Wednesday, January 20, 2010

knee deep in the compost heap

One week. I am completely exhausted but happy. It shouldn't amaze me so much how something so simple as doing what makes you happy, heck, makes you happy. There are highs and lows; working with ice and snow can really be a challenge, but then you go feed the pigs and they somehow cheer you right up. I don't really know where to begin, how to summarize my first week as an apprentice here. Busy. That's the short version. I've been learning so many new things every day, and every day is a challenge.

Yesterday I used an old-fashioned tortilla press and don't think I can ever go back to rolling with a little plastic glass (much as I loved those times Nat!) Physically it's challenging, the sitting on my ass for two years did me no good and I can feel it. Moving 50lbs at a time, and those times are often, is tough now but I grow stronger each day. Today I found a new love-splitting wood. Never in my life did I picture myself swinging a large, sharp, metal object into the air, much less enjoying it! This morning my boss Dominic asked if Josh (the other current apprentice here, he started a couple months ago) had yet taught me "the zen of wood-splitting." My usual awkward laugh and familiar stomach lurch of fear of the unknown followed and then we moved through the motions of another day on the farm.

Soon after climbing out of the compost heap (I had to bury some old livers and manage the top level) it was time to test my "zen." The ax seemed to weigh a ton and flop like a fish in my hands. After a quick lesson and a few awkward swings something switched; with each hard whack and beautiful sound of wood splitting I got better and understood the correct stance and technique. Any tension and all the usual uncertainty that comes with beginning something new floated further and further away each time I aimed and followed through a perfect split. Completely awesome. Any day that ends with you having an entirely new skill set and the accompanying confidence it instills is a great day. Tomorrow's challenge may not end with such glory, but becoming capable of doing what I once thought I could not is what I must remember in times when the work is most difficult. Well don't I sound like a little know-it-all, sorry. A little feeling of bad-assery comes after splitting wood, forgive me.

So where to go from here? I want to talk about all the other new skills I'm acquiring, and the incredible animals that test me. Milking? Premium example of practice makes perfect. Mimi is a forgiving lass and seems to just smile knowingly as I wear myself out pleading the gift of milk out of her. But each morning my hands understand the motion better and I remain patient. Driving steers? I had no idea I would be learning to drive working oxen, but it's true. A former apprentice keeps his two young and beautiful steers here and trains both them and us a couple days a week. I've always had great difficulty in directing animals (or people for that matter), as I really prefer to be told what to do. Horses have always sensed my lack of confidence and take advantage and the steers are no different. So learning to direct steers may teach me a few things in other aspects of my life as well.

All the animals here are great, maybe I'll try to feature different ones each time I write. Just want to make a quick note though on how much I freaking love pigs! They are just so wonderful, smart, hilarious, oh I just love them and will write more on them soon. The number one animal, and man, in my life remains my dear Bu. The other cats haven't quite warmed to him yet, but hopefully soon. He's happy anyhow and, as I always knew, he thrives outdoors. Galloping around the farm like a gazelle, it's adorable. We both have trouble with the cold, and spooning at night is a must. I know it's ridiculous but I don't care.

I'll post pictures soon of the lovely cabin, I really miss my mud hut, but I'm definitely loving my living situation here as well. Let's see, what else? Food? No worries, I'm eating very well. And I must soon post on the glories of lard. We have such a ridiculous misconception of and hatred for this most amazing cooking aid. I've also had a fair amount of venison this week, not bad. Also on the food subject, when not feeding, mucking, moving, watering or otherwise for the animals that feed us here, or dealing with all the weather that makes this process evermore difficult, we're inside planning for planting!

We only plant about an acre, but jeez it takes a lot of planning. Inventorying seed, going over successes and failures from previous years, discussing what we want to plant, mapping beds, calculating what, where, how far apart and when all these things will be planted and harvested, and soon - ordering seed! One farmer I know said when a seed catalog came in her husband started flipping through it with glee and exclaimed, "it's like porn!" And now I understand his excitement. Um, ok this was way random but I thought I ought to post an update. I am very well and hope you all are too. I seriously need to get to bed, its only 8:15 but I'm dead tired and we have another long day tomorrow. Much love to all and send me updates!


Ian Gamble said...

ugh. I can't read this, I might do something insane, like attempt something that would make my life easier and more fulfilling.

I am actually very jealous of you.

Diane Kappa said...

Good to see you continue writing about your amazing adventures!

Regarding lard-I hear ya sister! Hungarians love the stuff. They spread it on white bread with onions and paprika. I don't dislike but don;t care for this treat. I do like it in every other pastry and dish they make. I heart lard!

Jenna said...

I love it! keep the writing up and Im glad you and Bu are enjoying yourselves!