Sunday, May 26, 2013

I'm Not an Agoraphobe. I'm a Farmer

If I wanted to I could drive my truck down to Albany, hop on a train and be in the middle of New York City by 1PM, walk around central park or check out the newest exhibit at the MoMA and be home in time for evening milking, with hours until dark. Up until just a few years ago, that would have sounded like heaven. To wake up on your own farm and have a full summer day free to travel and explore a wild city, and then come home to the comfort of your own croft, amazing right? But the woman I have become could not imagine such a trip, and not because it doesn’t sound enjoyable or realistic, but because distance has changed for me. An hour drive on a highway followed by 2 hours in a fast train may just be a quarter turn of the clock face, but there is a decadence to it now that unsettles me. If I want some time in a city I drive the lazy forty-five minutes to downtown Saratoga, or perhaps Glens Falls. These are far smaller towns but when you live on a mountain with sheep any place that offers Korean Barbeque seems exotic.

I don’t dislike the city, quite the opposite actually. I miss it. Part of me feels a dull ache for it, something amputated by circumstances out of my control. I used to spend a lot of time there in college and some of the best memories I have of those years were walking with friends under saffron banners in Central Park or eating out on a street side café. I was raised just a bus ride away from the city, too. My parents took us kids all the time to see exhibits at the Met, where I could look in pharaoh’s tombs, get within a foot of a Faberge egg, or see the embroidery on one of Jackie Kennedy’s dresses.

No, right now New York City seems much farther away than three hours. Everything about it has changed in my mind and that paradigm is powerful. I chose this life of chicks and milking goats and leaving behind any semblance of my old life and part of that is the idea of travel. I don’t go anywhere, I really don’t. It’s impossible with the amount of livestock and responsibilities on the farm, but above that I don’t want to leave. It’s not agoraphobia, it’s just contentment.

There’s so much going on here and even more happening on the friends farms around me. Within ten miles of my place are work, friends, food, and entertainment beyond measure. Three miles from my front door is the town of Cambridge where I have seen live plays, ballets, poetry slams and traveling world-renowned musicians. A few doors down is Battenkill Books, which hosts everything from book clubs to local history lectures to knitting circles to book signings from local authors. There are cafes and little diners with local and hardy fare. There’s an old train depot-cum-community arts center where everything from bluegrass jams to Irish Step dancing classes take place where cargo used to head down along the Hudson to the city. Cambridge hosts a farmer’s market, several bars, more churches, a saddle club and I’m sure many events I haven’t even been told about. It’s not New York City, wouldn’t dare call it as such, but it keeps me busy and enlightened to more culture than a trio of turkeys in the tall grass at home ever offered

I know the people, and they know me. I can walk into the hardware store and pick up sheep feed and everyone knows my name and says hello to Gibson, who comes wherever I go. Small town establishments aren’t worried about sheepdogs biting customers and being sued. It’s a casual, artistic, and hard working town with a tray of dog biscuits at the bank teller’s window.

So while there are museums, concerts, and vacations out there I would love to experience with old friends the reality is none of that is a part of my life anymore, not really. A daytrip to a museum means at least five to ten hours away from my home. That means dogs indoors, without bathroom breaks for five to twelve hours. That means calling a friend to come into your home to walk said dogs. It means a full udder of milk is praying your don’t get stuck in traffic or miss the bus. It means leaving detailed instructions with neighbors on what to do if the sheep escape and how not to get electrocuted by the fence. It means no one refills empty water tanks or is there for animal emergencies, and lambing snafus. Or, it means having a roommate or spouse that can do all these things for you. I’m single and raise livestock of several varieties near a wood-heated home. I’m not going anywhere. If I wanted to grow food and travel I’d grow vegetables with irrigation lines with good fences. But carrots don’t take you at a canter up a mountainside at sunset do they? Those farmer’s products are what I feed my farm’s animals for snacks. It doesn’t make either of us better, but certainly different. I bet a lot of horse manure helps a bed of carrots grow…

So how does one not become a hermit? Simple. Friends and family come see me. I host potlucks, game nights, workshops, and friends from out of town. We entertain ourselves right here in the country, on the farm or close to it. The more adventurous can hike the mountain, swim the river, fish the streams or join me in a cart ride with a pony to visit friends. We head into town for lunch at a café, buy a book, shop the antique stores, or drive through this beautiful county. We cook good food at each other’s farms with cold, tall glasses of adult beverages. We do all the things I used to watch people in those silly farm magazine pose doing, but we’re not posing at all. And I feel foolish writing that but it boils down to a very simple truth about the choices I have made. I am not longer a spectator. I’m no longer going about my life with a running monologue in my head about motives and what I deserve or should be admonished for. There are still choices and consequences, but more action than ever before. I am losing that voice in my head.

Carrie Bradshaw has left the building.

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