My week has been full of “shoulds.” I should write about John Prine. I should write about coronavirus. I should write about the tribulations of my particular family’s attempt to coordinate a Passover seder via Skype. I should write about the birthday of my late grandfather, Jack Cohn, who taught me the deep wisdom of the advice, “You do what you can.” I should take my grandfather’s advice.
So I’m not going to write about any of those – I’m going to write about daily life on the farm.
Amid all the uncertainty and suffering and scrambling and fear in the world, it’s hard to not feel guilty for our good fortune. To wake up with a view of the mountains to the south and deer (shoo! shoo!) nibbling at the foot of our porch. To throw on my muck boots and have another go at mapping the twisty animal trails in the North 20 woods with Blue stotting through the foliage ahead. To stroll down to Pierce’s plot and pick some kale rabe and a head of cabbage for my mid-day stir fry. And to be surrounded (at a socially safe distance) by the amazing young farmers of Natembea.
This weekend was “fence-a-palooza” – the start of putting up an eight-foot perimeter around the new community garden to deter those aforementioned deer. We’re using fir rounds that Brendon thinned from the woods for our primary posts, treating them with linseed oil and pine tar, then securing them with gravel and concrete. Six foot woven steel wire, topped with two lines of individual strands, marked with flappy things to increase visibility. Because deer.
And the soil. Well, this land was scraped clean by the last ice age, cleared of trees by the Swansons some time in the middle of the last century, and been under cattle and hay ever since. Never, as far as I can tell, been plowed, and everything between the sod and hardpan a foot or two down has got glacial till rocks thicker than chocolate chips in a Pillsbury cookie. Even after running the tractor’s rototiller over everything. Twice. Breaking it by hand with a broadfork? Hilarious.
But these amazing kids (can I call them “kids”? Because I’m pretty much twice as old as most of them. I’m gonna call them “kids”) just dug right in, both figuratively and literally. I’ve got to tell you, anyone who tells you that “age is just a number” has never spent a weekend trying to keep up with Lacey, Logan, Lydia, Brendon and Julia when they’re raising fence posts and turning sod.
I’m going to shut up now, and just give you some pictures: