Friday, July 19, 2013

The Fabric of the World

(what follows is a post I forgot to publish in June....)
The wooing of a new landscape is wrought in work and waiting.

 Or perhaps it goes the other way round. The new place woos you…at first, a hilltop farm in the gusty gales of a new Spring had us, shoulders haunched against the weather, wondering what this new farm would take from us, other than the greenhouse plastic, ripped off, by winds from the northeast, or the cover over the woodpile, blown up against the fenceline…little different from first suspicions of strangers, soon neighbors, now friends…heart balled up into a tight little fist of protectionism and little anxieties as you scramble to assemble a nest around yourselves and your children, fencing around your flocks, and to find the moving box marked: underwear.
Little by little the ravages of a new move, and a change of season give way to the buds on trees, the landscape revealing itself in the different hues of green…the daffodils and the tulips, soon the lilacs, and the robins round and hopping. You follow the contours of the land around you with the curious roving eye of puppy love…and soon you begin to know her, the hills and dales, valleys, peaks, and tree lines. The meandering brooks that vein their way through all the fields and by the time June has come the customs and courtesies of this new place have sprouted in your heart…Our neighbors tread softly. Literally. You may turn around and there they are, quite suddenly, appearing almost as if out of the ground, ready to ralley you with a joshing word or a steadying hand as you drag fence panels into place,  put new stalls in the barn, or struggle with bringing in your first cutting of hay.

A few months ago I was so tired I thought I may never find the brain or will power to write another word. That inspiration would never again mean more to me than the sudden jolt that gets you out of bed, dressed, and scrambling eggs with a whisk. I am beginning to see again, that it is by pouring yourself even further into the bottomless bowl that is life deliberately lived, with all its hazards physically, and emotionally, that something like your farm, or your work, or your family, begins to overflow again with more than that which sustains you, but also the stuff which lifts you…and sings inside of you again.

In perhaps, undue trepidation over the prospect of too many grain eating animals on the farm, I ordered a few new additions last week…two turkey poults and two Rouen ducklings. The soft little trapezoidal body of a duckling, with its bitty wings flapping at its sides, and it webbed feet padding about, its bill tweaking at your hair, even its  incessant “cheeeep cheep cheeping” …these are among the sweetest things in life. Right up there with baby toes, wild daisies, and chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven on a rainy day. Two of the kittens, however, immune to these musings of poesy, and tuned rather, to the instinctive thrill of the pounce, catch, and kill, dashed our attempts at raising a few new fowl, when they managed to squeeze into the enclosure and devour all but one duckling. It’s a lesson that has almost become clique: when you decide to do a thing, do it all the way. Don’t dabble. Don’t dodge. Jump in all the way. Had I ordered more, our loss would have been more insignificant by the time we caught the kittens…and our duckling would have more company. As it is, he perches on shoulders, and lets out an alarm as soon as any one of us “foster mothers” walks by his box…

Yesterday we had the last of the wild asparagus. The rest we’ve allowed to go to seed, hoping for even more in the Springs to come…we gathered enough the last two months for omelets, scrambles, and stir-fries to our heart’s content. Now we’re on to rhubarb pies, made with crusts from our own rendered lard and butter…and bouquets of wild phlox growing along the wind breaks at the north end of the hay field.  The sheep have all been pastured in the bottom 20 acres of the farm…they are fat and happy, nearly invisible in the waist high grass that has grown up down there, thanks to the ample rains we’ve been having. The farmers all around took advantage of the the last 4 sunny days to get their first cuttings of alfalfa and grass hay in…I now know what haying weather feels like. You can feel the dryness in the air…the not so dewy damp nights, the solid promise of a break in the green growing weather of the early season…We cut ours too soon, in hopes of avoiding too much stemmy-ness in the hay, and getting more nutrition out of it…but the rains that came and brought our potato plants to knee-high also leached our windrows…and the crop we got in was not as green as it could have been. Shane has become disenchanted with bales, and would prefer to put up all our hay loose, now that we know our bale elevator can handle loose hay just as well, if not better, than the square bales. It seems silly to say it, but I would have it that the hay would prefer it too…it seems it can cure and breathe better that way, rather than crimped and compressed into a tight bale bound with twine.

