Some visiting friends the other day asked us curiously, Don’t you get bored living here? It seems very romantic in theory, but we don’t know how long that will last. These friends are a couple of years from retirement, and wondering if they can take the slow pace of country life.
Truth to tell, we wondered the same thing ourselves. But now the honeymoon is over, we’ve spent most of the last two years on the land and there is only a growing reluctance to ever go into the city. Srini sometimes has a slight hankering for the restaurants of Bangalore, but otherwise we are perfectly content. The animals are happier and easier to manage, and as for the long walks in the fresh air with no crowds, traffic or garbage… we still haven’t begun to take any of it for granted.
Only one thing has changed a bit. I named this blog The Long View because I thought farming was all about the long view, in terms of both space and time. Well, that romantic notion is getting a bit eroded. While I continue to plant trees that I am unlikely to reap the fruits of, I find myself thinking more about the practical aspects and less about the philosophy and the beauty. Gazing less at the horizon and more at the soil beneath my feet; less ecstatic sniffing of the waterlilies and more keeping a sharp eye out for mosquito larvae (are those fish on the job?); less drinking in the stillness of the night and more looking for the dratted night-wanderer, Punk. In between lugging loads of manure and mulch to the trees and admiring the effect, I have to remind myself not to miss the sunrise and the sunset, the stars and the strange silhouettes of the trees against the evening sky. But am I bored or tired of this life, this work? No! I don’t think I ever will be.
There’s one huge gain from this familiarity with the landscape. I recently read Wendell Berry’s Our Only World, where, in one of the essays he talks about the relationship of the small subsistence farmer with the land: as opposed to the large industrial farms. To paraphrase, because it’s too much trouble to hunt through an ebook for a quote, what he says is roughly this: From caring and knowing intimately, from working with instead of against, from being in the relationship for the long haul, a responsive partnership, a love, develops between the farmer and the land.
I can feel this happening – a growing (pun unintended) kinship with this land. And it’s so much more than I dreamt of. But like everything else, you can’t get more than you put in. The more time you spend, the more you work together, the richer is the relationship.