From this morning:
It is market day and the figs are ripe. The alarm is set for sometime dark, but I’m already awake, mentally preparing for the rush. I stumble into the kitchen, grab a cuppa joe and slip my sockless feet into Muck boots. On my way out the door, I grab Brian’s denim shirt to use as a light jacket. The calendar says summer, but this morning whispers autumn, a cool breeze insistently turning to wind as I head out to the fig tree with a box.
I push myself into the arms of the tree, still-warm coffee sloshing around in my stomach as I navigate through the sticky leaves searching for figs. When figs are ripe, they change color subtly from a bright green to a softer yellow. The once-perky fruit begins to droop, heavy and tired. Many develop stretch marks; pregnant flesh anxious to deliver.
Across the field, the cows look at me, startled. They lie there, chewing their cud, trying to figure out what might be happening. My girls are creatures of habit and this is not, in their opinion, how the day is supposed to begin. Like me, they can’t believe I’m up and out at such an hour.
In a few moments, the rest of the farm wakes up. My kids are out doing their chores early, and the sheep and lambs are not as cautious as the cows. A chorus of bleats threatens to overwhelm the suddenly urgent bawling of the calves. Turkeys gobble a welcome to my daughter who feeds them. Not to be left out, the ducks begin clamoring for a treat.
By now, my box is nearly full of figs, and the cows have determined that they may as well get up. Cookie ambles over to the gate, ready to be milked. Mocha follows close behind, each one vying to be the first to get a bucket of grain and the relief of an emptied udder. They stand, patiently waiting as Brian lugs out the milk machine.
I wash Cookie’s udder and we hook her up. The milk squirts into the machine, hot against the cool stainless steel. I go back to picking figs as Brian monitors milking progress. In a few minutes, the milking is finished. I take in my figs and go to collect duck eggs. One hand is dedicated to opening gates and picking up eggs. The other hand—the clean hand, if you will—picks more fruit.
I head in with a dozen duck eggs, my stomach full of figs, Asian pears, fresh prunes and a peach whose juice dribbled down my chin in the cool of the morning. I forget that I need to fix breakfast for the children until the whining begins. I wonder what sort of mother forgets to make breakfast. I send the children out to raid the trees for themselves and put some rice on the stove. We’ll top it with butter, brown sugar and some milk, fresh from the cow.
The older girls have loaded the van, and they hop in with Brian to go to market.
Morning has begun.