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Opinion: Bill Walton, Work-Life Balance

My life partner is talking about quiet quitting if we don’t get a better work-life balance at Stoney Acres.

Out here at Stoney Acres we took the news about city folk thinking about cutting back to a 4-day workweek with some alarm. Ever since that Industrial Revolution there has been a growing gap between working on the land and working in the city. Mind, the difference in wages was soon a sore point back then but those of us who stuck it out felt we had some aesthetic advantages, like working in the fresh air, out in the sunshine and even in the refreshing rain. I still haven’t figured out ‘snow days’.

And we supposed that having to punch a time card was sort of like having to check in with the cows when the rooster crowed excepting the cows was happy to see you unlike the foreman-types who we heard were pretty strict and sometimes shouted at you for being tardy. Of course, at the other end of the stick, the factory workers got to punch out after 10 hours, then later 8 hours, now 7 hours, while we lucky ones could stay at the barn or out in the fields as long as we wanted to.

Mind, once the farm kids heard about Banker’s Hours, they started leaving the farm life. Going into work at 9 o’clock seemed like a wonderful thing. It gave you time for a leisurely breakfast and then home in time to sit and read a newspaper before dinner at 5 or 6 o’clock was a nice time to unwind after a tense day of not giving out loans to farmers who wanted to buy new-fangled machines to replace their kid who had taken a job in a bank.

There was talk about improving the working hours here at Stoney Acres, but it just wasn’t possible to come to an agreement with the animals about when things needed to be done, like cleaning out the stalls, collecting the eggs (those Plymouth Rocks will lay an egg anywhere, anytime). We thought we had a breakthrough with the pigs but Jesper, our boy who went to university and then became a lawyer so he could work 70 hours a week, read to the pigs some book called Animal Farm and that did it. The negotiations were over.

It was accepted as part of the lot of all farmers that you had to work seven days a week while the factory workers only worked six days, but when they went down to 5 days, it put pressure on us to match ‘the working conditions’. The women folk on the farm began to insist that we take a little time off – hire some help to look after things - at least on Sunday, although many of us did manage to put aside a couple of hours for church.

The thing was, we developed some kind of a symbiotic relationship with the city factory people. They made machines to make our work easier, and it did, sort of. We had to produce more to pay for the machines but we had to keep our prices down or the government would get involved with milk quotas for the Holsteins and the number of eggs a chicken could lay and such nonsense.

Then the factory workers figured out that they were working almost as hard as farmers and the clerks, teachers and government people had it easy, so they bargained for shorter hours, even better than Banker’s Hours. There was no way we out on Stoney Acres can get by working 35 hours a week. Not only the livestock won’t have it, but the damn hay keeps growing, the weeds grow even faster, and the berries won’t stay fresh on the stem beyond their best before picking day.

Then this quiet-quitting thing started. It’s bad enough that the hired help stops to talk on their cell phones or gets carried away playing Wordle on their breaks, but I think the cows are doing the quiet-quitting thing because the milk production has been down the last two weeks. Charlie, our milk production supervisor, (he has that embroidered on his shirt) says the cows want more molasses with their mash mixture. The extra molasses will only add about 1.5 cents per litre and the cows will produce about half a litre more per week, he says.  Heck, back in day, all I had to do was squeeze a little harder to get more milk.

Now our daughter – she left the farm to marry a dentist in town – called the other night to ask us to slow down a little and get a better life-work balance here on Stoney Acres. She explained the idea was to have as much leisure time as you had work time in a week. She knows darn well that leisure time on a farm is like someone holding down two minimum-wage jobs just to balance the cheque book. That’s what balance means to us. 

I told her that maybe it was a matter of enjoying your work more and then you wouldn’t need so much leisure time to balance your life.  I tried that golfing thing for leisure last summer and frankly, I’d rather be out in the hay field at Stoney Acres looking for stones not little white balls in the golf course weeds.

Bill Walton

About the Author: Bill Walton

retired from City of North Bay in 2000writer, poet, columnist
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