize that it would be a piece of cake for a 1500 pound cow to just push right on into our garden (our garden!) where our main crop of fall and winter kale is growing. So we set up yet another length of fence to act as a deterrent just in case our vivid imagination of possible doom became reality. Must protect kale I kept chanting to myself as I envisioned how I would explain the sudden absence of our primary fall green to all of our CSA shareholders… “sorry, the cows got it.”
We then realized that much of the lower garden’s deer fence (just off-set strands of electrified poly-wire) were still laid down on the ground from our garlic mulching project. So, if the livestock were to get out and head downhill a bit, they would have easy access to the crops in the lower garden. Mercy. So while Eric finished up his chores, I stumbled through the darkness feeling my way along the wires and putting them back in place as best as I could. The absolutely magical stars and constellations were offering just enough light so that I didn’t break my neck. At this point my patient little troopers were starting to grumble about going back to the house. Yes, sweet babies, almost done now.
We all loaded into the golf cart, finally calling evening chores “good enough”, and started the drive from the pasture down the hill into the woods toward our homestead. What little light we were getting from the stars and fingernail moon (that was already setting), was pretty much swallowed by the dark trees once we enter the forest. And the golf cart’s lights don’t work. Well, the lights work just fine, it’s the switch that doesn’t work. Needless to say, it’s pretty dark. But this is a road we have traveled many, many times before. While maybe not being able to actually see, in the common use of the word, we could certainly sense that we were on the right track. Trusting our instincts (and maybe saying a kind word to the the nature spirits for a little oversight), we kept moving right along. Kind of like our evening chores… Kind of like our every moment of every day. Doing what needs doing, and then some. Staying on the right track, or what feels like the right track. Keeping going. Guarding the perimeter. Minding the gap. Trusting. Enjoying. Living & loving. It’s all grand, it’s all part of the bigger picture, and it’s just another day of diligent vigilance.
Now I’d better get out there and see what all of those coyotes are howling about. Just kidding… this tired mama-farmer is headed to dreamland!