Maine, the farm, vegetables

Harvesting Garlic

GARLIC. Last week we started harvesting garlic.

Ah root veggies. Literally the.best.veggies.to.harvest (in my opinion). Carrots, beets, onions, potatoes, garlic–I love them all, because they are hidden, because they are a surprise and because they are beautiful. Dirty white bulbs of garlic, freshly plucked from the ground and hung in the barn to dry, are round and beautiful. They feel wholesome to me in a way that other vegetables do not, and that makes me want to be a more wholesome person.

All for now,

Drew

Advertisements
Standard
books, Maine

Reading aloud Roald Dahl

I recently became a “cabin mom” for one of the cabins at the boys’ summer camp here, which basically just means that I read to the cabin at night, before they go to sleep. They are eleven and twelve-year-olds, and so I chose James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl.

I forget how, when children’s literature is really good, it is not just for children. Reading at night in the dark cabin by a flashlight, the boys lying in their beds, I am equally captivated by James and his adventures. One passage, in particular, stuck out to me–

“He looked around him, wondering what on earth it was going to be. The garden lay soft and silver in the moonlight. The grass was wet with dew and a million dewdrops were sparkling and twinkling like diamonds around his feet. And now suddenly, the whole place, the whole garden, seemed to be alive with magic.

Almost without knowing what he was doing, as though drawn by some powerful magnet, James Henry Trotter started walking slowly toward the giant peach. He climbed over the fence that surrounded it, and stood directly beneath it, staring up at its great bulging sides. He put out a hand and touched it gentle with the tip of one finger. It felt soft and warm and slightly furry, like the skin of a baby mouse. He moved a step closer and rubbed his cheek lightly against the soft skin. And then suddenly, while he was doing this, he happened to notice that right beside him and below him, close to the ground, there was a hole in the side of the peach.” (24)

The story itself is crazy–a giant peach?! Life-sized insects!? But how astonishingly creative, and how real, and how AWESOME it also is. I am not sure I ever read the book as a kid (likely it was read to me and I simply don’t remember) but reading it aloud has been a real joy. And it reminds me, too, of how boundless my imagination used to be–and I think still has the capability of being, if I let it.

–Drew

Standard
Maine, the farm

The Animals of Salt Marsh Farm

Image

When folks ask about the farm, they mostly want to know about the glamorous aspects, e.g., the animals. So, for those of you who are curious, here are all the animals we have on the farm:

Fourteen sheep/lambs, one ram and his wether (Batman and Robin)

Six cows–one heifer (Clementine), one dairy (Louise), three beefers (names in dispute; I call them Cerbes because they like to clump together, with their three heads side by side; one of the cooks calls them the Beasty Boys), and one calf (Roscoe)

Two sets of laying hens, a hundred meat chicks

One work horse (Sal)

A porcupine (Woodruff) who likes to hang out on the path back to the farm at night

Image

Sal and the wind turbine

They are a pretty eclectic and crazy group, and contribute to much farm drama, or frama, as we call it. For example, sheep are always escaping. Batman and Robin earned their infamous names for hopping the electric netting several times and roaming around the farm, eating grass as they pleased. Just today I found Magpie, the lamb we keep in the barn (due to a wound), rooting around a pile of hay after having jail-breaked from his pen.

Image

 Magpie, the fugitive

The animals all more or less have their own personalities–Sal is sweet but often temperamental; Roscoe is basically a dog, eager and hungry; our dairy cow Louise is blind in one eye and can be a total grump/handful, kicking the bucket (and/or us). Since most of the animals sleep out on pasture, the barns animals–the baby chicks, Magpie and Roscoe, Batman and Robin, Sal–are their own funny gang. I love walking through the barn at night (a longer way to get home, but the other way involves walking by the compost, where raccoons often duel until the wee hours of the morning), and seeing all of them sleeping, the baby chicks’ yellow light half-illuminating them.

And of course, we can’t forget the final inhabitants of the farm, us. We live here as well (though despite what I tell campers, we don’t sleep with the animals) in a house attached to the barn.

Image

Our home, gatehouse

All for now,

Drew

Standard
Maine, poetry, the farm

Weeding words: occupying your mind for hours

WEEDING. We do it. A lot.

Afternoons on the farm are often spent with hands and knees in dirt, pulling up flowering galinsoga, chickweed, purslane. We weed for hours and hours, and it is repetitive, hard and hot. By the end of the day I have a “weeding stripe”–a small band of sunburned skin across the lower back where my shirt has ridden up from bending over. And yet, I don’t dislike weeding nearly as much as I should. There’s something peculiarly…pleasing about it. The monotony. My mind drifts. I think about everything and nothing simultaneously. We talk; we are quiet. And when I get terribly, terribly bored (which I inevitably do) I turn to poetry.

