> jumping into life.


Weeding all day: good work, but long. Strange muscles in my fingers are sore now, and I've gathered a new crop of sunburns and bugbites. Witchgrass had nearly overtaken the lettuces (the red one with the frilly edges is New Red Fire, the green one is Nevada, the red one with the midrib is Magenta, the oak-leaf is Brunia, the green butter-leaf is Silvesta and the last one is Red Tide). It took both of us together an hour and a half per row to clear the weeds out, then another half-hour to tame the re-may and get everything covered. Everything is dry; the rainstorms last weekend were the last we got, and one big storm they had predicted never materialized. We rushed out to put in a few more rows of transplants, believing in that rain that never came. They're near to dead now, and we don't have the time to water.

There is the theory that we got kicked out of Eden on account of the gardening. Farming can be a lot like playing God, and maybe he didn't like the competition. We're rainmakers, we're murderers, we're midwives, all. And we do rather more killing than life-giving, all told.

"This is a wire-worm. Kill it." And I do, slicing it in half with my fingernail, smudging myself with its pasty insides. We prune the tomatoes, hard, so many eager shoots sent to compost. In Arizona, twice I'd turned over with the flat blade of my shovel fat toads like clods of dirt, buried in the wet soil where the kale had been. Amazing that I didn’t chop them in half, lunging as I was blindly into the ground, where they hid blindly from the heat. I gathered them up in my hands, cold and still and strangely electric, and took them to the mint patch by the leaky hose, dropped each one into the puddle there and hoped the dog wouldn’t come by.

One time the dog killed a chicken when Kevin left the coop door open. We all stopped our planting to look over towards the sound of fear of death, outraged rooster, Kevin hollering at the dog to stop, stop, stop.

We took the chicken to the old classroom, three walls made of pallets and a trellis roof and a tarp. On the table, which was plywood on a stack of buckets, we plucked and cleaned and butchered the chicken which we thought was a rooster until we cut it open and found an egg inside.

One egg whole, in its shell: tomorrow’s egg. Beside it a yolk covered in a cobweb of bright veins, and beside that a smaller yolk, smaller and smaller down to the size of oats, or gravel; a constellation of potentiality.

The chicken was still warm when we cut it open; so different from a fish which is cold even before it dies. All day there were feathers and the smell of blood about me.

Once I almost chopped a baby rabbit in half, slicing at thistles with a scythe. We pulled gophers out of the traps by the dozens, tossed them on the compost heap with the weeds and the edges of bread from our lunch. Dead mice swarmed with ants in the outhouse; dead birds in the nesting boxes, live birds pulling young corn out by the root so that we must plant again, again, again. The bindweed choked the beans, the coyote gourd sank its deep root between my watermelons so that I pulled them up by mistake, and the blister beetles on the leaves of the eggplant were always stuck to each other in a miserable ecstasy of copulation and burnt my fingers when I smashed them.

Farming is systematic war as much as it is anything. Or: life is death as much as it is anything. The force of the cycle asserts itself bodily into the daily actions of living. We eat last summer's harvest, frozen and canned, last summer's chickens in neat plastic bags. We eat thinnings and sometimes weeds as they are pulled from the soil. We plan the death of the mean rooster. We crush wire-worms, cabbage loopers, grasshoppers if we can catch them. We muck the chicken coop. We live in a camper, and once a week our fresh water tank must be filled from the well and our blackwater tank dumped into the septic system. We are acutely, sometimes unpleasantly, aware of the inputs and outputs of most every aspect of our lives. We are wading through death and shit and so are you.

So are you.


Been meaning to write more. Been needing to. Never seems to be time, never know what to say.

Storms today. Sudden flooding storms, rain so loud the radio goes mute in awe. Water down the inside of the walls in sheets, and I run to throw the tarp over our rundown camper home. The light in here now is soft blue, almost institutional feeling, but calming, too.

We've been fighting. Or not quite fighting, just edgy, just walking along each other's edges. Long days even if they're good ones and we come home hungry, tired, been together all day already and no time or space to take a full breath alone. Hard work that frankly neither of us is used to. Wind that comes up out of the north and blows the plastic off the greenhouse, snaps the lines, chills us down to bone. Or no wind and the bugs come up instead, biting hard at all our soft places.

