Friday, July 10, 2020

Lucky Number 13

I woke up when the world was still caught in blue light. In the cool bedroom the world seemed tame and easy. Friday stretched out beside me, her paws pressed against the headboard as every inch of her spin gently curved and she yawned like a lioness before smacking her lips and kissing me on the nose. Gibson was on his back on the dog cushion beside the bed, paws up in the air. I said good morning to him and when his tail thumped against the old planks I felt it in my ribs. You can’t not smile at a dog like him. Gibson has spent nearly every day of his last ten years beside me on this farm. He’s watched it rise and fall and me do the same, in the joy and excitement of new books and horses and hawks and the despair of busted pipes and loneliness and fear. But it is July and the sun was rising and we had happy work to do. We still had time to stack firewood. I was only a few weeks behind on the mortgage instead of months. There was an entire farm waiting on us to be fed and start the day and they were stirring awake, too. So I got dressed and took us three border collies outside to see our world.

With the sun just starting to rise we walked outside the farm house and made our way to the chicken coop. Not the Eglu, not the small chicken tractors, but the proper coop. The building made for chickens that was used for storage these past three or four seasons, mostly because of a raccoon that got in one night and killed and panicked so many birds that none of the survivors would roost in it again and it was abandoned for the pig barn by the flock. But the 30 meat bird chicks inside don’t know that story and their first few weeks of life have been nothing but lovely in the remodeled and reinforced chicken coop. It felt so good to open the old red wooden door and see all of them bright and chirping, excited for their breakfast. I don’t know if I’ve been as excited about anything as those babies were for mash and well water.

The coop and the meat birds inside are just one of the improvements and additions to the farm this year. The whole place has a new life in it. I don’t know if I can convey how much life by just popping in here to write about it a few times a month, but if you walk across the lawns and pastures you can feel it. In my tenth year farming basically the same few species - sheep, goats, horses, pigs, and poultry — the lessons of the decade have created a happy home for the current stock. Everyone is bright and hail. The horses are lean and strong and ready to be saddled and ridden by riders of all experiences. The ewes are meaty and calm. The laying hens raised from chicks during snowstorms this spring will be laying their first eggs in about six weeks. The gardens are the most complex, healthy, varied, and productive this place has ever seen. There is a specialized herb garden, a dipper gourd garden (the gourden!), a pumpkin and potato patch. There is a kailyard behind the farm with lettuce and tail that has yet to bolt! There are jars of strawberry and raspberry/blackcap jam on shelves. There is meat in the freezer. There is a promise of a winter spend curled up against the woman I love more and more each month.

This morning marks my 38th Birthday. I wrote Made From Scratch and started by blog at 25. Thirteen years of farming, and as a Swiftie that makes year 13 the luckiest. I can’t argue with that science, because despite the usual anxieties about making bills and preparing for winter there is such a swell of goodness about this coming year and what it could hold. I have a book in me. It’s a very important and personal one. I have a farm to grow and shelter into snowfall. I have a body I need to learn to accept and love regardless of my size - which tends to fluctuate with daylight hours (the less light the more cheese) and I have a lot to give back however I can. This farm only made it ten years because of the support of readers, neighbors, customers and community. It remains only because of these things. Some of you have known me nearly 15 years now, have watched me go from a terrified naive beginner with too much confidence and a shaky seat to a strong woman comfortable in her own skin, sexuality, and saddle. It took a farm to get me here. I want to help others find their stirrups, too.

There is no party or big celebration today. After I post this I am going into town to use the laundromat and wash sheets and towels and muddy clothes. When I come home I have weeding, watering, and mulching to do. There is a battle between myself and the cucumber beetles. There is a dead woodchuck somewhere in the weeds I need to find and bury before the heat of the day sets in hard. I have soap to mail, illustrations to work on, and animals to tend. But if I can make time later today to go to the river and cast my line for some trout or perhaps set up my hammock among the jewelweed behind the barn and sway - I will. And I will do so with the gratitude and exhaustion of a farmer in July trying to figure out her entire empire inside two dirty palms.

I couldn’t be happier with how it all turned out. Here's to luck, and love, and a safe Autumn and warm winter, all.