If I’ve developed one good habit, it’s using a “to-do” list. I’m actually pretty religious about it. In fact, I have not one but TWO whiteboards (one in my office and one in the cheese plant), where I can map out and visualize all the things that must get done while running a farm, a household, and a business. I’ve stopped caring that it thoroughly annoys everyone else in my family. This little organizational system has ensured we are all on the same page on more than one occasion!
The lure of my to-do list is multi-faceted. Of course, I am always adding to it—primarily the day-to-day tasks, both the big and the small. I am too easily distracted and my list keeps me on track with commitments to customers, on-farm production schedules, and volunteer activities. Add to that the little thrill I get by erasing a line on my whiteboard, which gives me both a sense of accomplishment and encouragement. The importance of my to-do list is so significant that my husband often jokes that I should live to a ripe old age, since I won’t die until the very last item is crossed off! To be honest, I’m not sure I could function without it.
This time of year, longer-term projects start making their way onto the list. I spent an entire, hectic summer tending to the immediate (feeding chickens, herding goats, packaging cheese), and ignoring that which can be ignored (cleaning the house…yikes!) But now my list is morphing from a long catalog of fires to put out into a wish list of projects that will require thoughtfulness and close attention, and maybe even some creativity. Ah, to dream!
In other words, I’m ready for a massive change of pace and the items on my to-do list are a reflection of that need.
Chatting with farmer friends, the feeling seems to be mutual. The summer has once again flown by; they’re exhausted and looking forward to the rest only found in winter’s repose. If I were to stand back and psychoanalyze this weary group of hard-working folk, I’d say they fully embrace the changing of the seasons. The natural course of events—the turning away from the sun—may signify snowmobiling or skiing to many, but for farmers, it is the time to rest; to recharge and recuperate; to plan so we can begin anew in spring. Farmers develop an internal clock in tune with the changing of the seasons on a level that I am only beginning to appreciate, nearly 20 years after becoming one myself.
I am preparing for winter by making lists of improvement-type projects; much like an expectant mother readies the house through “nesting”. My list-making serves both to assure me the rest I seek will soon be here and to comfort my restless mind that my well-earned break will not be wasted. Like the expectant mother, I cannot wait!
Thankfully, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Farmer’s markets will be winding up shortly and our pastured chickens will soon be processed and moved to the freezer. Gelato production, too, will slow quickly enough. Only cheese production will continue through the winter at a steady pace and my focus will shift to lambing and kidding…and the gratifying projects on my list.
What’s on my winter to-do list, you ask? Painting a hallway, clearing attic clutter, maybe even an art project—the list is incomplete, but evolving. Until then, I’m rather enjoying the simple process of planning and looking forward to a well-earned, long winter!