Sunday, November 30, 2008

When Pigs Fly

I'm not prone to intense dreams, indeed I rarely remember my dreams at all. Last night, however, proved the contrary.

Asleep in the Shanty, I was laid flat, spinning out of control under the roof while undefined animals were running around just inside the structure's walls. Josh and Louie, or perhaps sinister look-alikes, were stomping ever closer with snowballs. More frightening, the ghost of the Streeter Woods Hermit, this toolshed-turned-treehouse's previous resident, finally made his first visit. He was hovering, suggesting without speech that he wished to reclaim his old home. No longer sure whether I was in the dream-world or the real-world, I was also caught between hiding and confronting. From some source of dream lore, I was sure that I could turn the Hermit into a good ghost if I only calmed my heart-rate and concentrated hard enough. Easier thought than done, I think it was the approaching snowballs that diffused the situation.

I awoke to a pinkish sunrise, no trace of the night's madness.

In retrospect, it seems a somehow fitting - albeit strange - culmination to a week of not-quite-ordinary events. Things began on Tuesday when we each awoke in our respective abodes to wet, dense, heavy snow rapidly blanketing la tierra firma. With no apology, the snow showed us what we had yet to accomplish to be ready for winter. A flurry of shoveling, plowing, bringing projects indoors, and fixing weakened fences ensued. The beauty didn't last long; by afternoon it had turned to a dismal rain. Nonetheless, it did provide a haphazard yet almost picturesque backdrop as we said our goodbyes to Eve, bound for Canada and paperwork better suited for the illogicisms of our government. Eve, ton amies nous vous manquons et vous souhaitons bien. And our French is getting worse.

Then, before we knew it, Thanksgiving was upon us. Though not particularly in favor of cultural genocide or short-lived gratitude, nor butterball hotlines and GMO-cornucopias, this national Day-off did proffer a reason to eat pork.

Which we did:
7hrs cooking
15lbs dead pig
10lbs potatoes/sweet potatoes
4lbs collards
also bread, more bread, beans, gravy, pumpkin pie, and accompanying beverages
The result?
15 minutes of masticating such intensely rich and delectable food that sound effects were required. This was followed by a comic, over-stuffed, waddling attempt at cleaning up dirty dishes, hot knives, and what-not.

Though leftovers lasted about 24hrs, we returned to our routine the next morning. Which on Friday, meant pulling wood with the oxen. Joe, Neil, Louie and I did the usual morning's work of a few hours, digging out felled trees now covered with snow and ice, chaining them up, hauling them in via Henri and August. After a break for lunch, we continued. This time, though, I was given a turn at leading the oxen.

Thrilled yet also unsure, I took hold of the lead rope and stick: "Henri Haw, Henri Haw, August Step up!" It may be hard to say who was more unsure, me or the oxen. No serious disasters unfolded, but I suppose I stumbled, bumbled, tripped, and slipped enough to earn some charity attention from the two of them. Sometimes, we'd be in sync; sometimes in a mess of snow and ice and branches I'd be mixing up their names and or threatening to snag my own arm on their horns.

I realize you learn a lot about yourself, by working with the oxen. They can sense your confidence, poise, attitude, clarity and forethought - and lack thereof - before you're aware of it yourself. They are dynamic creatures, intuitive and perceptive where we often don't give them credit. And hard-working. I was passed out on the couch after a solid day in the woods.

Big Poppa, of our Big Pigs, provided some excitement this week as well. Over the course of Friday night, he managed to jump into the birthing house, currently empty and partially shut up (this is a 700lb boar, mind you). Saturday morning, then, I saw him jump out. Front legs over the stall door, a slick wiggle move got his massive cylinder of a torso ricocheting off the walls, then a kick and his back legs were over, too. If there's a lesson to take from this animal, I suppose it's simply to jump for the stars, you'll at least beat gravity for a second or two. Impossible things are happening every day.


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