A Different Lens . . . All the Farm's a Stage
March 25, 2011
Living on a farm, one thing is for certain, the experience is like standing in front of the marquis at a multi-plex where all the latest movie releases are playing at once. While there may be any number of great choices, on the farm the big feature is always life; it’s always a blockbuster, always center stage. Any aisle you choose to walk down provides a surprise “performance.” Here are just a few of the showcases that capture my imagination on a daily basis…
10:30 at night. I was at that critical stage of finishing off my first solo round of making maple syrup. The days are finally warming up and the maple trees have been tapped to make syrup and are dripping like burning candles. Deep below the earth’s surface I imagine the amount of water being siphoned from the soil through the tree’s massive root system to provide a constant drip from the spigot. The tail end of winter provides a short window of time to tap into this “stream”. To run your finger under the spigot and taste the sweet clear water is incredibly rejuvenating. Some trees are distinctively different in sweetness; it conjures up biblical stories that reference the “tree of life.”
The process of distillation requires over 5 hours of boiling time on the stove. Most of the water evaporates into a sugar-rich bubbling brew. I have to be careful not to take my eyes off the thermometer reading so the mix doesn’t turn rock candy hard. But then the phone rings. It is kidding season and Lisa was calling from the barn, informing me that Ashanti’s contractions were coming every five minutes and that the kid could arrive within an hour or so. Oddly enough, I felt stuck to the stove, wanting to finish my very first batch of maple syrup. So I let her know I’d be down in shortly. Glued to the thermometer gauge in anticipation for it to rise just one more degree, it seemed like it was taking forever. I questioned myself, “Was I going to finish my first maple syrup or potentially miss the first kid born on the farm in 2011?” No brainer. I high-tailed it down to the barn.
Flashlight in hand, trudging through deep pockets of mud, I felt light headed just thinking about witnessing a birth. I had jokingly inquired if we had smelling salts a couple weeks ago and now I wished I followed through to make sure we actually had some on hand.
I kept my mind preoccupied by thinking about that morning’s other kitchen project. Inspired by an NY times article Lisa dropped off a few days earlier, the article was about rethinking your kitchen: stage it as its own seed catalogue! I couldn’t resist and started a search from the spice rack to the fridge and found seeds everywhere. I planted all the seeds that I found -- mustard, nutmeg, allspice, B&W sesame, cloves, and Balinese peppercorns and baies entieres. Lisa brought over cardamom and date seeds from her kitchen. We don’t know if the seeds are too old or if they were treated, but the article was just too inspiring not to try.
Walking into the barn, I heard Lisa already on the phone sharing explicit details of the first kid’s arrival. I moved toward the birthing stall and heard about how difficult the birth was and how the kid was lucky to be alive. I found Ashanti calmly licking her crying healthy baby clean while murmuring a most unusual sonic-like hum. You could almost feel the transmission of the doe/kid bond being formed. I was mesmerized by the sound while Lisa shared with me exactly what happened. If it weren’t for Lisa’s instincts to go “in” and check, the baby would have died. Lisa was further explaining the profound natural instincts of the doe’ to hold back birthing if the weather is bad. It was a starry night at 14 degrees. I was wearing five layers of clothes; Lisa forgot to put on her long underwear and was freezing.
Steam rose from our breath while we dried the shivering kid with bath towels and a blow dryer to speed up the process of warming her up. Witnessing the kid taking her first stand within its first hour and listening to her cry (sounding just like a new born human) and her mother humming back, I stood on “their stage” speechless. (BTW, you can watch the births via the barn's four cameras running 24/7. To get to the BarnCam, click here.)
Climbing into bed that night, I was contemplating the power of the big picture of life, and how living on the farm is a perfect place to tune into, participate and watch the goings-on of all the dramatic cycles. Every day here I realize I’m in an inspirational continuum of “waking up” to life’s range of miracles that would have gone unappreciated or unnoticed before.
From the kitchen to the barn, to every corner of the farm, I am a daily witness (and participant) in an extraordinary series of performances featuring the power of Mother Nature. The hit movie Moulin Rouge comes to mind, particularly when the Master of Ceremonies shouts, “Spectacular, Spectacular”.