A Compromise List

Black-eyed susans and Joe-Pye weed are blooming. Crickets scurry between the rocks. Summer is rushing to a close. We will have killing frosts by early September.

Every day I am aware of the clock ticking and time running out. Hurry, hurry, hurry. Whenever I have another equipment setback (which is almost daily; yesterday the new belt fell off the mower, disabling it again) I have to close my eyes against something like despair. I don’t have time for this!

This is silly. I know it is. I grab myself by the scruff of the neck and give myself a shake. But summer is so short here. My typed lists of June sit on my clipboard and too many things remain undone.

I never built my chicken tractor. The meat birds have been in the big sheep stall in the barn all summer. They’ve had plenty of clean space, water, food, pans of clabbered milk, and pulled bits of grass. But they have not been outdoors. That project fell by the wayside. Now they are eleven weeks old and far past time for butchering. They are so fat they can hardly stand up. The roosters are terribly aggressive and would be dangerous to the hens if they could move more easily. My plan is to butcher six a day this coming week (except Thursday, when I have to return to Vermont to have my stitches removed). It will not be pleasant but it will be done.

Next year I will build the chicken tractor before the chicks arrive in May. The pace of summer is too intense. I’m sorry, 2011 chickens, that I couldn’t make it happen in time for you.

On the back acres the winter rye is waist-high and golden, the heads nodding, the tall stems rippling in the wind like water. My mower has been broken so many times this summer I never got it mowed. Most people would say I need a tractor and brush hog. Allen, who knows my finances, keeps suggesting, “Get yourself a snath and scythe.” As a boy, Allen did lots of scything on his grandfather’s farm.

Actually, I’ve read a lot about scythes. I’ve been following this scything website for a year. Not only are scythes ecologically appealing, not only are they romantically enchanting to this historian, but they are comparatively cheap. Even the best Swiss snath and Austrian blade would only set me back $200, vs. many thousands for a tractor. Here is a video of a man scything reed canary grass:

As you can see, I would soon get in very good shape. However when Allen brings up the subject, I remind him that neither he nor I is sixteen, as he was back in his scything days. And when would I find the time?

I am behind everywhere. I haven’t clipped Lucy’s dog, currently a scratching hairball. I haven’t transplanted perennials from my garden to the farm or planted out all my tree seedlings. I haven’t smoothed the driveway with crusher run. I haven’t filled holes in the pasture. I haven’t weedwhacked the boulder walls or all the fence lines. I haven’t painted the run-in shelter or the trim on the cabin. I haven’t sown seed around the pond. I haven’t found a carpenter to put the siding on the garage. I haven’t tackled any of the finish work in the garage apartment.

Yesterday, discouraged, I decided to make a Compromise List — not my dream work list of June, but a shorter list of tasks that I might be able to relax and feel good about if they were accomplished before frost.

I notice it’s still pretty long.

2 Responses to A Compromise List

  1. Beth Tilton says:

    You must have a lengthy To-Do list because I’m in awe of all you do! A teacher in grad school told us how to get things done after you’ve made your list. First, don’t expect to complete a project at one time. Break it down into components and list each component on the list separately. Second, focus is essential. If you have a lot going on besides your task, it’s really hard for most people to focus enough to complete it. So you have to treat the task like you’re going to work — don’t bug me, I’m working! In other words, take the task as seriously as you would your job. Hope it helps…you’re still amazing! Beth

    • adkmilkmaid says:

      Beth, you’re very kind. I do try to break down my lists so I can feel I accomplish something but sometimes I still get overwhelmed. I appreciate your kind words.

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