When the bottle was empty I set it aside and grabbed the bottle of honey. It was hard not to smile with joyful anticipation. This was pork I knew by name, that I raised from a shoat, and had been butchered on this farm. The cider was from the farm, too. It came from last fall’s bumper crop of apples, collected with friends, hand-ground at a pressing party with the help of a restored fruit press from the Civil War. Now that cider was being used to break down the muscle of a pig named after a fiddle tune. I topped off this happy scene with a half pound of honey, courtesy of the ladies just outside my living room door.
This. This, is living it right.
It was a lot of food. Too much for one woman. I sent a message to Mark and Patty and invited them to join me. They have fed me countless meals at my farm and I wanted to return a bit of the favor. I knew if I cooked some rice and fried up some kale from the garden in herbs an oil, and got some buns whipped up I would have a feast. I still had a bottle of mead left over from Samhain and here in the farmhouse there was home-brewed cider, ale, and a sweet young wine. Why eat alone?
Mark and Patty did join me and it the farmhouse was warmed by the fire in the wood stove, wood cut on this farm (at least in part) and dragged from the forest by draft horses I knew, that had ridden on the backs of, that I have kissed their noses on cold days. The house was 67 degrees (ridiculously warm for me) and the food smells of bread, meat, rice and kale was a spell on all of us. We ate, we laughed, we drank dark beer and mead and caught up on stories of a new team of oxen Patty helped get for her work. Mark talked of hunting and weather - two topics we never get tired of.
Five years ago this would have sounded like a fairy tale. Something for people in taverns in Tolkien novels to taste and speak of. Dinner with a name? Cider I knew in the apple? Friends with tales of oxen and goose hunts?!
Now, life is often scary and far from perfect. There is no security, and that is something few are willing to go dancing without. Well, actually, that’s not true is it? There is far much more security here, and I feel much safer than I ever did working for a paycheck from an employer that could lay me off whenever they felt like it. The finances might not be predictable, but my job security is watertight. I’m never going to fire myself. And instead of a pile of groceries there is a freezer full of meat and wild game. There is a network of neighboring farms of every sort. There is wool for hats and sweaters, timber for heat, vegetables in the garden, and eggs, milk, cheese and bacon out there on the feather and hoof. This is the most volatile safe place in the world.
If you are struggling with the decision to take the leaps I have. I can’t offer advice, as the decision is your own. But know from this table in the corner of a small tavern—lit by firelight and warmed by friendship—I have not a single regret. There will always be wolves at the door of those who leave the flock. That’s just how it is, and I’m fine dancing with wolves. They keep you on your toes.
Tonight I am writing this under the light of the full moon, casting in on this living room. There is good fiddle music playing, a fire in the stove, dogs asleep at my feet, and dinner on the hob. The animals outside are all fed and well and while there is still one more set of night rounds before I sleep I am grateful beyond measure for this scrappy life. This week I sold a spot for Spring Fiddle Camp and a whole pig’s worth of shares to friends and neighbors. I may have enough scrapped together by week’s end to turn over a (late) mortgage payment but I am still dancing. I am in a sweater from High School and only own four pairs of shoes, but that is mighty fine by me. My lifestyle is my style. And my four shoes are plenty to keep dancing with those door wolves under the full moon.