I spent 20 years in the military — the U.S. Air Force. And during that time I learned a lot of things. One thing they stressed was time management. When Uncle Sam says a project needs to be done by a certain date, it better be! If you weren’t good at time management, it meant you stayed after duty hours to work on the project. If you had good skills, you went home when everyone else did. Somehow I managed to be in the latter group.
Now that I’m “retired,” I think I work harder than I did on active duty. I may not leave the property, which is 100 acres, but I stay busy from sun up to well past sundown. My morning starts by being nudged out of bed by several large dogs wanting to go potty and have breakfast. Yes, they eat first. Once I’m dressed, it’s grab my milk bucket and egg basket and hike 200 yards to the barn. There, the pig, goats, horses, chickens, ducks, turkeys, and barn dogs get fed in their appropriate order. The horses are turned out in their paddocks, the goats in theirs, and the ones needing milking get milked. I do the “morning shift” Monday through Saturday — unless we have enough eggs, and then I go to the local farmers market to set up and sell eggs and books. My hubby takes care of Sundays because that’s my “day off” in which I do all the housework and laundry. There is no sleeping in when you own a farm!
It takes me about two hours to get the barn chores done. After I get home, it’s processing milk, and if I have to make cheese that day, getting the milk in the pot. Breakfast happens sometime during that flurry of work. I get 30 minutes (maybe!) to eat while the milk cultures. Then it’s adding rennet, cutting and cooking the curds, prepping the cheese form, and getting it all put together in the press.
By now, it’s around 2-3 pm. Lunchtime. I grab something quick and sit down at my computer hoping for no malfunctions or disturbances that will keep me from putting words on screen. Of course there always are: dogs wanting to go outside, someone stopping by to purchase eggs, and phone calls from telemarketers (which I am extremely adept at hanging up on!). Some days I get 50 words written. I hate those days; they’re downright frustrating.
If it’s harvest time, there’s no writing, just long hours in the hayfields getting enough to last us through the winter months. You’d be amazed at how much time it takes to get 1,000 bales made and into the loft. The work is fast and furious because you never know when Mother Nature will decide to rain on your harvest.
More often, the evenings promise better quiet writing time. The dogs have full tummies and are usually napping, unless of course, a deer decides to come down and eat apples from the tree across the street. That means eight dogs-a-barking and me getting up to close the curtains so they can’t see. I return to my seat and try to pick up where I left off. If I’m lucky, I’ll manage several hundred words and also work on my language lesson. Trying to learn a foreign language for the sake of a single character in a book might seem absurd, but if you’re a stickler for authenticity like I am…
Bedtime is around 10 pm. By then, I’m brain-fried from trying to keep up with everything going on that day. I have a mental checklist running in my head to ensure everything needing to be done that day was accomplished. Did I remember to feed and water the baby chicks in the guest bedroom brooder? Oh, yes, I did that right after dinner dishes. Did I flip the cheese in the press? And did I remember to put the cheese drying in my office back in the fridge overnight?
When you live where you work, the days become one big blur. Is it Wednesday or is it Thursday? Um, nope, it’s Friday. Hey, wait, where’d the week go? Weekends and holidays are irrelevant. The animals need tending 365 days a year. There are no vacations and no days off. Most people don’t understand that.
Somehow, through all the chaos I still manage to do what I love most: writing. Sure enough as I’m sitting here writing this post, it’s pouring rain outside and one of the dogs is whining because she’s hungry. The hay crop will be waiting a little longer, but in time it’ll be ready. Until then, I relish every moment I get to put words on my screen.
Next time I’ll talk about techniques I use to get those words down.