Farmer’s Diary

Stolen Time
by John Lee

It seems that I have reached the season—not “’tis the season” but the “hey, wait a minute season.” The season when work slows down a bit and I begin again to wonder what happened to summer and fall—where did those days and weeks go, the days of good intentions, plans, long evenings and languid nights? Was I sleeping? Am I missing something?  Again? How does this happen year after year despite promises to loved ones, myself and friends?

Every year as fall draws to a close, it seems that I have reneged on promises to do this or that with this person or that and the infamous honey-do list just gets longer and longer. (I have always believed that the reason one has weddings or extravagant dinner parties in one’s backyard is to have sufficient impetus to accomplish the most quotidian tasks with alacrity only to get behind the eight ball soon thereafter.)

I have never been able to figure out how and why some people seem to lead well-regulated lives, go on vacation or bicycle during business hours in the countryside. I want to do that. But, first, I have to do this or that. That is probably what is wonderful and exciting about being a farmer: There is always something to do, something that must be done NOW for something else to happen soon thereafter. But those are macro-issues.

The micro-thief is the unbelievable interconnectedness we have all fallen prey to. Yes, all of us. If you own a cell phone you are the victim of the time thief ’s earliest accomplice. If your cell is a BlackBerry or similar device—sorry, pal. You are now a real victim, and by your own hand! The digital age has flooded our free moments with wanted and unwanted opportunities to get little done while thinking we are accomplishing something significant. There are few enough free moments without incessant ringing, texting, checking, being always available to anybody who for no particular reason wants to bend your ear .... The television may be mindless, but the cell phone—well, that must be something important!

And here’s the sad truth:Without some of these time-robbing devices I would, in fact, get less done more often than not. But I have not managed to learn to manage accessibility and may never. I am in “trouble” whether my phone is on or off. I am sometimes on the computer “doing something” when I could be doing something else with my family. I feel cheated when they are doing the same thing. There is a new level of frustration between getting done what arguably needs to get done and, at another level, doing a lot of things that are really not all that important in the big picture but have a way of making one feel like something is getting done.

What may be worse is that I am never alone any more in my fields.  Quiet mornings or quiescent evenings on or off the tractor are frequently interrupted for no good reason as far as I can fathom. It is not as though I am communing with the lettuce, but if I am going to be a successful grower, I do need to pay attention. I need to notice which predator is preparing to wreak havoc in my whatever and not knowing that some blazing irrelevancy is awaiting my intemperate attention.  Multi-tasking in the fields may be less personally dangerous, but it sometimes provokes me to fits of untimely forgetfulness for which I need to double-time later.

This whole business of connectedness is very disconnecting, if not disconcerting. Alas, Hobson’s choice was never easy and I shall have to adjust!

John Lee is the manager of Allandale Farm (Boston’s last working farm), which specializes in naturally grown local produce. Each summer, John manages an outdoor children’s program on the farm. He writes for local news outlets and is deeply involved with farming and locally grown issues in Massachusetts.

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