Saturday, May 11, 2013
Am I crazy?
The dawn light falls gently on my closed eyes. I stir. Part of me doesn’t want to get up. But the real me knows I have to. I role over and gently run my fingers through my wife’s hair. Her eyes open, blurry and frustrated. Erika is one of the nicest, sweet-hearted people in the world. Except for when she’s in-between sleep and awake. Her angry face is almost as cute as her happy face.
The frustration quickly transforms once she remembers where we are, and why we are waking up. The look in her eyes is the one I feel in love with—sparkling, full of life, with just a hint of mischievousness in the background. Then it changes again to resolve.
We fall into the routine. Dirty jeans and tough boots. Tenacious D shirts and worn leather jackets. We emerge into the brisk, crisp morning air. The mountains and valleys roll into the distance, muted tones of green and purple under fledgling light. The two windmills turn slowly with the morning air.
Am I crazy?
The chickens are already clucking softly from the coup. Rustling comes from the barn. Erika goes to let the goats out, while I take care of the chickens.
“Come on out ladies!” They emerge cackling and chattering; a much nicer morning conversation to listen to than The View. Cathy comes right up to the fence to say hi.
“I know!” I say, “I know! I can’t believe she said that. And she told who? Oh, the nerve!”
I retrieve a half-dozen eggs from the coup. The blue stands out among the brown, proud and unique. On my way to dropping them off, I see two kid goats bucking heads in the field. The old-timers have wasted no time and gone straight to grass-chomping. They are much cuter and nicer to take care of then lawn mowers. Not to mention the better emission ratings.
Erika is grooming and feeding the horses. I stop by for a hello and a kiss… the latter being from my wife, not from the horse. Though Epona does have beautiful eyes.
I pass a pig, snout to the ground. He looks up momentarily as if to say “No time, old chum!” and is back to his foraging.
I place the egg basket inside, and return outside, past the field to the garden. An iron fence covered in hops stands sentry against any unwelcome guests. I spend the morning weeding and spreading compost and weeding. Some cherry tomatoes have ripened. A bumble bee lazily bobs from one squash flower to the next. I stop and listen to his song. A buzzing that is somehow much more pleasant that that of a fly. Birds sing. Chickens cluck. A goat screams. I giggle.
Am I crazy?
I return with the harvest. Erika has been moving manure to the compost. She smells of hay and earth. I make a basil and tomato omelet with fresh eggs and our own goat cheese. We sit under the strengthening sun, musing on whether or not to get a yak. Discussing what to plant for the fall. How much power our solar panels have collected.
When we are done, I take the herbs that have been drying to the basement. I pass an alcove filled with cheeses. Another area packed with jars of fermenting Kim chi, sauerkraut, and various concoctions. Stinky and sour and delicious elixirs. In another room, a few carboys of beer and mead sit, airlocks bubbling away. Above them, a barrel of homemade bourbon ages. Out here, no one bothers me when I distill. Sure, the bourbon is great, but the undrinkable parts of the process are used to clean and sterilize. The pure alcohol is mixed with herbs to great extracts and tinctures. The still can be used to gather essential oils as well. Finally, in the cool dark depths of the basement, I find the tins of dried herbs and store the stash away.
Returning outside, I stroll through the maple trees, reminiscing of this spring’s tapping. I reach the bees, planning on strolling through the hives and meditation to the sound of their buzzing. Instead, I am greeted with a swarm on the maple closest to the hives. I run back to the barn where Erika is milking a goat. “A swarm, a swarm!” We grab a spare hive, and run back. After some acrobatic maneuvering, a return trip to the barn for a saw, and some close calls, we successfully get the queen into the new hive, along with her brood. We fall onto the grass, sweating, exhausted, and laughing. The bees buzz in response.
Am I crazy?
The horses are saddled, and we take a leisurely ride through the woods. The coolness is welcome in the warming afternoon. I spot a spicebush and collect some leaves and seeds. The seeds will be frozen and go with some apples and walnuts in the fall. We stop by a stream and relax in the sprinkling sunlight as the horses drink. The sunlight is fading upon our return. Most the of the animals return happily to their homes, though Mr. Pig seems upset, as if he hasn’t found what he was looking for. He gives a dismissive “snuff” as we get him into the barn.
Erika cooks some fish we’d caught the previous day with dill and butter from the dairy farm down the street. We drink beer and cocktails as the stars and moon fill the sky. It’s too early for a fire, but spicebush tea does nicely. For dessert, the last of the strawberries, fresh whipped cream, and drizzle of homemade berry liquor. We return inside and read using a gravity light. I take a stab at a few pages of my novel. Erika crochets. Sometimes we may splurge the energy, plug in the modem and router, and connect with friends and family. Plan the next visit. Enjoy a movie. We may have created our own little world, but that doesn’t mean we’d want to leave behind the old.
After the lights go down a tickle-battle ensues. Shrieks of laughter and shock turn into something else. And maybe there will be an addition to our farm family… or maybe not.
Am I crazy?
Have I idealized the American Farmer? Is it really a simple life of simple pleasures? Is it even realistic to dream of such things? Wouldn’t there still be problems, just like in life now? Maybe. But I think the problems would be more concrete. I do think things would be simpler. Not easier, not by a long shot. Hard work; but hard work with a reward. Not abstract work to try and do your part to save the world. Or teach the kids? Can we do that? Maybe we can help. Maybe. But most of me just wants to take my chances doing my own thing. Make my own way; but not have to be dependent on so many flawed, unhealthy systems. Do I want to forsake the world? No. Do I want to coexist with the world? Maybe. Do I want to re-connect with the earth, the soil, the sun? Yes. More than anything. There will be hardships: crop failures and diseases, rainy seasons, tight months with tax collectors at our door, broken solar panels. But I think the reward is too great to be afraid of those things; a meal made entirely of things we’ve grown, raised, hunted, or foraged, delivering a kid goat, working hard all day in the sun, saying “fuck you” to the electric company.
Am I crazy?
I will give myself 10 years to shed my fast-food, GMO’d, student-loan enslaved skin. Raw, pink, and stinging, I will venture forward into the unknown mist of my future.
Am I crazy? Probably. Definitely. Yes.