a white hat
this morning I went out in an oversized men's buffalo plaid work shirt. It's so big it looks like a lumberjack trench coat on me, but it is warm and bright, so I like it. On my head: a white knit hat from my sheep. My brown rubber boots are the cheap kind Tractor Supply sells in a row my size, without boxes or tags. This is my morning uniform: jeans, red plaid, rubber boots, pigtails and a homespun hat. If you look close at the footage, that black streak is actually Gibson, running ahead to all the morning stops before I get to them. It is in this circus, that my mind returns to the question that was consuming me all morning during my boot scramble.
Why did I choose to live this life? What was the original tipping point that had me leave behind the world I was brought up in, that I went to four years of college for, that lead me to corporate careers in, of all things, email marketing. I mean, c'mon, email marketing, what could be farther from working a pony in harness than a desk job on the lowest level of a corporation making coupons on the internet? The mind reels.
I think about being a child, taken every Halloween to a small hobby farm nearby for pumpkin field tractor rides and petting their Nigerian goats. I loved that place, because even as an 8-year-old it felt correct in my New-Kids-on-the-Block lovin' heart. And in college, at Borders bookstores in Allentown (when there was a Borders on McArthur road) I would sit and read copies of Hobby Farm magazine, with a line of sheep on the cover, and wonder who possibly lived like that? Who had found a way to a snowy Tuesday night where their most important task was carrying out a bale of hay to their flock and returning to a warm kitchen for a hot meal, hard cider, and a beloved fiddle. How does a suburban 22-year-old make that happen? Can it happen?
My life has changed so much. It's 5:30 on a Saturday night and I am almost ready for bed. In college I would have been just getting back from the studio, getting into the shower to plan an evening with friends and road trips around the town. Tonight I am full from a dinner of some roasted chicken breast over kale and carrots. Both fires are going, and I know tomorrow morning will include the same chores and errands as today, and I look forward to it.
I love my life here, because evrythig I do is working towards another step of living. All year I am working towards the next thing, the next beautiful thing, that either feeds, clothes, or warms me. I know this spring I will get an order of chicks, and they will turn into thousands of calories of meat and eggs, and I'll use those calories to stack and split the wood that summer, that will burn to keep me warm that winter. Do you see what I mean? Every tomato planted is a can of sauce. Every lamb born is a sweater or a chop. This place, this lifestyle is continusously active in the actual sport of living. And before I lived season to season, among animals and agriculture, I lived selfishly through constant material gain. It left me empty, and scared, and wondering how I fit into the world? You get a farm and you get a purpose. Your religion becomes the next six hours. I look at that article in the Washington Post, and think about all the women and men canning and stacking wood alongside me, states and countries away, and I am proud. This generation does not want push-button gratification. It wants the results of hard work, time, sweat and patience only genuine authenticity can cultivate.
I live this life because I found my passion, and my strength. I walk up to the sheep fields with my black dog and crook, and our biggest goal in moving sixteen sheep from one gate to another so a working pony can spend an afternoon in the sunlight running. I pulled into my muddy driveway to see a gray horse running along a hillside and had to remind myself it was mine. That me and that 650 pound animal had worked as a team through leather and confidence, and made things happen. I love that damn horse, as much as I love anything. He is a part of a story, and a reality, and future that will be scary but okay. No part of me ever thinks things will get worse, not on this farm. Things will get complicated from time to time, but never worse. I learned this much.
In this farmhouse fires burn, alcohol ferments, dogs stretch, and a woman wants. This is a good place. It has forest, pastures, barns, stoves, creeks, ponds, sun, rain and even when it is broken it is green and alive. There is a beloved goose on a nest of eggs and I pray for goslings. There are rabbits waiting to kindle, and I pray for more meat. There are a half-dozen eggs being laid each day, and I am so grateful it makes me shake. Because all my work here is nothing more than the hope that I too make it another season, another month. Farming is believing. It is doing today what will provide tomorrow. No one who does this can say they have no faith, as every seed is a silent prayer for a few more months. What more dare we ask for?
I farm because just writing about it makes my heart race, makes me want to howl. I love this small place, carved into a mountain, hidden from so many things. Tonight I am warm and filled with plans and projects for the morning. I might be asleep by 7PM on date night, but who needs a date when you're already in love.