Thursday, November 16, 2017

Hot Lunch

I woke up at dawn to the sound of gentle rain. I knew it would be a warm start - probably in the 40s - but this afternoon the temperature was supposed to drop fast and possibly growl into snowfall. So I organized the day accordingly. Morning chores went by a good clip. The barn has hay in it and the water hauls were the normal amount. It didn’t really start raining until it was time to feed the pigs. Pigs are the most comfort-loving animals on the farm and demand a warm, wind-proof, and dry place on days like this, but all those rules go out the door when it’s meal time. They came sloshing and slogging through the wet earth to meet me for their morning squash, grain, and well water. By the time I was done I came indoors to a mug of hot coffee and a pair of muddy and tired farm dogs.

I was three clients into my to-do list and preparing for the post office when I got a message via email from my friend Patty. She was in town and wanted to know if she could drop in? I said of course and was extra grateful I had just slid a braided loaf of bread into the oven and had a beef stew simmering in the crock pot. It's rare this house is cleaned up and ready to serve guests at a moment's notice. (Well, the kind of guests who don't mind an ailing hen walking loose around their feet indoors and muddy prints on the floor.) But generally, the place was civilized. It smelled heavenly with the butter-brushed bread in the oven and savory stew in the pot.

A few weeks back my friends Wendy and Clipper came to visit and as a housewarming gift they brought three pounds of their Dexter beef. I had defrosted a pound, browned it in an oiled skillet, and added it to the local squash, potatoes, and onions in a light beef broth. It was the perfect offering for a friend coming in from the rain on a cold morning. I pulled the bread out as the dogs barked to announce her arrival. This was Hobbit-level hospitality and I was beaming.

I offered her lunch and she gladly accepted. She was working a horse farm for a bit to help a friend and was cold from the work there. So we ate and caught up. Nothing special or odd about it, just friends breaking pieces of warm bread and talking about our days. We laughed and encouraged each other, dipping crust in hot stew by the fire.

It was a humble lunch but meant the world to me. My goal with this farm was to create a place that made the people who walked inside feel special, safe, warm, and welcome. Outside was all the world was wind, rain, and gray chill but inside was friendship, steaming bread, and a meat with a first name and three farms attached to it. This is how I want to eat. In this holy way that connects people, animals, and one place. I knew the beef farmer. I knew the land the potatoes had been grown in and the haflinger team that dug them up. The squash was from the tumble by the Hob. The bread was kneaded and baked this moring between farm chores, a load of laundry, and a children's book cover design.

As we talked Muffins the chicken (who isn’t feeling well and is quite old) walked around the living room clucking softly and being ignored by the collies (who assume she’s a very slow piece of furniture). It's a messy and scrappy life, but it is mine the way a dragon's gold is hers. I swirl over it with the happiest of tired slither and smoke.

All of this is the same weight of sand I mentioned last night. The happy weight that leads to lunches on a Thursday morning warm from the rain with a hen at your feet and dogs begging for bread. And good friends that stop in and leave better than when they arrived will me up with a primal sort of home pride. A weary traveler came to my door and hospitality met them.

This was a good day for a hot lunch.