"To step over the low wall that divides
Road from concrete walk above the shore
Brings sharply back something known long before--
The miniature gaiety of seasides."
-Philip Larkin, To the Sea
We returned last week from our holiday by the seaside. Our first time off the farm as a family for more than four years. We sunk our feet and hands into the warm sand. We felt the cold rush of salt water over our bodies. We caught waves and watched tides come in and out. We explored rock pools and gathered seaweed. We found shells of many colours and sizes and sometimes ones with little whelk residents still inside. We watched the clouds roll and the water froth. We listened to the birds chattering in the gum trees. We walked under coastal teatree and huge banksia trees and flowering bottlebrush. We read books in bed and in the park and on the beach. We caught a ferry and saw a giant petrel take flight. We squished moon snail egg sacks in our hands and bought fresh squid from the market. A seal swam under our feet on the pier. We made a sand octopus and many a sand castle. We ate fish and chips too. We delighted again and agin in the gifts from the sea //
The grower of trees, the gardener, the man born to farming,
whose hands reach into the ground and sprout,
to him the soil is a divine drug. He enters into death
yearly, and comes back rejoicing. He has seen the light lie down
in the dung heap, and rise again in the corn.
His thought passes along the row ends like a mole.
What miraculous seed has he swallowed
that the unending sentence of his love flows out of his mouth
like a vine clinging in the sunlight, and like water
descending in the dark?
-Wendell Berry, "The Man Born to Farming", 1998
This poem by Wendell Berry lingers in my senses, how beautifully - how truly - he evokes the lessons of the farming life; the ever-shifting landscape of a farmer's heart and mind, seasons of shadow and loss, wellspring and renewal.
This year marks eight years that Alex and I have been farming. Eight years our full-time vocation, livelihood. and partnership among the dung and eggs and pasture, chickens and bees and cows. Every year brings it's own difficulties and blessed relief - this one battered us with wild weather, pandemic and unexpected choices and gifted us an egg-packing house, full water tanks and growing hope.
Unlike Wendell, Alex and I were not born into farming; though at age 24 and 31 you could say we became re-born to it. Tending the earth, listening to it's wisdom, braving harsh realities and a steep learning curve (that contains to grow), rejoicing with our neighbours, our patrons, our landlords and our children when things come right - we realise how small and insignificant we are, yet with hands to ground, are closer to God, made whole.
Seven years farming
Four years farming, an ode
November has arrived with all her flowers and sunshine and birthday celebration! It's still sinking in that my youngest baby is now a five year old. He is such a jolly, passionate, theatrical and tender fellow. He requested a white chocolate cake with whipped cream and French-style coffee buttercream icing and a sloth on the top.
Meanwhile the garden is bursting with colour, leaf and bloom - white foxgloves with little speckles of deep purple, yellow irises, red valerian, white daisies, roses and lavender beckoning all the bees. I recently acquired some beautiful Liberty of London fabric - cotton lawn sprigged liberally with flowers - it will be like wearing my November garden around on my chest //
ABOUT the author
Emily Clare Sims is a farmer and mama to three young boys. Each day she looks for ways to notice beauty, contemplate her faith and savour the seasons...