“It’s hot here,” our son said. He declared this the hardest part about returning from a vacation in the refreshing cool mountain air of the Pacific Northwest. I disagreed, as I find 81 degrees a welcome mid-summer temperature in Illinois. Rather, I’m pooped. My body runs on Pacific Time and my mind spins, overwhelmed by the mountainous to-do list.
Weeds grew in the garden and gravel drive during our absence. Bills arrived in the stack of accumulated mail. The yard needs string trimmed, the chicken house scooped, and my daughter just harvested 13 zucchinis and an armful of cucumbers from the garden. Shortly after we left on vacation, a racoon ravaged three flower pots over several nights for my substitute waterers to handle. On our first night back home, we set the live trap and the sly bandit rolled it over to safely consume the cat food we placed as bait. The next day, it trapped both of our farm cats at once.
“That’s why I never take vacations,” a friend and fellow volunteer leader told me. I called him to catch up on the status of the community playground project that we manage. The fantastic trip to the Olympic National Park and other sites left me exhausted, overwhelmed and, for a day, emotionally as cold as a mountain stream … with the 4-H Fair eight days away.
While preparation is my style, my kids must make or assemble a bulk of their projects within 48 hours of show time: fresh vegetable displays, a decorated cake, food treats and an advanced floral arrangement. On the way home from the airport, I picked up some milk, bread, and fresh produce, as well as rice cereal and marshmallows for our son to practice a couple rounds of cereal bars before the final batch for his Cooking 101 project.
The day after we returned, our household awoke at a time appropriate for residents of Washington State. Outside, yellow airplanes already buzzed overhead to spray nearby corn fields, which fully tasseled in our absences. Thankfully, our farm employs reliable local men who handled feeding steers, hauling grain, mowing farm yards and watering flowers in the absence of our entire farm family for a family wedding in Seattle. Ironically, my daughter and I read The Pioneer Woman Magazine on the flight home, and Ree talked about someone helping on their ranch when they take trips, too.
Despite the weather withdrawals and mounting workload, we don’t regret the trip. Our family viewed stunning natural sites, played in waterfalls, enjoyed visits to fruit farms of the Columbia River Valley, and unplugged from life’s hectic pace for days. I cherish the memories from the annual summer trips of my childhood. I learned then that the workload upon our return meant that our farm and home needed us while we were gone. It’s just that it usually feels better than this to be needed.