Monday, July 22, 2013

Wild Weekend

This weekend was a wild one. Since I last updated there has been a workshop, archery, falconry, horseback rides, and river swims - but here's what makes all that different than normal: I've been hosting an old college friend, showing her my world. Taylor lives in Nashville and is a Senior Designer at an International Design Form, but was born and raised in the northeast. She's here for a few days of adventure while on a sabbatical and so it's been a lovely reunion. I thought I'd fill you in on what's been going on while she's still in bed and it's raining outside. You know how it is with company? It's hard to slip away and write while hosting guests. That's no slight to Taylor, mind you. I'm just letting you know why the blog might be a bit sporadic this week.

So, this weekend so far!

I hosted a Meat Rabbit workshop on Saturday, taking people from my farm to Patty Wesner's and talking critters and recipes. It was a full day of education, conversation, animals and food. I hosted a maximum attendance of readers, all of which were kind and excited to learn more about rabbits and growing food. Those who came learned about judging stock and buying animals for their first small herd. We went over everything from ear size and heat tolerance to setting up nesting boxes in colony pens. It was in-depth as all get out, folks eager with questions and ideas. When the morning talk outside the farmhouse was over we had covered purchasing, breeders, feed, shelter, kindling, and more and all that pretty much wrapped up the living rabbit section of the day. We took a lunch break and then drove a caravan over the back roads of my mountain to Livingston Brook Farm where we watched an expert slaughter and butchering demo, huddled around Patty's homemade abattoir and kitchen counter alike. She was wonderful, helpful, and took any question that flew her way. And the best part was people who came got to see the entire experience, on more than one farm, and how possible it was to do at home.

And some of those homes were not close! People came from as far away Virginia and New Jersey and as close as two towns over and that fact makes me grin from ear to ear. It's one thing to share some information that gets people from kitchens just a few miles away to drive over, but another honor altogether to be worth a road trip. I hope everyone who came had as good a time as I did.

After everyone left Saturday night my friend Taylor's Honda Civic pulled into the driveway. She came out of the front seat smiling and more beautiful and bright than I ever saw her before. She had just come from Burlington Vermont, where she stopped for a quick tour on her way here from Montreal. She was enjoying all while on her five-week vacation from her adopted city. She wasn't here long before we were sitting around Patty's outdoor table, eating an Indian rabbit dish she had made from the fellow we harvested that afternoon. It was so good both of us cleaned our plates, and that's a testament since Taylor had never eaten rabbit before! We sat out there watching the sunset over her beautiful barns, her horses tossing their manes in the fields below. It was a heck of a scene to drive into, I thought. Taylor was getting a heck of a welcome to Washington County!

The next morning Taylor was ready for some serious adventures. Even with her hairline fracture on her foot (technically, broken by her Doctor's estimation) she was game for some new sports. She agreed to come along with me to work at the British School of Falconry in Manchester where she shot arrows on my field and later, after my lessons were over, was taken out by one of the school falconers to meet the staff. Taylor enjoyed the shooting but she lit up with excitement learning to fly a hawk. She got to send it off to perch in a tree and raise her gauntleted hand and watch the Harris Hawk glide down to land in it. She was working with Haggis, a swell little guy. I snapped this prom photo of them together, look at that girl's smile!

We visited Northshire, ate lunch, and came home to a farm tour (finally) and a bit of a rest. We watched a documentary and just caught up on family and life in general, the kind of stuff old friends do. But even as tired as we were from the morning at my office she was eager to experience some other Cold Antler adventures. But what could she do with a broken foot? I asked if she could sit in a saddle and she said she sure could. So I tacked up Merlin, put some cold cider and some leftover birthday cake in his saddle bags (thank you Cathy Hoff!), and tied a wool blanket to that little shelf over his rump. Taylor hopped up and I lead him into the trails and stream-lined paths I know so well. When we finally got to the big hillside view of the Cambridge Valley, mountains in the distance and deer leaping in the fields below Taylor gasped. She literally gasped and said something that made me want to break down and cry right there. She said, "Everything you do, all the work you do, is worth it." That is exactly how I feel, but to hear it validated like that from someone who knew me before I ever owned a chicken was the highlight of my weekend.

We haltered and tied Merlin to an apple tree and set up our picnic. We took in the view and snacks and I tried to reflect on the last two days. It was an overwhelming amount of activity but none of it bad. I loved the workshop and meeting faces only known from emails and comments. And I loved sharing my world with Taylor, who was savoring the homemade cream cheese icing on a berry-filled yellow cake. There wasn't a lot of bad here. I had a few low points during the weekend too (like a Fed Ex man interrupting the rabbit workshop to have me sign a letter from my bank about the mortgage - talk about a rattling event during a classroom setting) but the good strongly outweighs the bad. And even though things are scary here right now in that sense, they are also so damn beautifulā€¦.

I am going to focus on the beautiful, and talk about that for a good while. It will be an effort of will, but I like I said earlier on this thing I can't keep focusing on my fears about this place. It has been eating me up, making me sick. But when you look at sunsets from horseback, hawks in flight, and baby chicks following their mother to the feeder you realize the power of a place, and the power in myself. I got this far and I'll keep this home. I know it.

Okay, time to get back to chores and get ready for the Daughton's. They are coming up with lumber, tools, and love in spades. We are starting construction on my Mews today! Thanks to Patty's and the Hoff's birthday present of paying for the lumber I am thinking it will be made for less money than I ever dreamed. Between bartered labor and gifted wood I am one lucky girl. This falconry thing might just stickā€¦

P.S. the part two of that river tubing story is this: we were driven back to our trucks by locals who made a lot of fun of us and were still very kind. I'd write more if I could steal the time but I just didn't want to leave you hanging!