Sometimes, at the end of a hard day, this farm still moves me to tears, and I mean that in a good way. We had setbacks of all flavors this week, and strange weather, and a lame horse. John Berger writes that the farmer is always poised between nostalgia for an idealized past that never existed and hope for an easier future that never comes. Farming’s hard, no news there. The best cure for feeling bad about it, for me, is walking the farm, searching for recompense. I have never gone looking for it and been left wanting.
The walk is a question, and the answer is always firm, but often nothing of note. Just the sight of the big horses in the barn, britchen marks still on their haunches, and ready to work again, to collect the sap that’s moving up through the trees in the sugarbush. Or the brown cows with quiet eyes and full, clean udders waiting at the gate, their milk itself a balm. Or the hard rain I’m walking through, the pleasure of which I would have missed before farming taught me not to fear the discomfort of the weather. That last one is a neat metaphor for farming’s big lesson: beauty is what lies at the heart of difficulty. Dig, and it’s there. Sometimes, it’s dig dig dig dig, and only then, there. Refuse to dig, though, and you’ll pass it up entirely. This is true in anyone’s life but in farming, for us hard learners, the lesson is rendered literally, and given in daily doses.Continue reading this Essex Farm Note.