Something, whether the moving to our 4th farm, or this out-of-the-way place itself, or the owning of our place for the first time, something has pummeled me into the humbled realities of sowing, tamping, planting, weeding, cooking, cleaning, fencing, milking, grooming, harnassing…without the ability to muse and wonder on it as much anymore…I find myself less confidant in the “broad assertions” or “soap-boxing” that so sprung to my mind and lips, and computer keys before…as if I’ve been broken to the work, as a horse would be, less my own, yet more useful, toward the ultimate end. I can only apologize to you readers of this blog…for surely it makes it less of a literary read…but perhaps more of a personal one.

In the book of Sirach (or Ecclesiastes in some bibles), chapter 38…the work of the farmer is juxtaposed with the gaining of wisdom. Many hereabouts would smirk ruefully, knowingly at such  an exercise in contrasting…our neighbor laughingly suggests he should get a support group together to help farmers with their addictions to…farming. “How can he become wise who handles the plow, and who glories in the shaft of a goad, who drives oxen and is occupied with their work, and whose talk is about bulls? He sets his heart on plowing furrows, and he is careful about fodder for the heifers. So too is every craftsman and master workman who labors by night as well as by day….”

I cannot deny that many times my husband and I look at each other with a look which speaks without words and exasperated “WHY ARE WE DOING THIS?” But the book of Sirach stays us with  verse 34 of Chapter 38:

“But they keep stable the fabric of the world,and their prayer is in the practice of their trade.”

Sirach 32, 3 says: “Do not interrupt the music.” Perhaps the best advice I’ve ever heard. Isn’t every horrid action a kind of staying of music…a clattering interruption of harmony…There are other portions of Sirach where all kinds of weather are praised as coming from the hand of God himself…a truth that has been made all the more familiar to us lately, by reading, oddly enough, Greek Mythology. The children’s Homer has us used to the idea of the elements as wielded by capricious gods…to aid or hinder their favorite mortals. Spring on a farm that is struggling with sowing, and ground preparation, and with getting that first cutting of hay into the barn, can find a farmer shaking his fist at the heavens…wrestingling in his heart with his God…wondering secretly if he be friend or foe…fearing what the weather might take from him…but Sirach would have us know that all weather comes from the hand of God…and what drowns the peas may germinate the beans. What soaks the mown hay may keep the potato beetles at bay…and the thunderstorm dashing your plans in the afternoon may well mean the nap you’ve been begging for…or the moment to cuddle up in blankets and read of
Achilles and Hector, and the great walls of Troy, pregnable by a trick, and battles beneath by men of opposing sides and equal dignity and worth…”Do not interrupt the music” is the divine command. We are charged to “delight our souls” and “comfort our hearts” in the symphony of wind and rain and hail and sun, in wet and dry, cold and hot. Our browned and calloused hands gripping the fibers of the fabric of the world and bridging the gap…wisdom or no.


  1. I hope you will really and truly be able to settle in for a while at this lovely looking farm! And your words are always worth waiting for...good luck - so happy to "catch up" on your happenings ;)

  2. Thank you Cary! It is always good to hear from you! Our cyber version of the kitchen table indeed!!


    1. That's exactly how it feels! I've got some Blueberry Bars cooling on the counter that we can share ;)

  3. I miss your posts and your pics....
    I hope you are happy at this place and wish your farming always be lucky. I am working at farm and know how hard this work.
    Greetings from Russia.

  4. The science of soil-less gardening is called hydroponics. It basically involves growing healthy plants without the use of a traditional sunset hydroponics soil medium by using a nutrient like a mineral rich water solution instead. A plant just needs select nutrients, some water, and sunlight to grow.