To play just about any competitive sport, one must first go through conditioning. This is the period of time before practice begins where the coaches force their players to run––nay sprint––infinity laps, lift infinity weights, and push themselves to their absolute physical limits in order to get in shape for the rest of the season. In farming (a career arguably as demanding as any sport) we affectionately refer to conditioning as “Springtime.”
I remember my first year interning at Bugtussle. That April, the month I started at the farm, was the hardest physical month for me. And not that the rest of the months weren’t incredibly physical, hot, long, painful and impossible, but that I wasn’t used to it until after the Spring. I first needed to make a couple thousand soil blocks and transplant them into the garden; I then needed to cultivate those transplants after every rain (and, being Spring, rain was a rather frequent event); I needed to help the Smiths collect firewood, get a little sunburned, and I needed to get used to getting up earlier. In other words, in order to have a successful year I needed to get in shape, and the Spring was happy to oblige.
Every year since then I’ve enjoyed the physicality of Spring. I imagine that the Summer would be really hard on a farmer if they weren’t in shape going into it––if it weren’t for the Spring. But by the time Summer strikes, we will all be used to getting up at five, and working until dark. We will be prepared to haul basket after basket of tomato or squash from the field in the blistering heat. The hot days spent with a hoe in hand will be manageable, maybe even enjoyable, because of how much cultivating we accomplish in April and May. By the end of Spring we will have pushed ourselves to the limit, and in the Summer we will stay at that limit for four straight months.
I remember when I was younger and played sports how much I dreaded conditioning, but always later enjoyed my ability to play hard for longer periods of time without wearing out. So that’s what I keep in mind now, that as sore and tired as I am these days, I’ll be thanking myself, and the Spring, later on.