One of the first things I had to sacrifice to become a farmer was a wardrobe.
Farming is not about how you look, it’s about how well prepared you are for adversity. Which means you’re dressed for it. When I started farming I fancied dresses, billowy baskets that made the summer heat seem light and the hauling seem easy. The A-line sundress, for all its girlishness was vindicated by its versatility and put to good, hard use. I was not long in turning a closet full of carefully collected clothing into work clothes. It only takes one day to ruin an outfit I had had dry-cleaned for years. The fabric and shape succumb to the stain of the vegetable harvest. There is no undoing that.
The longer I have farmed, the more I have tried to farm. I’ve gone from doing nearly everything by hand to doing nearly everything with a tractor and implement. These machines can operate perfectly, but often something needs to be adjusted, loosened or tightened, dropped or raised, and having an adjustable wrench in your hip pocket is the difference between being broke-down or in service. Just yesterday the Planet Junior was on its way to falling apart, but I saw the misalignment before disaster fell and pulled my wrench to fix it without so much as a cuss word uttered. In fact I felt grateful. Being prepared makes you grateful; being broken-down makes you frustrated. The pound of steel I carry is worth it.
A dress might be great for tomato picking but try to put weight in her pockets, if the dress even has pockets, and the thing will become a disheveled mess, hanging sideways. The wrench will clang you around the knees. Trust me, I have tried it. So now I wear these manly clothes with bulging, tool-filled pockets. They are mostly men’s clothes because women’s clothes still aren’t and never will be manufactured to my demographic. These tools I carry, I don’t need them every day, but they are amulets. For if the pliers are forgotten on the bedside table, they will be needed in the field. I put them in my pockets as dutifully as I tie my shoes. I stopped asking, “Does this wrench make my ass look big?” because I accept the fact that the wrench does make me bigger. I am stronger when I have it, my sheer, weak fingers are then of steel. I have leverage and torque of a man twice my size. And of course, while it is ill advised, I can use the omnipotent wrench as a hammer if I am really in a bind. •
Marilee Foster farms and writes in Sagaponack.