Toil. The word strikes fear in some. It makes others run for the hills. But toil is something that farmers like me must embrace.
Beneath the romantic vision of farming and agriculture lies a lot of monotonous and repetitive labor: hard, physical work. It’s not sexy or interesting much of the time. It’s just something you have to do. This is not unique to farmers. Construction workers, waitresses, factory workers, postal workers, and a lot other professions know the routine. Just do your job and try not to develop anger or resentment or destructive thoughts. Find a coping strategy and deal with it because there are things that need to get done.
Hoeing, for instance, is one of those farming tasks I’d rather not have to deal with. But it’s 2014. We have something in our toolboxes our parents and grandparents never had. We have podcasts.
So, in honor of hoeing season and my attempts to hold back the growth of early summer weeds that might eventually overtake the vegetable patch, I present my go-to soundtrack. This farming playlist is designed to help you make it through a hard day of otherwise toilsome labor, particularly when you’re not starting out in the morning with all cylinders firing. Here goes.
• File under “funny and smart”: For his podcast “By the Way,” Jeff Garlin sits down with fellow comedians. This installment, with Zach Galifianakis, is hilarious at times, intelligent at others.
• File under “still the champ”: Wendell Berry. The man deserves his own category. It doesn’t get any better than Berry chatting it up with Bill Moyers in an old country church for “Moyers & Company.”
• File under “I’d rather be fishing”: I get annoyed by the host of “On Being,” from American Public Media, but she has some great shows. This one’s a sure-fire pick, and it involves three of my favorite subjects: coming of age, fishing, and the joys of humility.
• File under “blow your mind”: Here’s a thought experiment. Try killing time performing a toilsome agricultural task while listening to a lecture on life before European agriculture conquered the continent/s where we live.
BACK TO OUR REGULAR PROGRAMMING
(AKA shows from which I inevitably learn something and smile)
• “Good Food”: This radio program from KCRW in Santa Monica sometimes focuses on Southern California but often provides a much broader look at food and cooking.
• “Living on Earth”: Environmental coverage, from Public Radio International.
• “To the Best of Our Knowledge”: Wisconsin Public Radio produces this national weekend program for liberal arts nerds.
• “Men in Blazers”: I’ve become a pretty committed soccer fan (Go, Sporting KC!), and this is my favorite wide-angle soccer broadcast.
• “Dave Damashek Football Program”: A great look at the NFL. Yes, I’m a bit of a jock. Football is a huge spectacle and something I get re-addicted to every autumn.
There you have it. A peek into the mind of a mad farmer trying to prevent the fescue, orchardgrass, and crabgrass from smothering his seedlings. Sometimes music is not enough and you need something a little more substantive. Or ridiculous. Or trivial. Happy hoeing.
Bryce Oates is a farmer, father, writer, and conservationist in West Missouri. He lives and works on his family’s multigenerational farm, tending cattle, sheep, goats, and organic vegetables. His goals in life are simple: to wake up before the sun, catch a couple of fish, turn the compost pile, dig potatoes, and sit by the fire in the evening, watching the fireflies mimic the stars.
PHOTO: MANDY LACKEY/FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS