the morning of the first day
Even though we retained our friendship, our lives didn't stay anywhere near the same trajectory. nearly a decade after that flyer was posted: Raven is a middle school art teacher on Maryland's eastern shore and I'm a writing farmer with a day job in upstate New York. This weekend was the first time we'd hung out in person in six years, and it was her first time ever being on the farm.
So I was excited to show her this life I cobbled together, have her meet the dogs, the sheep, Jasper and the flock and new pigs. Over the years these animals have become my world.
Raven was visiting with a friend and reader, Mikaela, who I had never met. The two arrived the night before and within moments of meeting her I felt comfortable and easy around her. I think friends of good friends make sense in the mysteries of human chemistry. So when the morning of the big day came around, both were willing to get up earlier than they had all year to help with farm chores. I asked them to meet in the kitchen at 5AM. On the dark morning we gathered around the percolator and Mikaela and I went outside to see to livestock.
I don't know if they ever spent a moonlit morning with sheep before, but both Mikaela and Raven seemed to not mind the hour, or the work, surrounded by the life and smells of the farm. In moonlight, under clear skies, my sheep seem blue tinted and warmer than during the day. We stood on the hill, overlooking the farmhouse and the geese we just let out of the coop. Raven put her hands on her hips, as to say "So this is where you went" and didn't seem upset by it at all. Neither was I.
The morning was a flurry of odd jobs, setting up stations and workshops, baking quiches and bread, and cleaning the house. Raven went to work making signs for everything from the book sale and raffle tickets to the toilet (Please Put Down Seat: Border Collie Has a Drinking Problem). I have since left that sign on the toilet. A humble homage.
By 8:30 most things were set and I was finally showered. The buffet of donuts, quiche, coffee, and pie was set out in the kitchen. Jamie Elfrank and her new Beau, Vaughn, arrived to help with parking and registration. I handed Vaughn a mug, and explained to him the parking area that was bush hogged down by the bass pond. He took on his role with authority, remaining outside to let the earliest visitors know the drill. Raven and Mikaela took over the registration table, and as each visitor arrived (starting at 9:15) they were welcomed, handed a waiver, and explained the house and farm rules. Then they signed the guestbook and got a copy of the Backyard Homestead as a supplement to the workshops and lessons they would be part of in just a few hours. Inside the house, Cathy Daughton was setting up for Cheese making and Brett was out back getting his saws and axes ready. After brunch and introductions, they would be the first presenters.
Soon the farmhouse was full of guests. People from the night before and new faces and names, people I only knew as avatars on the blog. Jess and her man Riley arrived from Ontario, Risa and Mark from Brooklyn, and Shannon from San Diego. There was a nice mix of urban and suburban folks as well as countrified couples like the women of Wind Woman Farm and Back Acres. I delivered pie and quiche to Raven and Mikaela and did my best to stay on top of the coffee pots, but soon realized I wasn't needed in the kitchen. In the miracle that is homesteading workshops, someone always is willing to lend a hand before you even know you need it. Diane and Cathy kept the kitchen working, grabbed mugs from the cupboard, and handed out napkins and spoons.
It was running as smoothly as it could. I was relieved in ways I usually take for granted. In a few moments everyone would convene out front for introductions and a small tour of my backyard operation and pastures. I scarfed a slice of quiche and headed towards the front door while Raven and Brett rallied the troops. Here we go...
Photos by Tim Bronson.
He'll post a shop you can order Antlerstock Prints/downloads from soon.