It’s a fine life in the country, isn’t it? Fresh air, good food, fine view, plenty of sunshine – what more could a young hobbit want?
Well, how about less backbreaking work, less cold and rain, less dangerous farm tools and, particularly, less manure!
I have just spent a very long day working a farm in Oatbarton and I can tell you, never again. Take this as a warning if you should happen to pass by there.
Oatbarton itself is a pleasant little hamlet albeit at the furthest northern reaches of hobbit influence; in fact, technically, it is in Evendim. It also appears to be surrounded by a considerable number of undesirables but, even so, the locals seem to be thriving. When I arrived, I met with a hobbit called Nod Gardener who told me
“Welcome to Oatbarton, traveller. We are home to some of the northernmost farms in the Shire. That means our crops have a distinctly sharper taste and our pipeweed lingers on the tongue.
The main producer up here is the Northcotton Farm, just up to the west of town. They are getting ready for their harvest and annual market. I am sure there is plenty to do.
Well that suited me, I’m always short of coin and the prospect of some fine homegrown farm cooking certainly appealed. A little light farming and then a feast! So off I went up the hill to find the farm. I could hardly miss it, it was huge with all sorts of activity going on. All in all a bit of a maze and it took me a good while to find Albin. He seemed to be glad to see another
“We are terribly behind this year. Almost nothing has been done, and I do not know how we possibly can get it all done. The harvest has not been the greatest so we have been spending all of our time trying to get what did grow to stay alive.
In order to have a proper farmer’s market, there are many things we must still have. We have to have pies and premiere pipe-weed. We need to clean the place up and get the animals ready for petting. We also told Nibs he could participate this year, and I hear he’s had some trouble as of late.
If you could help us get all of this ready, we would greatly be in your debt. This may be the last year we can have this market, and I’m going to do whatever I can to make sure it’s the best!”
In short, pies need making, chores need doing, animals need tending, pipe-weed needs harvesting, and neighbours need helping before the farmer’s market can happen.
Sounds simple doesn’t it? But a short sentence like “animals need tending” soon expands into “sheep need herding, chickens need collecting, pigs need bathing(!), cows need milking and so on.
“Pipe-weed smoking is older than you and I. It is a tradition long held by us hobbits. Pipe-weed is a plant we grow here at the Northcotton farm. It is a particular leaf, different than the southern farms in the Shire. We have been in full production for a while now and focusing on the harvest. Making sure we have enough for the farmer’s market has meant we haven’t had time to keep up with making the farm look nice. If we are to have guests, we’ll want to make sure appearances are tip-top.
The time has come to harvest and dry the pipe-weed to get it ready for the market. This is a multiple step process, and each part must be handled with care.
The first step is to pick the pipe-weed. There are still some fields that we have not picked yet. While you are out there, drive off some of the crows that have been taking what few leaves we have left.
And while you are out in the fields, we just finished the harvest, and there are tools strewn over many of the fields. Hoes, sickles, trowels, and pitch-forks have been left lying about. If you could pick up all the tools you find, then bring them back, that would be a great help”.
You see what I mean? And we hadn’t even discussed my recompence. And don’t get me started on cleaning the pigs – the thing is when you are finished, the pigs are clean but you certainly aren’t.
Well, I did the jobs but it was nightfall when I finished and all I wanted to do was fall into bed. A farmer’s life for me? Not a chance!
/OOC – Other than the endless running round the maze-like farm, this was fun. And nice to see sheep and pigs (not boars) in game. I had just turned 31 when I started and was 32 when I finished so very rewarding. And here’s an idea for the devs – what about extending the Tag game to a session play here? Players could either be sheep or chickens and try to avoid being tagged by other players being the Farmers.