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Working out

Lead Summary

HCP columnist

Our urban children call and say that they are on their way home from a good workout, and we have spoken with city folks who are proud to have personal trainers. We smile.

For you see, we also work out – doing what our farm requires, outside in the creek valley humidity and sun.

This past weekend the early morning shade was blissfully cool, but by midday, the bright blue skies and blazing sun brought glistening droplets to the surface of my skin. Then, the evening shade brought thankful relief. And the water that ran from the frost-free spigot by the barn was so wonderfully refreshing that I could not possibly have imagined a more welcome drink.

My weekend “workout” was spent picking rocks from the first field and weeding the garden. The discs had unearthed a healthy crop of rocks, so before we planted the tiffany grass, Greg parked the backhoe nearby and we gathered rocks. After four front-end loader buckets filled to the brim, we called it quits, but the work was somewhat addicting.

I found myself gathering smaller and smaller rocks and not wanting to stop.

Then, the past several weeks have not only been good to the garden crops, but the weeds as well. I got my trusty shuffle hoe from the barn and began to slowly make my way down the long rows of tomato, peppers, dill, fennel, broccoli, squash, beans, and basil.

Our sweet corn had come up sporadically, so we tilled it under and planted again, hopefully a variety with a short enough season that we will be able to harvest by mid-September.

And then, when my hands were blistered from the hoe, and my back stiffening from the rock picking, I thought that it might be easier to use the gas-powered cultivator.

It was loud, but I moved quickly down the rows of vegetables. I was surprised that it spewed up a low cloud of dust from the dry surface of the soil. By the end of the day, my legs were so completely covered with dust that I could not even find the tops of my socks, the thick dust blending my skin almost perfectly in with my boots.

As I pulled the sputtering cultivator down the rows, I stepped backward and was careful not to step on the plants. And as I did with the shuffle hoe, I bent down to pull the weeds from between the plants along each row. I would toss the weeds into the next row over, so I could cultivate them into the soil when I got that far.

By afternoon, I welcomed coming to the end of each row, shaded by the hill behind the cabin. With each backward step, I would think to myself, how many more steps until I reached the shade.

Finally, at the shaded end, I would pause, stretch my fingers, arch my back, rub my legs and count how many more rows lay ahead.

And then the cultivator ran out of gas. I sighed, knowing that I would have to walk back to the barn for more fuel. But this was simply an opportunity pause by the water spigot, for a long, cool drink, and then sit down in the shade, for just a bit.

Small white butterflies fluttered about the garden. I saw some of our honeybees gathering yellow pollen from the wild pink roses that grew along the edges of the field.

A hint of the flowers' fresh scent washed over me. And as I sat still, one of the dogs ambled over and sat down beside me, her black fur sleek with cool creek water. She smelled of clean country living.

I got back up to pull the cultivator cord and get back to work. By the time the little engine was chugging, I was glistening again. I felt a warm ache in my arms and the backs of my legs, but I knew that the rows did not last forever.

By the time I was back up at the cabin, clouds had blown across the sky and thunder rolled in from the west. The air had cooled but I still felt a warmth in my muscles. It was a good ache from a good day’s work.

The first field had far fewer rocks and was now planted.

The garden was weed-free – for the moment. Perhaps I should call our urban children and tell them that I am ready for a relaxing evening at home after a good workout.

Or perhaps I should simply let them know that they have a lifetime membership to their parents’ farm, but somehow I think that they already know that they are welcome to come pick rocks and weed whenever they choose.

Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in south-central Ohio. Visit them on the web at

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