News From the Farm | May 1, 2017

It sure has been a while. Since writing my last Beet over a year ago, Rye and I have purchased land and a house together, gotten married, and last but best, we’ve welcomed our beautiful son, Waylon Rain, into the ever-growing Muller family. All of these things happened here on the farm, albeit slightly out of traditional order.

Our home rests on property that Full Belly has been renting to farm for over 25 years and lies adjacent to the rest of the land owned by the various farm partners (what we’d call “the main ranch”). It is a quaint and modest dwelling, dating back to the 1940s, and is surrounded by trees planted by its founding family. Valley oaks, several olive varietals, Italian cypress, black walnuts, a sycamore, and a smattering of fruit trees – all more than twice my age – shade us from summer’s heavy sun and give us a bit of privacy from the traffic of Highway 16. Of the entire 44 acres, about 33 are farmable for row crops, and the other ten or so make a perfect pasture for our sheep, cows, and chickens. When it came up for sale in February of last year, we were able to buy it with help from Dru and Paul, and Andrew and Anna (all other farm owners), with the agreement that Rye and I will eventually become the sole owners as time and money permit. Our roots have been planted here and we’re eager to nurture them for years to come.

Then, on Memorial Day weekend, we wed in the walnut orchard among family and friends. From Canada to Georgia, from the Capay Valley to Lake Champlain, kin from all over came to help us join families and celebrate our devotion to one another. Rye’s cousin even flew in from Malaysia to be with us. It was another incredible effort put on by the farm and all the people we love most and are so lucky to be loved by. We became husband and wife under a redwood arch that Amon built just for the occasion; we dined at tables covered with flowers that Hannah carefully arranged and wiped our mouths with napkins sewn by Dru and my step-mom. Hallie honored our late family members by lovingly hanging their photos from one special walnut tree, and we stuffed our faces with the most delicious carrot cake I’ve ever tasted thanks to Jenna. Andrew blessed us in the Jewish tradition and a couple old friends sang Dylan’s “Girl From the North Country” as I walked on my father’s arm toward my beaming Rye. The list goes on. I think most importantly, we all danced together. Oh, did we dance! The whole night was magic, a true feast – for our eyes, our hearts, and of course, for our bellies…especially my belly.

Waylon Rain was there with us, doing his own tiny dances on that orchard floor, and we were so excited to finally meet him in the flesh. He was born September 12, in our bedroom, after an epic fourteen-hour labor. I’ve spent almost eight months getting to know him now, and I’ve concluded that he was testing us, with his long journey out of the womb, to make sure we were really ready for him. He’s morphing into quite the little bundle of spunk, a chatterbox full of energy – the kind of baby who seems to be ready to run without even trying to crawl first. I’m also convinced that he brought the rains. 

Farming with a newborn has proven logistically very difficult, particularly my field of farming: caring for feathered, wool-laden, and fly/feces-covered beasts. Before Waylon was born, I’d had visions of myself milking the cow and moving chickens before sunrise and running sheep from one field to the next, all with a baby babbling happily on my hip. Then he was born, maternity leave quickly came to an end, and reality hit. In my romanticism, I’d completely forgotten that I am actually not Caroline Ingalls, but that I am one of 90 employees on a working farm, which demands an efficiency that is unobtainable while tending to the needs of an infant. So, I had to forfeit most of my animal husbandry responsibilities to our interns in the early days of Waylon’s life. This was really hard for me, as I’m very passionate about my work and fit right in here with the rest of the “work-aholics” that allow this farm to subsist as it does. I wasn’t able to really do my job with my own helpless little animal perpetually attached to my breast, and I battled with this incapacity constantly. Yet, as the days turned into weeks, and those have turned into months, I’ve been able to reintegrate myself back into my trade, little by little. Of course, it’s nothing like it was before. It is so much better.

I have the great fortune of bringing my baby to work with me every day. As his body grows stronger, he can safely come along to move sheep or drive tractor. And as his unsullied brain swells with the constant flow of new information, I am starting to see things differently and to revel in the previously unnoticed. While we collect the day’s eggs, I’ll see him marvel at a hen snacking on some clover or dust bathing in the sunshine, and I feel proud of the wonderful life I am able to provide for our chickens. I’ll watch his gaze follow our sow as she barrels down the hill toward her wallow and a pile of ugly butternut I’ve just dumped for her, and I can imagine the piglets wriggling joyfully inside of her. Or I’ll take note of the morning light bouncing off a fresh rain puddle because it caught Waylon’s eye, and I’ll remember to be thankful for last night’s rainfall. I’ll literally stop and smell the roses because Waylon is so fiercely reaching out to touch those seductively satin petals. Instead of hurrying through a task to get it done for efficiency’s sake, Waylon has taught me to stop and look, and listen while I work, which has surely improved the quality of my efforts. Becoming a parent has made me a better farmer because at the core of every good farmer is a great observer. I even eat my supper with a gusto and gratitude I’ve never felt before, simply because of the contented grin that spreads across Waylon’s face after each spoonful of farm-grown food passes through his rosebud lips. 

As these days get longer and summer approaches, I feel a giddiness that has been fading as my years on the farm multiply. The first float down the creek, the first night of sleep with the windows open, the first tomato fight in the packing shed, the first juicy bite of peach – I can’t wait to share it all with Waylon. I get to experience everything I know all over again. I even get to fall in love with the farm again, through my son, and that is the true miracle of this life. 

–Becca Muller