the business of saying no

nick and i are turning into bad friends. we keep saying no. no to weddings. or half-no to weddings. let's see, you can have kate, but she can just come for dinner. or nick will be at your special day, kate sends her love from the pig pen.  we just called our dear dear friends who are in connecticut from california, who are having a baby in a couple of months, that no, we would not, could not meet them half way between here and there to have dinner. no to a friend's dance performance in burlington. no to another's brooklyn launch party for his new business. no to a best friend's wedding in the south of france.

no. no. no. no. no.

i hate using the word. so instead, i string the friend along, saying maybe or would love to....but, it always finds its way back to no. and we never fail to follow up by but! you can come here!?! as though any of our friends are just dying to be covered in shit and sweat for a weekend.

i don't recall ever being so throughly busy and exhausted in my life. at past farms we have certainly worked like dogs but the whole weight of the farm as a potentially viable (someday) business makes it all the more vicious.  i don't know how we'll ever do this with more animals. with human babies. without burning all the bridges of friends who aren't farmers.  without asking the world of our parents, our sisters and brothers and neighbors.

i imagine this is how parents with young children can feel. with their birth the importances of life change. you find yourself making excuses to your friends that don't have babies. asking the world of others. not calling the Well Meaning back, not because you don't love them but because you are too tired or you just forgot. maybe not, maybe i just hope some of you can Relate. help to ease my guilt.

it is uncommonly selfish. this no business. we could drive to see modern dance in burlington. we could have blasted down to brooklyn to support our friend's new project. you could twist my arm to take a week of in september to be in the S of F.

but every afternoon or morning or weekend or week we take one or both of us away from this farm we are hampering the success of the farm.  we don't have a boss anymore. we just have ourselves. and our selfish selves have made the (un?)conscious decision that the Farm Comes First. we have found our passion. we want this to really work. we want this to be forever. so at every opportunity to save our tired bodies, our time and our gas-money we reluctantly say, no.

in photos:
1. nick
2. tractor
3. kate
4. the Wretched of the Earth


this land

this land will absolutely take your breath away.

friday night we climbed up into the neighboring farm's "day pasture" and then into the "night pasture" as the sun started her descent. we came home and ate dinner with our most immediate neighbor and watched the beginning of butch cassidy and the sundance kid before all admitting we couldn't keep our eyes open any longer.

these sunny days don't mess around. but it was nice to get a few hours of pure enjoyment out of walking the hills.

today i got my wish. a rainy day. so emails and letters, bills and washings and waxing cheese. that is the big Agenda today. if you are one of many that i owe an email to, expect one today, or late late tonight as i make my way through an embarrassing pile of Unanswered.


summer is rolling through

these days don't stop for breaks of lemon water. let alone a beer. they don't stop for leisurely lunches, or early dinners. they don't stop for sleep-ins. they barely stop for dishes or washings.  they certainly don't stop for emails and phone calls and blogs.

so you must excuse my peppered silence.

for we are in High June. the official mark of summer was just wednesday but by the looks of the garden and her accompanying weeds. by the sight of the fields half mowed. by the chest height of the meadow's grass. by the song of the bobolink. by the pile of sweat-through shirts and shorts in the corner of the bedroom. by the pond-scented towels drying on the line. by the empty lemonade bottles. by the presence of both Gin and Tonic in the kitchen. by the need to sleep on the porch for we haven't a fan. by the panting chickens. by the the vision of rose pig climbing into her water trough you would think there had never been a winter or spring. 

it's hard to remember the quietude of the off season. sometimes i'll try. i'll stop half way up the long hill from barn to house. i'll close by eyes and imagine the crisp air and the ground covered with snow and ice. oh! what i would give for a quiet dark day with only a gardening catalogue and the bare minimum of chores do rush out and do before slinking back in to the warmth of pajamas and hot cocoa.

i only allow myself a quick minute into the reverie for there is so much to do before we get there again. i open my eyes again. finish the hill and return to the garden.

for the garden is growing. despite my best efforts to ignore her.
the weeds are, of course, growing.

