On Monday afternoon, Maria and I went to the New Bedlam Farm to meet farmer Nelson Greene and put 299 square bales of second cut hay into the hay loft on the second floor and some down below. The farmers backed their huge trailer up to the hay door and Maria hopped up onto the wagon, climbed into the loft so that she could catch the bales that were suddenly being tossed at her by very big and strong men. One bale knocked her over, but she got up, got the hang of it and started catching these bales – 50 or 60 pounds each – as rapidly as they were thrown.
Down below, I was hauling a few into the lower portion of the barn and taking photos. I could not catch any and my back would not have agreed to hauling more than a score of bales. Jenna and Ajay hopped up to help Maria and then I heard one of the farmer’s sons tell his sister – “wow, that girl up there is tough, she is catching them as fast as I can throw them.” When I met Maria, she was an artist who also had done some restoration work. She had not had much farm experience, or much experience caring for livestock. As happened with me, so many of her ideas changed – in the real world, some animals can’t be here, some are too expensive, some will die. She has a gift with animals, a trainer’s sense of how to talk to them and handle them, and a ferocious appetite for hard work, for the grittiest of farm chores.
She goes up and shovels manure, sweeps out the chicken roost and tosses hay around with the strongest farm boys. She is agile, strong, and willing. I am very surprised to see the way in which she has learned the life of the farm and eagerly taken on the responsibility of running much of it. I did not expect this, but it is quite wonderful, it makes our lives so much easier. I am doing much more myself.
The best thing is that Maria has not surrendered her art in any way to work on the farm. Quite the opposite. Early in the morning, she is in her studio concocting streaming pieces, quilts, potholders. We meet to do chores, to walk together, to check on the animals. She is back in her studio until dusk. How striking that she manages both so efficiently and devotedly, sacrificing neither for the other.
I always hated the number of people I had to hire to live my life, and we aren’t doing that anymore, thanks to this quite amazing farmer’s wife. And partner.