a community of wet
I got home and pulled into the driveway, greeted by my two mallards. They were splashing in the big pool puddle they love so much. A place I suppose many trucks parked over the years. I honked the horn and they waddle-bitched away.
Wanting to get my hands dirty, feel sweaty, and be of physical use after a day of sitting at a computer—I went inside for my boots. I was wearing Chacos, my three-season footwear of choice, but I learned a few years ago that rain chores in Chacos just left you feeling the definition of squalor. Inside were wool socks and Muck boots. First good decision of the day.
I walked the dogs, fed them their kibble, and headed back outside to do the rounds. The rain kept slamming, but in a windless, empty way that didn't make you move any faster than usual. So I fed the wet pony, dumped more feed into the chickens' big feeder, and refilled all the rabbits' water and pellet holsters. I checked on my first doe's litter, the kits were about ready to be weaned. All seven were plump and happy, looking wonderful. I had some brand new WARE metal cages to move them into a pair at a time, and would allow them to range on grass soon as I figured out a movable contraption. Here, it is the best way to raise meat rabbits, on grass. I'd figure the logistics later.
I turned around in the barn to check on the Pumpkin broody hen in the wooden baskets. She was sitting differently, hovering? Chicks....Has to be chicks. I thought to myself and lifted her up as she snapped at me. Under her were two just-born babes, still damp from the egg. One light and one dark. The fact I was finding them after a day in an air-conditioned, sterile, office was not lost on me. Balance is everywhere if you take the trouble to notice it.
Chicks under wing of their mother, it was time to feed the stars of Cold Antler Farm. The sheep would get a bale, of course, but I wanted to walk it up the hill and feed them in the shelter of their shed, which is now falling apart in ways I can not repair. I think I will have to build a new one, or get an expert on hand. But for now, it stands strong and I hoisted that bale up over a shoulder and carried it to the flock. Using my own technique of removing twine without cutting any, I freed the hay and scattered it in civil piles. The front wall fell down, the particle board rotted off the nails, my double coat of paint was useless. It was covered in mud and sheep scat, but I lifted it up and set it against the back wall anyway. The chompers didn't even crane their heads to watch me vallet their new three-sided shelter.
I was soaked, but smiling. My hands covered in mud, hay shreds, sheep poo and dirt. I had accomplished my sweaty goal, and took a minute to look outside the barn door at the rainy place I was not only living in, but a member of. We were the community of wet. I was happy. I had waited all day for this.
I thought of coworkers coming home from the office and making that silly sprint indoors to avoid the rain. Rain was an inconvenience, something that ruins plans and makes for bad hair. I was thrilled the already over-grazed pasture was getting some water. I needed the grass to not turn to dirt for just a few more weeks till I could buy the supplies and start pounding fence posts. I thought about this as I wiped the sheep crap on the pants that not an hour ago rested on an ergonomic desk chair. I was more than embracing nature. I was practically compost.
Going through this list of repairs, witnessing births, planning deaths, and building fences in my head: I thought about a few recent conversations me and my friend, Jon, had been having. We've been talking about who we were, and how we're perceived. Jon thinks that above all, I am a writer. That if the farm was gone, I would still write, always write. I insist I am a farmer, and that if given the task to write forever and never raise food again, I would shrivel up into a miserable snakeskin in the fetal position. "Farmer" regardless of your stipulations or definitions of the term: was who I needed to be, who I already was. My happiness is tied to self-reliance, growing food, and raising animals best I can. But how I sing about it, is writing, and he's got me pegged there. If thrown into a jail cell I would write about that.
He's right. I am a writer. I'm right, too. I'm also a farmer. In that cell I'd also be hoarding food scraps to make compost, drying tomato seeds on the windowsill, and making pots out of plastic cups. I'm both, and will remain both long as I have any say in the matter. And I say that with a big ol' swollen heart, barely kept inside if it wasn't for the fiddle strings, baling twine and crow feathers keeping it politely behind my ribs.