winnie is putting on weight.
we moved her down to once a day milking to do so.
we are, not so secretly, loving once a day milkings.

nick just brought home four new beautiful devons.
this is the true beginning of our beef herd.

i am shopping around for icelandic sheep.
for i intend to raise, sheer, and spin. perhaps foolishly.

we have two mama hens raising thirteen babies.
the mobile chicken coop was built.
so the chickens are on pasture up by our house.
which means we have the stray chicken in our home every morning.

now the boys are building a cow shed.

and then there is all that mowing to do.
and milk to sell.
and yogurt and cheese and butter to make.
and breakfast and lunch...and supper if we're feeling fancy.
and the fall garden to plan and plant.
and the pigs to move.
fences to be done and undone.
foxes and hawks to outsmart.
japanese bettles to squish.

this is june. she is a beast of a month. just the beginning of a slew of breathless hot months. this is what i live for. this is why i farm. this is why we can stand the slowness, the quietude of winter. 

because never in my life do the simple pleasures of eating, bathing, and sleeping feel so Extraordinarily Good and Well Deserved as they do on the farm in the summer. 

i hope Summer has found you all in your corners of the country.

will try to be better about writing and checking in next week.


a follow up on money

some days i spend more time setting up my writing space than i do in the literal act of writing. cleaning it. cleaning the room around it. and the house around that. determining the desk has all sorts of bad juju (read, clutter) and abandoning it for something more simple. more sunny. then i have to make myself the perfect writing snack. and eat it. and clean it's dishes. and then the kitchen. finally a perfect cuppa. and when i finally sit down i admit to myself i have nothing to write. 

i was all by myself this weekend on the farm. without human intervention. just me and the cows. the pigs. the donkeys. the horse. the chickens (minus six now, thanks to the Fox) an array of loudly barking,  non-working farm dogs and the same number of equally useless cats. it was a rare treat and so i decided to give myself the afternoon off, it being sunday and i being tired.  

i thought i would write with this free afternoon. in my underwear after a pond dip for those are the liberties you can take when you are alone on the mountain. the only thing i could think of writing about was the act of not writing. which, thankfully, lead me to an actual topic of worth; a follow up to a post i wrote this past april on money. there i had asked your opinions and concerns on blog sponsorship. i got such a surprising amount of feedback by comment and email and i feel very guilty having only responded to them here, now. BUT i hadn't been able to come to a real conclusion about it until now as i fought myself to write. 

all of you were resoundingly understanding and supportive of the notion of sponsorships and i thank you for your kind thoughtfulness but among this support were two conclusions that gave me pause. 

1. sponsors should be relevant to the content you post
2. getting sponsors will make the blog paid work which will inevitably change the way you look at it (JOB!) which could change the way you write for it.

the former makes total sense but something i honestly hadn't considered. of course the ads i have on my blog should be relevant to farming, eating, canning, gardening. most monetized blogs i have seen, and those you have sent me to look at do so well. if their blog focus is on Babies and Vintage and Handmade the ads should and do reflect that trifecta. likewise design blogs beget design ads. and so on. but there doesn't appear to be a glut of small-farm businesses that have extra cash for advertising. and i would feel slimy asking any of them for money when i know how tight farm money is. 

even if i could find a good solution to the former,  the latter is where i conclude this is not for me. i love my blog. i don't mean that in the sickly self aggrandizing way in which it sounds. i don't doubt my blog could stand for many changes to make it lovable by others. but i love what it does for Me. i love that it fosters an inexplicable regime of photography and writing and house cleaning and cooking. i love that it has magically given me a medium through which i've met other farmers, other gardeners, other writers. 

so your comments helped me see that i don't want anything to change about this space. i want to keep it as my own. perhaps there will be a day when we buy our own land and the barn collapses from a heavy winter and we need help rebuilding it. or the day when all of our milk guzzling customers drop us like the hot potatoes we are. or the day when i decide i really do want some form of income that doesn't rely directly on winnie or the chickens or the rain or the sun (which is certainly possible). 

