Before I start this post, I just want to acknowledge that I signed up for the farm life and everything that comes with it. However, there is nothing quite like living through harvest. This is also a reflection of grain harvest – I am sure that other forms of harvest are just as stressful and don’t happen at this time of the year!
I have lived through two harvests now and I am gearing up for my third so I feel like I am better prepared for what is to come, but every year it comes back around and you are reminded of why it is such a tough, yet rewarding time.
I was at a yoga retreat recently with a bunch of women, and a group of us reflected on the fact that we were taking the time out to do something for us before we all became “harvest widows”[i] and our time would become absorbed with battening down the hatches and keeping the cogs turning.
Being a harvest widow means that during harvest our husbands/significant others are always ‘missing in action’. Most nights are spent alone, and most events attended by yourself.Urban Dictionary
Harvest time in Australia, which generally follows hay cutting in the seasonal calendar, starts mid to late October in some regions, and can carry on through to early February. So, for a good couple of months, the relationship we have with our partners is replaced by the relationship they have with their header.
Having harvest at the end of the calendar year also adds extra meaning to the definition of “the silly season”.
Those left at home often step up even more during harvest manning the occasional truck or field bin, watching the kids, preparing the food and just generally holding down the fort. We spend the nights on the couch, watching out the window for the headlights to pull in the drive to be greeted by a weary partner as they trudge through the door.
Don’t get me wrong – there are definitely some benefits to harvest time, like not having to share the block of chocolate or compromise on what you want to watch on TV. But sitting in an empty house or being at home alone – with or without children – can be quite isolating.
If you are not involved in the day-to-day farming operations, it can get quite lonely. For a lot of us, we moved away from our family and “people” when we moved to the farm, and even those who grew up on the farm can feel isolated during peak times like harvest.
There are some things that help me to come out the other end of harvest with few less greys and without indulging too much in comfort eating.
- Making the most of the alone time. I focus on doing all the things I wish I had time to do normally like doing more challenging and longer yoga classes, practicing playing my double bass, or doing some type of craft activity. For those with kids, lap up the extra cuddles and kisses!
- Saying yes to help! It is okay to need help, particularly during these busy times. That homecooked lasagna from the in-laws is often my saving grace at the end of a busy week! And where possible, I always offer to help someone else – whether it be helping the husband or another harvest widow. The oxytocin released when helping someone else will boosts my mood and helps me to forget the stress of harvest (at least momentarily!)
- Remembering that it isn’t forever! It is important to remember that harvest is only for a short period of time, especially when I start resenting my other half for not being around or keeping up with household chores.
- Once that grain is in the silo, then it is time to celebrate! While waiting for the end, I spend some time planning a trip away to enjoy the fruits of our labor and some much-needed down time.
It is a very rewarding time of year, but it is never easy. It will test you and everything you have. It will push you to your limits, particularly as it lands at the end of the calendar year when everything else seems to come to a head for the “silly season”. But this too shall pass, and we will emerge stronger and wiser.
So regardless of whether you are in the thick of it, or preparing for it, I wish you all a safe and productive with no/minimal dramas and I will see you on the other side! And share your tips for surviving the silly season!
[i] Undoubtedly there are men who become a harvest widower while the wife is out in the header and I would like to acknowledge you all! But the vast majority of those left at home are women,