• J.J. Wheeling

Lessons in Patience

Most of you know that I’m an organic farmer (although I recently learned I can’t use the “o-word” since I refuse to be forced down the government road of being certified). Anyway, I’ve been in agriculture, hands in the dirt, for 25 years. It’s kind of hard to type that number, it doesn’t seem that long but it’s the truth.

Lessons I’ve learned from agriculture are the following:


1. Mother Nature is a fickle business partner

2. Persistence

3. Patience

4. Know when and when not to walk away

Anyone in agriculture will say the first lesson is just good to understand and accept. Nothing happens fast in agriculture unless it is bad. Frost, floods, hail, insects, vermin, all of them can take out a crop in minutes after weeks and months of careful tending. But, agriculturists carry on.

Persistence, in my mind, it the effort it takes to continue on, to find creative solutions in the face of adversity and to keep tweaking until one gets the desired outcome. Case in point: sugar snap peas. Our little farm is renowned for its sugar snap peas but the early years of learning how to grow them in our challenging environment were brutal. Who knew such a thing as a “pea maggot” even existed! Poor germination, crows, bindweed, sunburn, I could go on but you get the drift. 2020 presented aphids and grosbeaks that wrecked half of the crop. But, generally speaking, we’ve overcome adversity and consistently produced a superior product for our enthusiastic, local community.


When it comes to patience, farming and ranching are genuine tests. Another case in point. After 18 years of tending our ten apricot trees, we finally had a crop bigger than enough for a single pie. Typically, the trees are tricked by warmer weather in early March, burst into bloom and the next thing you know, the frost kills everything. Last year we had a huge fruit set only to have a killing frost that shriveled up the little green fruits like raisins. This year, we had a beautiful bloom. My heart had been bruised with disappointment from last year so I didn’t get my hopes up, kept waiting for the inevitable frost. It never came. We had so many apricots I actually got sick of smelling them as they became overripe. We sold apricots until we couldn’t find homes for them. The birds gorged themselves. Everyone was happy.


Finally, to my last lesson. My father didn’t condone quitting. I struggled for the longest time with the idea of “quitting” as opposed to “cutting bait.” I’ve cut bait plenty of times, times when I knew I had traveled down the wrong trail, spent too much time on something that wasn’t going to pan out. And I’ve quit a few things, walked away without giving a full effort. I chalk the latter up to immaturity.

In my last example, we inherited an old pear tree in our farm. It existed on the last part of the farm to get water from our irrigation system. There was also an old juniper tree there, which was thriving. The pear tree was scraggly and the rot in its trunk was so significant that one could see right daylight through it. We had to cut down the juniper in order to plant grapes and while my husband had the chainsaw running, he started toward the decrepit pear tree. I threw my body in front of the tree and begged for mercy! Without water, it hadn’t had a fair shot at living! I promised him he could cut it down if, after two years with water, it hadn’t produced decent pears. And that’s just what it did… big, beautiful, delicious D’Anjou pears. It still has a hollow trunk but the tree has put on new growth and produced pears for the last five years. I didn’t quit it.


Little did I know that my farming lessons have paid dividends in my young writing career. When my manuscript was rejected from the first round of submissions, the comments all held a common theme. Rather than continue submitting, I chose to address the issue. The rewrite took me six months, the readers and agent approval took another five. But, for those still hanging with me during this process, the manuscript has been resubmitted to acquiring editors as of September 12th. The first time the manuscript went out, I didn’t get comments for six months. I’m sure COVID will complicate the process, like it has for everything else in our world, but at least the manuscript is in acquiring editors’ hands.

The rewrite has made the story better, more interesting and faster paced. It was worth the time. Much like learning about pea maggots, the tweaking I had to do was the right thing. If my apricot trees are my teachers, the patience I have learned from them will give me strength as I wait to hear which publisher will take on my project. And, like my pear tree, I didn’t quit my story when it faced adversity, I just watered it with some new ideas and now we’ll wait for the fruit.

Many thanks to those who have been so kind in their comments about this blog and my writing activities. I am constantly surprised by this time in history and glad to share the revelations that I can work into my story. Stay tuned for new blogs in the coming weeks.

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