A bit ago I read a NYT article titled “Got Poetry?” by Jim Holt, in which he discusses the merits of memorizing poetry. Most of us think of memorizing poetry as an archaic, useless task–we feel we can just look up a poem online or in a book. But Holt recites poetry throughout the day, when he is busy or bored, while running or doing laundry. It is his internal library, a way to occupy his mind–and so it occurred to me that I too could recite poetry to occupy my mind, during the sweaty, tedious hours of weeding.

Because I’d come to memorize only three poems during my time in high school–Hamlet’s “To Be Or Not To Be” speech, Gerard Manley Hopkins “Spring and Fall,” and Ted Hoosers “Grasshoppers”–I quickly ran out of material. I’ve thus taken to writing poems on small pieces of paper and slipping them in the band of my shorts or sport bra, to peek out intermittently while working and begin to commit to memory. So far I’ve learned Robert Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays,” and am currently in the process of memorizing Matthew Dickman’s “Slow Dance”–a smooth, beautiful poem, you can read here.

I’m on chores this weekend with my farmmate Cassie, so I’m in need of a nap. Over and out,

Drew

Standard
Maine, the farm

Pemaquid point and processing chickens

Yesterday afternoon I took a drive over to Pemaquid Point, which is a lovely little park on a rocky point about forty minutes from where I’m living in Wiscasset. There’s a fisherman’s museum and a lighthouse (pretty touristy, but amusing nonetheless) there as well.

*note the selfie…

I ate dinner overlooking the water and took a walk through the museum. I’d visited the museum and lighthouse before, but I really wanted to see this again:

a giant, taxidermied lobster…

…which weighed twenty.eight.pounds.

Although it was bit lonely traveling by myself, I was happy to have some solo time to reflect on the morning. Megan, a farmer here, had asked me if I would like to help her process her personal meat birds, and I had agreed, having never processed chickens before and wanting to experience it. It was not as I had expected, and throughout the morning, I was surprised by how blank my mind was–I simply wasn’t sure what I should be thinking, or feeling, for that matter. So I settled down at Pemaquid at a green picnic table, in front of the ocean, and wrote for a long while in my journal. Reading it over today, there is a portion I’d like to share (bear in mind this is, almost word for word, what I was writing in my own, personal journal).

I participated in each part of the process. The killing portion was obviously the most foreign piece of it for me, and I killed about the last six chickens. It was fascinating to see this side of the equation, and not just the plate side. It did not turn me “off” to chicken, as it might have some folks, but suffice to say I did not eat the chicken at lunch.

I kept thinking about the David Foster Wallace essay, “Consider the Lobster,” about whether lobsters feel pain. These chickens were indisputably experiencing pain, and in comparison, cooking a lobster suddenly seemed almost comically, well, clean.

I took a chicken’s life, another creature’s life, with my hands. I held it as it died, watching its trembling, yellow feet, its eyelids droop, its head fall into the bucket below. And yet, I was not sad, disgusted, or any other identifiable emotion, besides perhaps calm. It was not undignified; we did it one by one, striving to inflict as little pain as possible, giving as much consideration for the well-being of the animal. And yet the fact resounded in my mind, that I had killed this creature; that whatever defines life inside us, and it, I had taken, and it was now gone–dead. That fact resounded through the entire process, even louder, perhaps, once a chicken no longer appeared or resembled its living self. Decapitated, spinning in the plucker, it was difficult not to compare this dead, lifeless thing to its pecking, living counterpart in the back of the truck.

And yet I am so grateful that Megan included me, because I so desperately needed to connect the plate to the animal, perhaps in order to better appreciate my food, or the “cycle of life”–this living and dying of creatures; the killing of creatures for the survival of other creatures; to put it simply: humans, us, killing animals in order to eat them. I needed to experience that so I might understand that the fried chicken breast at lunch was once a living thing–in order to truly see that.

Megan was the pinnacle of calm and composure throughout the process, which I very much admired. At one point, Jason looked at me and asked how I was feeling. “Good,” I replied, unsure of what to say, “and you?”

“Alive,” he said, “and grateful.” I thought: yeah, me too.

Another thing I’d like to add is that, although it might seem as if my thoughts are conflicting in this entry, I did not feel that we shouldn’t have been processing those chickens, or for that matter, later eating them. It was more a wondering of what the entire process meant, and what the ramifications of interacting with another creature are. I also felt that the entire morning included consideration and thoughtfulness for those creatures, and this made me even more certain of the importance of knowing where your food comes from. I would feel comfortable eating the chicken we processed, because I know the animals were processed (and raised) with care. An interesting argument for connecting with all parts and steps of how our food gets to the table.

All for now,

Drew

Standard