“But Why Bother?”

Want to try caramel popcorn yourself? Lehmans.com has several GMO-free varieties! Click for more.

Want to try caramel popcorn yourself? Lehmans.com has several GMO-free varieties! Click for more.

I am a bit distracted. Our farmer’s market is well underway, and this isn’t my first season. Still, there are a lot of last minute things that have to be at, well, the last minute. Bread baking in particular has to be done just before we leave. I make a wonderful chocolate/caramel popcorn that is also best done no more than 24 hours before being consumed. What I have been doing is making jelly, jams, sauces and candy as well as finishing up some hand creams and salves. Labeling everything is the most time consuming part of all.

A practical choice for practicing and new beekeepers. At Lehmans.com and Lehman's in Kidron, Ohio.

A practical choice for practicing and new beekeepers. At Lehmans.com and Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

The part I really hate is figuring out pricing. Too much and nothing sells; too little and you work for nothing. There is so much hidden cost in what homesteaders do. Having a jar of honey ready for the market starts the year before. Bees must be purchased to replace the winter die-off. The new bees have to be coddled and nurtured.

We plant pollen producing herbs to insure lots of bee food and endure countless stings when we work the hives. The finished hives must be removed, the honey extracted, the wax processed and everything turned into product, creams and lotions, candles or jars of honey.

Everything has to be labeled and then transported to a location for sale. What doesn’t sell is packed up and brought home to try again the following week. Bee suits and hive tools, jars and labels, extractors and bee food are all expenses that have to be considered in our final costs. And time! Did I forget to mention time? I figure we work for a lot less that the average store clerk. I am certain we don’t make minimum wage.

Leisure PlowhorsesSo why bother? It’s a legitimate question. I bother because the money I earn is in direct proportion to the labor I expend. The product I provide is useful and ethical and I can be proud of it. I bother because I prefer blue jeans to business suits and Muck boots to high heels. I love the way the lights hits the side of the greenhouse in the early morning and how you can hear every bird in the stillness. I like to feel connected to my planet. Every detail matters. How hot will it get? Will it rain today? Do I expect frost tonight? Has the clover bloomed? If we hay today will it disrupt the fledglings in the field? If I wait will I have enough time for a third cutting?

I like the people who do what I do. They judge me not by the number of patches on my boots but by the way I manage my hives. Their talk is plain and real. They don’t say much but what they say matters. When my neighbor was ill with cancer, a huge crew showed up and got his hay cut in one long afternoon and they all came back to get it bailed the next day. They went home without a word. It’s just what neighbors do.

I’ll figure out the pricing. I’ll calculate cost and labor and know I’ll work for love rather than money. In my world, love wins.

Kathy Harrison

About Kathy Harrison

Kathy Harrison is the author of Just in Case, Another Place at the Table, and One Small Boat. She is a national spokesperson for both foster parenting and family preparedness and has appeared on The Today Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and National Public Radio. She lives with her family in western Massachusetts.