but today i have (finally) come to the Lofty Conclusion that longest acres shouldn't have sponsors. this isn't an editorial on sponsorship in general. more power to the women (and men) in this blog world that make their living from their writing and photography. they are living the dream. but it's not for me. not for this space. 

so, thank you to all of you that wrote in with your thoughts on the manner. i am so very glad i had asked as i had clearly not thought the whole thing through. 


make hay when the sun shines

this photo has Nothing to do with this post but rudy was being hurtful in his morning cuteness.  this post is about our neighbors not about pitbulls. and i find that taking photos of neighbors can feel rather invasive and rude. 

there's been a lot of talk --on my side of things--about the generosity of neighbors. as i mentioned in a comment on monday we give milk, yogurt, and eggs to our immediate neighbors. these are they that live on the same property as us. we believe firmly that the food we make here should, firstly, feed those who live here. they return the goodwill with gifts of yurts, soups and hay. but there is another slope of the mountain that doesn't have the means to giveaway $10,000 tents. it's a pretty stark contrast between rich and poor up here. most everyone seems to want to live in the same honest way with the natural world but some houses have solar panels and subarus and others have collapsed barns and skinny cows. i'd be unfaithful to you if i told you i treat both kinds of neighbors the same.

the subaru half went to the same schools we did. they buy the same six dollar dish soap from the same million dollar co-op. they buy the same peonies from the same farmer's markets. they have the same rustic-hippie-chic look nailed down to the dried flowers and herbs in carefully labeled jelly jars and the heavy collection of cast iron skillets.

when people have this sameness with you, its so simple to treat them as old friends. it makes one, me, feel secure in their proximity. it makes dinners and parties natural and easy.

it's class snobbery in a subtle form. like attracting like. and it makes me angry and uncomfortable despite my continuing complacency. we haven't invited the brothers with the skinny cows for dinner. neither the mother and son with the broken barn. or he who lives in the derelict trailer.

i would probably go forth in my cowardice if it weren't for nick. as far as i can tell in these 4 1/2 years together, nick doesn't seem to give a care about sameness.  he has a terrifically big and open heart and believes in the humanity of others not out of sympathy but out of camaraderie. he believes so very truly that everyone means well. he only takes things personally when i spend a breathless two hours convincing him that he should.

he believes in the general goodness of people. a kindness i only extend to animals.

a couple of weeks ago we were riding home from town in the drenching rain when we passed a man with cardboard sign that read the name of our town. i did my usual fake half smile and looked onward but no sooner had we passed him nick said he thought we should pick him up. i reviewed for him the horrors of knife-throwing hitchhikers, but nick ignored the true horror of my selfishness,  reversed the car and gave me a heavy jar to wield as a weapon should things get ugly. when we stopped the car for the psychopath to jump in i breathed we're ok as it was our neighbor, paul.  we rode back in the damp warmth of the car all talking of last frost and planting beans. it was the first time i had properly met paul, as i usually scooted quickly by his very rundown looking trailer, always assuming the worst.

of course, we all know where assuming gets one. now, i can slow down when i see paul out in his garden and ask if he needs anything at the store or a ride somewhere. he says no, thanks, kate. and for whatever reason this makes me smile to town. i guess i get high on the idea of a neighbor knowing my name and that he isn't the only neighbor who does but part of a real community on our mountain where everyone knows your name.

or maybe i'm just being self congratulatory on momentarily not being the bigot i am.

in new york i didn't know a single person in my tower of a building, let alone my block. when we lived in san francisco we always had some neighbor friends but they were generally restricted to the over sized victorian we all lived in. in france, all of our neighbors spoke the obvious french and insisted on correcting me in live-time through every conversation which got old and so i took care to avoid speaking at all. in north carolina we had my cousins across the farm but there was barely any contact with the other neighbors save for when we suspected them of shooting one of our pigs or stealing our onions. in the suburbs of boston we had a burglary in our  neighborhood when we first arrived. after that i was certain the whole lot suspected us as we stuck out like sore dirty thumbs with our dayglo knit caps and muddy boots and a dirty, loud car.

