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.


Monday, November 24, 2008

What Happens in a Meadow at Dusk?

As the days shorten, I find myself succumbing to the need to turn inward, both mind and body. I feel inclined to silence, and in that spirit, the following observations will be rather concise.

The cold is striking. A glimpse of the bitter and unforgiving winter yet to come. As cynical as this sounds, it is the truth, and it is not to say that I am not wholeheartedly up to this challenge.

In terms of the farm itself, the last of the gardens are being put to bed this week, the few remaining root vegetables are being pulled up, and firewood is stacked to the roof.

I look forward to my new position as staff, and also to continued planning for the upcoming year. In 2009 our focus will be on Arts & Ecology. Personally, as an artist I will have an amazing opportunity to grow and in turn, share my humble experience and knowledge with others. As an organization, D Acres will grow by addressing a need in our society that is often overlooked or short-changed. Possibilities are truly endless.

The reason I came back to the farm was my thirst for a simple way of life. It's hard at times, but ultimately rewarding of course. Simple pleasures are in no short supply at D Acres. Sunday afternoon, Louie, Eve, Kevin and I stood at the edge of the pond in awe of Beth, the unexpected figure skater extraordinaire. A beautiful moment.


Finally, I would like to bid a final farewell to "The Duck", a confused but kind-spirited vagabond in a cruel world of angry chickens and vicious pigs. As a vulnerable wondering soul, I feel as though I should have done more to prevent his untimely death.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Dusty Shelves, Hardy Hopes

This week, one of my chores was dusting. The exact listing on the chore chart is “Dust all wood.” Have you been to DAcres? The directions may as well instruct: Dust all surfaces. This, along with mopping, is one of my least favorite tasks, and I think I’ve figured out why. To be clean, dusty bookshelves, sills, tables, stands, and banisters require constant vigilance (like our liberty, please note) and regular upkeep. But with an intimidating quantity of wood surfaces in our Big House, and an unnecessary number of knick-knacks upon them, victory over dust is neigh impossible.

So I was faced with two options: 1) rush through it and call it good, because who’s really checking? or 2) make a complete job of it. Unfortunately it was raining outside, and there was no appealing outdoor alternative; the latter option it was.

Doing a thorough job seemed to justify being nosy, or so it felt, poking into spaces wherein I could have scrawled a graffiti tag in the accumulated dust. I found out that our garlic surplus is stored next to a small airplane model in one closet, next to a box of donated clothes in another. Better yet, I found a pink wool sweater that fits just right and itches just as well, and a pocket-sized version of The Man Who Planted Trees.

This entire introduction is, however, unimportant and a mere set-up. The story begins when I dusted an unobtrusive armoire containing various odds and ends of office supplies. Some hand-written pages caught my lingering eye and I lifted them out, dust rag still in my grasp. A short, handwritten account of Uncle Delbert’s death (the previous owner of the DAcres land) described how he left his barn, and the accumulation of discriminately stored tools, machinery parts, and salvaged materials that lay inside. More pointed was the conclusion, that this land, in being passed to the next generation, was the future. It came with as many tools as the past can proffer; it came with the energy, attention, and gravity of a moment of both loss and change; and yet It – the future – was a mere blank, to be determined by those who wished to be conscious of its formation.

So I finished my dusting duty considering the future, and the present out of which it grows.

I will do a poor job of paraphrasing Blaise Pascal who wrote, roughly, that we modern humans often look to the future without living in the present, to our detriment.

Which I don’t think is the case here. We are quite present in the present: food, animals, community. Each of these are about the here and now. Feeding the pigs, mulching the garden beds, sensing the coy approach of this tease of a winter season. Noticing changes day to day is what we do. And people. Just last night we had a small but vibrant crowd for our monthly Full Moon Potluck. Tonight, is Soup Night (the third Saturday of every month). Such is the DAcres community - those friends and neighbors who come to share conversation, music, and delicious meals at the farm. For those of us who live here, community also means the relationships that let us call these acres Home. Why we’re willing to work in the rain to finish a task, or how we laugh over a headless chicken chase, or why we linger over conversation.

And the future is so present in each of these actions.

Storing food for the winter season, putting the beds to sleep for spring, planning seed orders, discussing possibilities, sharing goals. The next season, the next year, the next decade, the next century (we’ll finally have a surfeit of black walnuts!) is embedded in all we do.

As is the future of ideas, of goals, of efforts, of hopes. In joining with the present work on the farm, I – we – are joining in the future work of shaping life as we wish it to unfold. Sustainability, agrarianism, artistry, simplicity, self-reliance. Dusty, if need be.

What’s on your list?

~ Beth

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Little Lebowski Achievers

This last week was definitely a hard one to be at D Acres. Not only did the farm lose two valued members of it's community, Bill and Lauren, but also Tyler has taken a much needed hiatus. This hits hard personally because the original reason I came to know of D Acres was through high school buddy Lauren B. She planted the seed of sustainability in me. After not seeing each other for at least eight years, somehow we were rejoined in this effort to try and create something and be a part of something different.

It was amazing having Bill as a part of the whole experience and watching how the two of them complemented each other. I had so many great times with both of you. I especially loved all the summer nights at the bonfire, playing music together and listening to Lauren sing. Sorry, for each time you thought Dakota was kidnapped because I was walking him, but I couldn't resist playing with such an awesome dog. Thanks for the trips to FAT BOBS and the swimming holes and teaching me how to catch a chicken on the fly. It really is best to hold a hen like a football.

I don't want this to sound like some soppy story, because I know this is not the end to this relationship. Eventually we will unite once again and as Bill put it, "we are all working on the same land." I wish the both of you the best of luck in Maine, and in dirty Jersey, no matter where you are. The two of you are beautiful and I hope you continue to spread your wealth of knowledge to other communities.

At least we got to take it out in V.I.P. style before you left. Kick it.
Keep in touch, well I'll see you by Christmas anyway. Love ya all.