14 February 2013

Morning Ritual

What a farm is

What a farm is

I am not  real farmer, and don't have a real farm. I have no crops to harvest or scores of cows to milk. I'm a writer who lives on a farm, not a farmer, and that is the way I would want it. I have always wanted to be a writer, I have never wanted to be a farmer. I doubt I would last a month on a real farm. I bought Bedlam Farm because I wanted to understand animals better and write about them. And that remains my purpose, although I have come to love and need being a farm and I hope I stay on one to the end of my life.

A farm is a series of interactions, chores and rituals. It is a complex eco-system. First thing every morning, Maria and I go out and we will the water buckets. Maria has a personal relationship with each animal. She greets each one by name, and they all trust her and accept her. Each one gets a carrot or some leftover food from the farmhouse. I feel close to the donkeys, but not really the sheep. They associate me with Red and keep an eye on my whereabouts. Red is always near me or behind me. Once or twice a day I visit the donkeys. They are important to me. I do not as a rule visit the sheep.

Maria and I share the chores. She hauls water usually, we each split up to fill the hay and donkey feeder. Then we both work to clear out the manure – I gather it in piles with a rake, she scoops it out in a shovel and puts it in our little manure mountain. It will take a tractor to clear it out in the Spring. We rake out the barn, prepare the hay for the next feeding, clean out the chicken coop and fill their feeder and water bowl. We feed the barn cats in the barn. We walk the dogs once or twice every day.  Red works the sheep to keep them in their place during feeding, then I call him off – "that'll do" – and we go into the house for breakfast. We never eat until all of the animals are fed. Then I go to work writing and Maria goes off to her studio. We work until lunch. Then more work and afternoon chores. I love the rituals and chores of the farm, they are it's veins and lifeblood.

Posted in General

Stay Out Of My Barn

Stay Out Of My Barn

Stay Out Of My Barn

Red started to come into the barn this morning but found Strut the rooster blocking the door. He decided it was his barn and he wasn't letting anybody in.  Strut came into the barn following me, clucking and crowing to try and bully me into giving him and the chickens some feed. This could have been a problem, but Red just waited until Strut was through puffing himself up. When Strut moved a few feet towards me, Red skittered past him and into the barn and out the gate towards the sheep. Animals interact with one another all of the time. Rose probably would have gone after the rooster, Orson and Frieda have killed him, Lenore would try to kiss him on the nose. Rose has great poise with other animals, there are no tense confrontations, nothing one has to pay attention to. I can only imagine that on his farm in Ireland he had much exposure to all of the farm's animals.

I appreciate that I can trust Red in situations like this, it matters in our lives.

Posted in Farm Journal, General

Dog Meditations

Dog Meditation

Dog Meditation

We take Valentine's Day seriously around here, maybe our national holiday instead of Black Friday. No bargains, but we use to day to remember what we love and honor what we love. It's not a sappy thing to us, but an increasingly important ritual. We have had the sweetest day. I a taking Maria out to dinner and she is trying to get me to go to a drumming class – I'm holding out but weakening. This afternoon, we took the dogs up on the hill near the farm and we stood quietly for a few minutes, feeling the wind, looking out at the nearby mountains. The dogs love it up there. They can look out at the world, catch some breezes, look down on our beautiful new home.

I work hard to train my dogs to do nothing – something few dogs get to learn – and this has allowed them to be contemplative when the occasion calls for it. That is wonderful for me, as when I am in need of calming, thinking of meditating, all three dogs get into the moment and seem to be meditating also. This is a beautiful experience to share with dogs – they love to do nothing with their people and few of them get that chance. I almost always meditate with one or more dogs, and for me, this has only deepened an increasingly important experience.

We will be visiting that hill often.

Posted in General

Battenkill Books Reviews: Some New Incentives For Readers. Buy Local, Dammit!

Connie scheming

Connie scheming

Connie Brooks and I are always scheming of ways to make Battenkill Books – the world's best little bookstore – even better. As some of you know, I've been doing weekly book reviews and asking people to buy the books if they can at Battenkill Books. This is part of my new job as Recommender-In-Chief at Battenkill. The job involves going to the bookstore on Saturdays, meeting people and checking the inventory, browsing the Web for news of good new books and reviewing them. Lots of people – thank you much – are reading the reviews and calling Connie 518-677-2515 or e-mailing her – [email protected] – or visiting the stores website (they take Paypal and ship anywhere in the world.) So you can buy local from anywhere, support a great independent bookstore in exchange for the reviews and great personal service from the store.

Connie has decided to offer some incentives for people who buy books through this reviewing program. She will decide. Sometimes it will be notecards, sometimes free galleys, sometimes discounts. This is up to her, not me. I will keep the reviews coming, from my e-mail and social media responses, people are reading them and liking the books. My next book to be reviewed will be "Vampires In The Lemon Grove" by Karen Russell. The previous book reviewed – this was a wonderful book – was "Wise Men: By Stuart Nadler. People called or e-mail from all over the country to buy it from Battenkill so this job, my first in 30 years, might work out. Connie can order it for you (518 677-2515) or you can buy it through your independent local bookstore. If you have an e-book reader, no need to apologize. I have one too.

It is fascinating to see that a great independent local bookstore can use some of the new technological tools to become a bigger bookstore and offer services a large chain or online bookseller can't possibly match. When I review books, I'll also be able to announce what the special offer will be for books to be purchased through Battenkill. Thanks for helping with this experiment. Individuality and personal connection live in the Corporate Nation. You can also call to get my recommendations in person on Saturdays from 11 to 2 p.m. 518 677-2515. Connie is not into charity or Amazon-bashing.  Everybody has a right to choose their own path, and books and reading are both thriving. You will get amazing service and a good book to read, save or give to a friend.

Posted in Writing

Coila Barn

Standing Barn

Standing Barn

There is a small intact barn in the lost world of Coila, not far from the Coila garage. It is doing well, sturdy and protected.

Posted in General