We are three days away from the first day of summer and my father the farmer never missed noting the longest day of the year. We would be walking across the yard and he would casually comment, “Well, today is the longest day of the year.” No big deal. Just wanted to make sure that I knew. As it is Father’s Day it seems appropriate to share a bit about my dad and his connection to the passing of the seasons.
As a farmer there are never enough hours in the day to get everything done. My life right now is a testament to this true principle. My garden is sad, they lawn is long and there are untidy little piles of stuff all over the place needing to be picked up. Tonight as I was doing chores in the fading light I was grateful for the long day and the extra time to put chickens to bed and milk the girls. Dad was in much the same boat much of the time. Robbing time where he could get it to accomplish the many tasks needing attention. Hay making, tractor repair, cattle chores, fence building, cutting firewood for winter…and so on. As spring turned to summer the lengthening days provided precious minutes to get a few more things done in daylight.
As a child my summer days were unconstrained by the responsibilities of adulthood and my chores were quickly accomplished leaving endless hours to play with friends, ride horseback, swim in the river, and all of the other ways farm kids find to spend long summer days. Summer nights were the best … we picked beans and peas in the cool of the mornings and spent warm summer nights snapping and shelling around the big round kitchen table watching reruns on TV and drinking lemonade. When we were making hay we would haul bales into late into the evening, picking them up by the truck headlights. At the end of a long hot day the cool of the evening was welcome respite. Mom would bring dessert out at end of the day and we would sit on the tailgate of the pick-up eating pie and ice cream by the light of the moon.
I can remember Dad calling me while I was in college. I had a summer research position and wasn’t home for haying or to help work the cattle or get them ready for fair. My days were far away from farming, spending hours in the library, hanging out with the other grad students. He and I chatted for a few minutes and then he said, “Longest day of the year today!” and brought me back to warm summer nights on the farm.