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“One more” detail of farming: the yard

Long-time farmers take farmyards for granted, but looking after a farmstead is a big job

I am a farmer. Most likely you are, too. This means more on some days than others. Today, it means that frost boil at the mouth of our carport needs to be dealt with. Tomorrow, who knows.

On the farm right now, I think about the future. About what looms. I look up through the window and see the yard I grew up on; the yard my parents worked tirelessly to maintain; the yard with a constant and erratic flow of machines driving in every possible direction and on every possible surface.

The dandelions are my problem now.

It’s intimidating. Then, lots about farming is intimidating.

There are the things that need to be done. And there are the things that I feel compelled to do, as if as recreations of my past. There are certain areas of lawn that don’t need to be mowed, but before I arrive at a decision while sitting on the garden tractor, that level of consciousness seemingly able to control my limbs without me knowing, has already done it. I can’t shake the urge. Our yard and that grass have to look that way, and I have no idea why. I defer to psychologists on that one.

Since Jamie and I bought the farmstead and moved into my childhood home last September, it’s been a whirlwind. We’ve been busy, and the realities of our current stage have yet to become fully clear.

What has become clear is that to farm and to live on a farm is to have an open eye to the immediate and distant future. Agronomically, this could involve decisions surrounding soil health, new emerging crop types, potential markets, machinery purchases, and, of course, buying land. Without these considerations, farms become stagnant. And I’ve heard enough credible farmers say that to remain in one place is, in effect, to move backwards.

If it’s applicable, we see our lives on the farm as a staircase that continues beyond eyeshot. We’re up a few steps from where we were when we moved here in 2012, and we’re looking forward to seeing what the next few will look like.

That is the deep stuff — the stuff of hard science, coffee-shop “science,” and the thickness of hearsay and tradition in-between. Well, read on, because this is not about any of that. This is about what it takes to run a yard and, I guess, the importance of doing so.

The trick is in the details

The towering poplars sheltering our yard from the north have only a year or two left in them. I remember when they were planted. I was too young to really help and not clairvoyant enough to know that one day dealing with these trees would be my responsibility. The evergreen trees in front of that row are also facing death, unless they receive some care.

Jamie’s garden is still in front of the mobile home we used to live in, which now sits empty waiting to be rented or purchased. She has expressed interest in moving her garden, but we have yet to decide on the ideal spot.

We’d like more animals in the future, so penning is on our minds, and that requires a plan — one that will hopefully incorporate our chickens and allow for growth. Perfection is the enemy if done in any context, but especially so in this one: we’re leaning to make moves.

The rectangle of brush where the farm’s long dormant hog barn used to sit begs for some kind of development. I mow it, but only for aesthetic reasons.

The gravel around our bins needs to be sprayed and kept clean. And the long grass around each tree and pole and building needs to be trimmed. That is, if I am to keep the same yard my parents did.

It’s overlooked, I think, the yard maintenance thing. I look up through the window and see a large, beautiful yard that is still largely the way it is because others have made it so. I see one thousand and five things that need to be done soon and a whole bunch of projects that we’d like to get a head start on.

The farmstead, the yard, is where we are on the staircase. We’re looking ahead as best we can, but where those next steps will lead and when we’ll take them is entirely unknown. This is what I love about farming.

We’ll plant a new shelterbelt and see where that takes us.

About the author

Columnist

Toban Dyck is a freelance writer and a new farmer on an old farm. Follow him on Twitter @tobandyck or email [email protected]

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