Like most weekends, we spent some time with friends last night. Probably, it doesn’t bear noting. There’s nothing too special about getting together at a restaurant or lounging around someone’s living room. But lately, “hanging out” has become a bigger deal for me. We’ve made a real effort to insert social time into each weekend, but increasingly, it does take effort – not because I don’t want to see other people in the world who exist outside the boundaries of these 15 acres – but because it’s getting harder to pull myself away. Actually, it’s getting harder to find people outside of this property interested enough in what goes on here to talk about it. In essence, I fit in less and less with everyone else. I expect it will just get worse until I’m only able to converse about the basics, like the weather, and eventually only in some form of rudimentary sign language. Not many folks can relate to this life beyond polite conversation, and why would they? Who runs off to the forest where the ground turns into swampy marshland with the slightest rain, where scorpions fall off the wall onto kitchen counters, and goats sleep on trash cans on the porch? Who chooses to live without the convenience of trash pickup or driveways or clean floors? This guy.
This week has truly tested our fundamental passion for the property. Regardless of how cozy and livable we make the inside, any wet weather smacks us back into reality – we’re still sitting in the middle of a spot not meant for human occupants. I’ve gone to bed each night with feet covered in mud up to the ankles, wake up and step onto a pile of dirt that crumbled off my dogs and has fallen in trails throughout the house. The moment I walk outside one of our animals comes bounding towards us, happily caked in fresh mud, flinging their bodies against me – “Feed me! I love you!” It’s not precious. Friday afternoon I arrived home to the third torrential downpour of the week and the ground, already saturated beyond anything I’ve witnessed previously, completely gave up. Turned into a 3 acre river right there in front of the house and across the driveway, taking out huge chunks of it on its happy way downhill. The 5 dogs left out on the porch came galloping up to my car which I parked at the gate, unable to drive anywhere near the house. Leaving my computer, purse, and files in the car (and wearing office clothes), I sprinted down the drive to the goat pen, and set them free. All four goats stood huddled, wet and shivering, against the outside of their shelter. By the time the dogs and goats and I had made it onto the porch, I was completely soaked. Mud was caked up to my knees. Paw and hoof prints were strategically smattered across my bottom, my front, on my arms. I ran inside grabbing clean towels and started the 30 minute process of toweling 7 animals. Went inside, sat on my bedroom floor in wet clothes, started to cry. It wasn’t tears of sadness, obviously, but lots of frustration mixed with a strange sense of happiness. As someone who has lived a life committed entirely to maintaining total control – this world represents the ultimate immersion therapy. I have to give up and give in. For a farm, it’s a sacrifice I willingly make.
Over dinner last night people discussed movies and work stories. The place was so packed I could hardly hear anyone. My throat was sore from shouting. It’s good to go out, but it’s getting tougher to beat my own front porch. And there’s less for me to talk about that others understand. Aside from giving a general goat-progress update, no one cares about my plans for a dairy cow or the big decision to create a goat pasture out of the 5 wooded acres behind the house. Or the trouble with training teenage chickens. Or the fear of the mountain lion we know is living somewhere near our property. No one has asked (why would they) about my experiment making kefir from Fran’s cultures and raw milk. And the magical discovery of her dairy just down the road? Not interested. These things that increasingly overtake all my other interests – they’re just mine. I accept that. Now I have to find a way to go out in the world without appearing like an alien in a foreign land. Merging these worlds won’t get easier, I suspect, and it’s no burden, just an observation about the distinct differences between all of us. Regardless, it’s comforting to know there’s a whole group of us out there, even if we’re not getting together for coffee and wine on weekends. Why would we – you’re just like me and would rather sit on your own front porch to watch an evening storm roll in.
Kimberly of Star Creek Country recently created a list of all the best things she sees in her barnyard and backyard. It includes the sort of observations I make daily and could never share over dinner in downtown Austin. Just knowing someone else notices the way baby chicks steal bugs from each other – well – it’s the sort of reminder I appreciate this morning. There’s a network of us out here, aliens in the midst of conventional 2012 living, more comfortable in a creek bed than a bar.
It’s so nice to meet you.