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.