but here, the people on this mountain treat each other like breathing feeling human beings. it certainly isn't perfect and i don't doubt some of our neighbors hold the same conscious and subconscious prejudices against other neighbors that i do. yet everyone knows each other in some manner. there are rumors that fly. there is one relationship of outright hostility (something about the rumors) but there is an acknowledgement of humanity that i find so very humbling and so very new. and i am so very grateful for it.

tuesday night, after, what was an exhausting nonstop day before the rains came, nick and i threw ourselves into some town clothes and into the car for an escape to easy consumerism and a pizza. we fought about who was more tired and who would drive and i lost, somehow. but we didn't get more than a mile from the house when we passed rick and bob's hay field. the rain was just starting it's teasing descent and they were out there with a wagon half-full and bales still on the ground.

nick being nick told me to stop the car. it was starting to rain and if you don't get the hay in before the rain, it's ruined. it's moldy and done. we scurried out to help. i very obviously under-dressed in a shift and sandals and silently hoping they'd decline the help. but of course they didn't. they were just two and we were two more. and the heaven's were threatening. as soon as it became clear how grateful they were for the extra bodies i got over myself and into the job.

we ended up there for a couple hours as we helped throw the bales from field to wagon and then fired up the hay elevator and formed a four-man chain to get everything to dry safety. rick was in the wagon throwing me the bales which i plunked onto the elevator to send up to nick where he kept smiling and winking at me and then throwing them on to bob.

we shook hands when the bales were put to bed. exchanged numbers and promised to call one another when we needed extra bodies again.

by the time we got to town we were too late for the easy consumerism i had planned but we were able to get a warm dry bite to eat both beaming off the high of living in a land where a trip to town can be so derailed.

i'm finding it hard to be very eloquent in my conclusion of this post. i'm not sure what i hoped to discover about wretched old me in writing it. i guess just to say the obvious, that neighbors are all wonderful. here and there and where you are. and yes, they can be most wonderful when they give you large wooden tents or have you over to eat dinner out of painted moroccan bowls and sit you down to watch Stop Making Sense. but every neighbor is equal in their deserving of respect and friendship. it's a concept that is so obvious but one that i seem to ignore with each move.

i'm ashamed at my intentional reluctance to get to know some of our mountain brethren. but i'm very fortunate to live in a place where you have no choice but to love thy neighbor. and most fortunate to have nick by my side always teaching me by example that you Get Over Yourself and start making friends.

also, i changed the names of my neighbors in an attempt to respect their mountain-worshiping privacy.


this weekend

i had my mom visit. we picked wild strawberries. we ate a whole cake. we visited the swimming pond again and again and again. we read. we napped. we watched the kittens play. we bricolé-d. we moved fences.  i taught mom that the electric screw thing is commonly called a drill. she re-taught me the wonders of using conditioner. we spent last night finishing a bottle of wine and snuggling with the animals on the couch. we woke up with the sun at 5:15 this morning, i had hot tea, she had iced tea. and then i went down to the barn to wake the animals and she continued on her way home.

there is nothing quite as calming for me as a weekend with my mother on the farm. whenever i feel a pang for our former lives in north carolina or california or france i like to remember how amazing it is to live within a morning's drive of our families.

and, remember that  neighbor who came by to give me hot soup and some perspective on the crap weather? well, he just recently also gave us his yurt. it has been sitting by the pond for nearly a decade now and he wants to pass the torch. so, it is ours. our neighbor gave us a yurt. i spent the morning cleaning and preparing it for an onslaught of summer guests. this is right up there with the 100 bales of hay our other neighbor gave us. and the blossoming tomato plants. and the chocolate covered almonds. and once a literal cup of sugar. and the quart of lard.

vermonters certainly seem to know how to do the neighbor thing quite well.

happy monday to you all.


