Finding Work-Life Balance on the Farm is a STRETCH


Farm Notes

Oh, August…where did you go? We spent much of our time making mozzarella, a cheese in high demand during tomato season. My husband Peter starts the process early in the morning with raw milk from our friends, first pasteurizing then adding cultures and rennet to the milk. I later mill the curd into a French fry shape for uniform melting and stretching. As I stretch and form each ball, they are plopped into a cold brine solution. All are ready to be packed by the end of the day, arriving in our store’s cooler and going out to distributors on Monday. It is an all-day affair.

We typically make mozzarella on Sundays and if you’ve been fortunate enough to visit the farm store, you would have seen some of the process. Visitors seem to enjoy the show!

Packing the camper while Archie looks on.

Packing the camper while Archie looks on.

Mozzarella is one of those cheeses that remind you to slow down, to be patient and allow the process to unfold over time—something that is very hard for me to do. I rarely slow down.

As a family, we haven’t slowed down all summer, with long days keeping us working from sunup to sundown (and beyond). But school and cooler temperatures are right around the corner so we have to find time to enjoy a little vacation, right???

Well, our two daughters and I found time to do just that: take a little vacation. It was no small feat, either. Firstly, we didn’t “find” time to take vacation: we had to make the time. We looked at the five day stretch we wanted to take off (my husband Peter stayed home to take care of animals and make cheese) and made a list of all the things that had to be done while we were gone. We simply couldn’t wave goodbye and expect him to handle the work typically done by all of us! I put it this way to the girls—we had to set him up for success while we were gone. (Side note: Farmers often find themselves in the position of needing to leave one member behind during family vacations. Our good friend Joe calls this “FFA”…Father Farming Alone!)

We cut and packaged all the cheeses he would need for orders from stores, restaurants, distributors, and farmer’s markets. I printed invoices and labelled orders, ready to grab and go. We moved chicks from the brooders to their pasture enclosure. We washed and packaged eggs; we stocked the store. I asked customers to order in advance and made a master list of what needed to be done in our absence. All this, of course, had to be done as we packed the camper and tried to think of all the things we’d need for a short five-day stint in the Adirondacks. I’d never worked so hard to take a vacation!

It has been two years since we last took a vacation and much longer since we’ve done something as a family. But getting away with our two girls would have to suffice for now.

We drove up on a Monday to Eighth Lake Campground, between Inlet and Raquette Lake. We brought our canoe, our dog Archie, and lots of food. And I optimistically brought a book, wondering when I last had time to sit and read.

The lake itself is surrounded by a dense pine forest. Too small for jet skis and tubing, it was quiet and perfect for kayaks and swimming. Our campsite’s private beach was a great spot to read that book I brought. It truly was wonderful!

But beyond the spectacular sunsets and sounds of loons on the lake, besides the evenings of s’mores and long talks around the campfire, I found the absolute silence from the rest of the world to be most relaxing. Our cell phones were of no use at the campground and surrounding trails, meaning we were disconnected in every way possible. I couldn’t check in on my husband; I couldn’t post a farm update to social media; I couldn’t see what was going on in world news. It was a lot like stretching mozzarella: I forced to slow down; I had to let go of any sense of control and just BE. It was pure bliss.

For me, the physical change was dramatic. If it is possible to feel your blood pressure go down, I most certainly felt it. My hot flashes, normally occurring 8-10 times a day, plummeted to only one or two per day. I like to shrug off stress as if it doesn’t affect me, but there I was, clearly destressing and grateful for every minute.

Back at the farm, we’re all back to work but are more gracious to one another. I am more relaxed and patient in my mozzarella stretching, too. Now, to get my husband to take a day off…wish me luck!