Until recently, I had a rather inaccurate idea of what farming with a baby would be like. I decided that, if women in African and India could birth babies, toss them into a sling, and get back to hoeing the crops, then surely I could as well. My naivete was further fed by selective hearing in conversations with various farmer women of this country. Mind you, most of them will tell you very openly that their hoeing days came to a screeching halt with the arrival of a little one. But I fixated on the (very) few who had somehow pulled it off and convinced myself that with the proper baby-carrying equipment I would barely miss a beat.
Still, in deference to Andrew (aka “Mr Wet Blanket”) I decided to take this summer off from our CSA. I could appreciate the wisdom of removing the pressure of CSA production–when you’ve already sold it, you had better then grow it! When I visualized this summer, I imagined plenty of time for long walks with baby, frolicking with Patou, and me puttering in the garden while Sylvan slumbered in the nearby shade.
Turns out Mr. Wet Blanket knows a thing or two about babies.
Sylvan is a delight. We love him absolutely. But he is nevertheless a normal, healthy infant, in other words, 10 pounds of pure neediness.
For the first month, my mother lived with us. Her presence shielded us from the full extent of Sylvan-care, as she was always willing to hold him and calm him to sleep. She also washed all of the (cloth) diapers. I know, I know, this woman is a saint. While mom was pinch hitting for me, I snuck out to the greenhouse, the garden, and the high tunnel. Beds got made; plastic laid. The high tunnel started filling and the already meager greenhouse mostly emptied. Andrew worked on his chick brooder, built a pig loading ramp, and began moving his animals around the fields. We all ate well.
But, as all good things eventually come to an end, mom ultimately returned to her normal life in Georgia. It was time to test my farming with baby theories.
First observation: it is extremely difficult to hoe with a baby strapped to your front. A baby in a backpack would probably be another story, but as Sylvan still hasn’t mastered the whole head control thing, he’s limited to a front pack, like a little Joey. There he obstructs ergonomic hoe-movement quite efficiently.
Second observation: it is impossible to do any kneeling and bending tasks with a baby strapped to your front. That effectively rules out transplanting, weeding, early stage pruning, hand-seeding, and some harvesting, in other words, most of vegetable farming.
Third observation: Babies take a long time to eat. In theory, I ought to be able to sit down, feed Sylvan, and then hand him off to Andrew. In reality, mealtimes for Sylvan can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours, the 2 hour sessions consisting of multiple small snacks interspersed with multiple diaper changes, burps, and misleadingly sleepy-looking yawns.
I’m really glad that I’m not trying to grow 2 acres. As it is, I am slowly accomplishing most of what needs doing. Eventually, Sylvan always nods off (alas, so far always inside. My fantasy of naps under a shade tree is yet to be even attempted). I toss my cell phone in my pocket, dash out the door, and work more efficiently than ever before. The tomatoes and peas are trellised. Spring greens are seeded. Potatoes are planted (so few!) and ginger is in the ground. We’re entering prime weeding season, and so far nothing is overrun, though rear guard action is needed.
There is always something more to do. But occasionally I forget all of that as I sit in an armchair, holding Sylvan and taking in the sweet scent of a brand new life.