the downside of a sunny day

is that we run around with our head's cut off. everything needs attention in the sun. everything grows faster with the sun. everything needs water. needs stringing and pruning and harvesting. i'm so very happy for the house cats and dog. they follow the sun through the house onto the back porch. then to the front porch. and now onto the lawn. right by the hammock that we don't have time to sit in. they are wretched creatures for being so still and so sleepy.

we are off in a matter of minutes to our first ever farmer's market. well, our first selling under our own name. it's thrilling. but we've determined that i am a rotten saleslady. so i will help nick set up and make the tablecloth just right and then i have to scram before i give away the farm.

happy weekend. wish us mountains of egg milk and cookie winnings.


the prospect of a blue day

today was the first morning in seven that the skies took the higher road and greeted us with blue. or, rather, partially blue. there is nothing more insulting than the continuous gray of drizzle when you know She is capable of salutations like this.

this makes me want to shake the covers and sleeping kittens at 5:30 and get in the garden. this makes me want to sprint down to the barn and wake the rest of the troops. this makes me want to run to the top of the sheep pen, arms outstretched, in a frock made from drapes singing like maria. this makes me want to build. makes me want to plant. makes me want to till and dig and run and sweat and swim and grow.

of course, we do live in vermont. and these days aren't to be taken for granted.

my neighbor met me last evening on our front porch, in between downpours, to deliver me a hot bowl of soup**. the heartiness of which i would have previously reserved for marches and aprils but readily accepted this chilly june 5th. i mentioned something unimaginative and catty about the unrelenting grey sky. he retorted as he left that we ought to just be "thankful we have all our limbs and aren't being chased by murderous dictators" which left me guiltily holding a hot bowl of soup and mumbling how thankful we are for our limbs and for having a benevolent presidency.... "but yes" he added over his shoulder "the weather is shit".

so the weather is shit and today it need not be.  we must sieze the partly cloudy partly SUNNY day. everything is to be thrown out doors. the washing to be strung up for drying. the beans to be flung in the garden. the newly hatched baby chicks and their mama to life outside the brooder. the peas trellised and the potatoes hilled.  me and my sweet love to the partially constructed mobile chicken house and then to the pond as it has been too many days since we have swum and bathed.

i hope the sun has come to you all. perhaps he never went away in your parts but by god we are so thankful to see him.

**neighbors in vermont are neighborly. a quality i had thought was reserved for storybooks and vintage cinema.

also i wanted to thank all of you that wrote such kind things to nick regarding little lucky fox. it meant the world to him to read such sweet words and see how much everyone loved getting to know lucky.


me and me and me and them

this morning i found myself taking a photo of our little cat, friday, and me today to send to a friend. and the action caused me to scroll through the rest of the mac "photo booth". it would appear i am both a budding narcissist AND have developed a rather creepy animal problem. so naturally i thought to share.

here you have the contents of my photo booth from the last 2 years.

my apologies.

i wanted to thank you all for your kind comments and emails about little lucky fox. i haven't been able to write more about him because i find that the only way to not feel pain in these times is to allow myself to forget about him. to deny not only that lucky is dead, but that he lived at all.

and what a horrific thing to do. because he did live. he lived as a wild fox. and he lived as our fox. for just 12 days he was our fox. and we fell madly for him.

nick is a stronger man than i and wrote about lucky today. which you can read here


little lucky fox

yesterday our phones were restored and today our internet is back. please excuse the silence. the barn is ok. we are ok.
but our little lucky fox was killed monday night. just before the storms. he got into the donkey pen and they killed him. just as they had originally intended when nick intervened. it was awful. and we have been quite torn this week. that little fox made such a bang into our lives that his death shook both of us to the ground. it has been nice being out of touch without phone or computer. it gave us time to be quiet and remember our two weeks with lucky as though they had been a lifetime.

we don't have many photos of him as nick's computer was also destroyed when the lightening hit our barn. but we have his memory and we hold the brief wonder of living with a fox.

no matter how hard a farm might try, death is still as raw to me today as it was when i first started doing this.

i hope it never get's easier.

i'll write more next week when i am able. for now, i just wanted to let you know. 
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