Here’s hoping everyone had a warm and wonderful Thanksgiving (raises coffee mug in toast). I’m sitting here with Samantha on the balcony of our rented condo in Gulf Shores, Alabama on the first real vacation I’ve taken in four years. Granted I’ve had a few few pleasurable work trips but this is the first time off I’ve taken with my family in a long time.

It’s only as I write this do I realize how shameful that is. Four years? That’s really too long.

That’s also one of my grandfather’s faults. In the forty years that I’ve been around I’ve only known him to leave the farm twice, but I assume there must have been a third. I assume he attended my Mom and Dad’s wedding.

When I was fourteen we took a trip to Pensacola, Florida. Dad, my brother, my aunt and uncle, my two cousins, Granny and Grandpa and me all piled up in my uncle’s station wagon. Obviously this was a while ago and seat belt laws did not exist. Still it staggers my mind to consider we all fit in one car.

My cousins didn’t like the beach and so we spent the whole vacation at the hotel pool. We only stayed one full day. I remember when we first got into town and we were driving down the strip, some dark haired kid in a sleeveless shirt and shorts walked across the street in front of us.

“Hey,” Grandpa said, in all seriousness, “Is that one of those Cuban refugees?

I felt like I’d stumbled into an updated version of Ma and Pa Kettle Go to the Beach.

The only other time I knew Grandpa to leave was last fall when he came to Birmingham to visit my dad in the hospital.

He has, of course, good reason for his lack of travels. You can’t neglect a farm for long. The list of chores and duties is long. Livestock must be tended to daily, often twice daily and there’s always the opportunity for a crisis that needs immediate attention. You arrange for help, but nobody cares for your stuff the way you do.

So, is a farm and a vacation incompatible? Does my desire to grow Emerson’s Acre mean that these delicious days of rest and respite with my family are all the more precious because they will soon be in even more short supply?

I sincerely hope not. I must first admit to my own tendency toward workaholism and placing my families’ long term needs over their immediate. That comes from being a stoner and a slacker for too many years. I can easily lose myself to the sense of urgency that comes from needing to make up for lost time. That’s one of the reason’s Emerson’s Acre is so important for me, you can’t rush a garden, everything happens in it’s own time and you must learn to fit yourself into that flow.

Grandpa never fully learned that. He was famous for planting two or even three spring gardens because he always jumped the last frost by a week or two. He just couldn’t wait.

I will always be grateful to my grandfather for the lessons he has taught me, both directly and indirectly. His mistakes are just as valuable as his successes. And here I think he has given me an invaluable “Do not do” picture. You know, like the one’s on the grocery carts with the three silhouette pictures two of which have red lines through them showing a mother distracted by her shopping and her children climbing like monkeys on and over the cart?

Down time is just as essential as the time I spend working. I know from experience that if I don’t take it my body will enforce this rule through injury or illness. I think maybe it’s best to be proactive in this regard.

Planning will be important. Understanding the ebb and flow of life at Emerson’s Acre will make it easier to plan, to anticipate down times and take advantage of them.

So too, will be the cultivation of adequate help. I don’t have to be a total loner on this project. Bringing in like minded friends to help and maintain things while I’m gone not only will bring the peace of mind I’ll need on a vacation but will help further spread the ideals of Emerson’s Acre. After all self reliance is a lot more fun when you have people to share it with.

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