But too we have our hands in the dirt, hard work that we love, bringing plants to life and sending them out into the world. At the end of the day we've done something. We can stand at the top of a field with our hands on our hips and look out over our work, the little sparks of green in a wide soft bed, in a wide cold world, and we put them there, grew them out from seeds, set them safe as we could make them into the soil. In a few weeks or months they'll feed us. The wind comes up and blows the hair out of my eyes, the first spray of rain on my face. I close my eyes.


Spring stretches her languid limbs. She purrs out a great tumble of rain, then she turns and bites: an unbroken week of bright, beautiful days that wither the crops in the field. We fill a tank out of the pond, drive the busted truck up to the field, using physics, good timing, and luck in place of brakes. We plant a few hundred chard and lettuce starts, watering each one in by hand. Might be a thousand, all together; we planted some ten thousand onions on Friday, and then P. drove up to water them, too.

The sheer volume of plants stuns me. Every day we move a dozen or more flats from the greenhouse to the coldframe, move a few thousand plants into the fields, plant hundreds of seeds to fill the greenhouse anew. Every morning we walk down the aisles, little green seas on either side, and we can see how much growth came on overnight. One day the flat is bare soil, and the next morning two little leaves have popped out of every cell; in a week the plants are a few inches tall, and soon they'll be on their way to their own little patch dirt in someone's yard or on the farm. We thin the brassicas and have tasty mesclun salad for a week. The spinach bolts early and we eat it all, shockingly sweet, handfuls at a time.

On fresh pasture, the hens lay incredible eggs. The yolks nearly glow, deep orange and standing up so well as to be practically spherical even in the pan. Two hens went broody but got occasionally bored with the job, so for a while it was wise to crack each egg separately, carefully, and peer inside gingerly before dumping it into the mix. Our 50 meat bird chicks rapidly outgrow their enclosure, all gangly legs and long necks and dinosaur eyes. Soon they'll be out on grass, too, and the chick house will be full of tiny new layers, who stay cute much longer. Out in the chicken yard, the mean rooster keeps well clear of me, and I haven't even kicked him yet.

Finally the rain comes. We've planted all the cukes, zukes and squash and this time the sky waters them in. Big thunder that spooks the dog, good hard rain to swell the little creek and fill the soil. That something in my heart that always waits for rain loosens its grip; everyone jokes that now I've got my winter, and they're right. A few more thunderstorms and I'll be sated for the season.

[This was supposed to be posted last week. Sorry.]


New farm. No internet. Busy.



The river shoulders its banks apart. Rain comes. The air hangs swollen: opportunity, promises, humidity, warmth. The aspens go first, their catkins unfurling into long swaying tails, the tiny leaves that start as a vague haze of green and then grow. They glow, florescent yellow-lime-life-colored, paintstrokes from a sudden new palette on the hillsides. Beneath, bloodroot and dandelion lift their faces, shy trout lilies and crimson trillium. Slowly behind them come the more hesitant: maples, alders, larches, violets and columbine.

An orange hen went broody back in April, and last week her eggs began to hatch. Having raised chicks only from cardboard boxes, nobody knew quite what to do; except, of course, the hen. She herded the chicks over to the waterer and showed them how to drink, settled herself carefully on the rest of the as-yet unhatched clutch and let the chicks burrow down beneath her, fluffed up all her feathers, and screeched at anyone who came too near.

The piglets came last week, as well. Two of them, one brown and one pink with spots. Both outrageously cute and demonstrably smart: they needed to stay in their crate for a day or so to get used to the new location, and we decided the best way to feed them would be with those bottles used for hamsters and the like. At first, of course, they tried just sucking as they would on any other bottle, and as had worked for them on every other bottle they'd seen before. Biting and head-butting came next, but within about ten minutes, they'd figured out the little valve and were grunting happily away at their milk. By the next feeding, they hardly spilled a drop. Once we let them out, they also figured out the electric fence and found the one spot they could wiggle under - and proceeded to do so immediately. Luckily, they're friendly and curious, so rounding them up involved more coaxing and little chasing.

Last week, the week of insanely cute baby animals, was our last week on the first farm. We start Monday on our new farm, where we won't even have dial-up. J has a pretty good video of the pigs that he's planning to upload before we enter into the internet desert, so keep an eye out over on farmtime. And if you happen to be in Montpelier on Saturdays, stop by the farmer's market and say hi.


Ramps! Oh hell yes. Spring for real.