Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Mornings On The Farm


I am out of the habit of writing.  I’ve let too much time pass and the small triggers that used to send me scurrying to my keyboard pass unnoticed.  Perhaps it isn’t that they pass unnoticed, but that they are more subtle in this life.  A deer passing through the woods doesn’t call attention to itself like a bull humpback charging vertically out of the sea.

Still, the wild creatures of this land reveal themselves to us almost every day.  I’ve taken to waking early and drinking my coffee at my desk.  Absorbing the deep black fuel I stare out of my window over my garden and the 20 acres of hay field in front of my little house.  This morning surprised me with five turkeys crossing from one tree line to another.  We have seen these birds before, but they are always a welcome sight.

The garden gives respite from the days work and we walk in it daily.  The corn has grown tall and the tomato plants are heavily laden with green fruit.  Okra is the new star with the most beautiful flower we have seen yet in the garden.  Cauliflower and broccoli have just been planted for a fall harvest.  Watermelon grows fat and the pumpkins are still small yellow blobs much the size of a golf ball.  Even this late in the season we still find something new every time we inspect the plants.  It is rare for us to buy any produce.  Our diet is fresh and colorful and I like it.

This morning I am off with the New Holland tractor to grade a small gravel bed for our irrigation pump.  The recent flooding nearly cost us our pump and engine.  Water rose in our little river over 12 feet and flooded our bottom 10 acres.  Now that the rains have stopped we need to get fertilizer to our hay and that takes water.  If it doesn’t rain soon the pump will again be throwing water onto our field dissolving the nitrogen and carrying the nutrients down to the roots our grass.

The season is getting late and I fear our grass isn’t yet established enough to survive a long hard freeze this winter.  Only time will tell.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

And Now I Start Again.


I don’t fully understand how the two realities can coexist.  Moments in the present constantly trigger memories from distant times and places.  I am constantly left wondering if anything I remember really happened, or if they are simply sequences from a wonderful dream I once had.

The last time words fell off my fingers and through a keyboard I was sitting on a 39 foot sailboat named Jargo.  She was bobbing to a gentle wind ripple on the blue waters that surround Isla Mujeres, Mexico.  I’d just finished sailing West around the world, a dream that was nine years in the making.  Far from finding a sense accomplishment, I felt empty.  My self made objective had been reached.  I’d spent all I had physically, financially, and emotionally to achieve that objective.  Ending the odyssey right back where I began left me feeling like a dog who’d been chasing his tail.  I was exhausted and had nothing tangible to show for the effort.

As words arrange themselves on the screen today I stare out my newly painted home office at a patch of brown and green earth.  From that earth grows my sustenance and my future.  My hands and feet grow calloused with toil to break, turn, level, and plant the earth.  Extreme physical exhaustion at the end of a days planting leads to a sleep deeper than death.  The toil is difficult, but there is real and satisfying results when plants and seeds we have put into the ground break through and begin their own colorful life cycles.  It is a toil that leads to nourishment for both body and soul.  The heavy clay earth feels good on my hands and I relish my time on solid ground. 

I could not have returned to an urban environment.  The disconnect between myself and mainstream America has become too great.  Here on a 100+ acre farm I have found meaningful work and cherish the deer, geese, raccoons, hawks, vultures, turkeys, rabbits, frogs, and turtles with which we share our land.  The land, work, and wildlife create a buffer allowing me to adjust to living once again on land in the first world at a pace I can set for myself.

I can see a full lifetime of work set out before me.  There is the hay field to tend.  We must thin an overgrown tree line that runs the West and South edge of our property following the bank of the James River.  A hillside glade seems to beg for grapevines or fruit trees.  A path is waiting to be constructed to the only deep swimming hole where the big small mouth bass glide through the tree shaded water.  We are learning to can so that we may preserve the heavy yield of our garden.  Amanda will learn to shoot so that we can both put wild game into our freezer.  Our garage will be converted to a wood shop so that we can build instead of buy our homes furniture. 

We live this way not because we must.  We have all the options in the world open to us.  We have chosen this lifestyle because it feels good and right.  This farm, this house, this lifestyle is where I will begin again.