> jumping into life.


Oh, man. And you thought I was crazy about chickens?


On Thursday you will park in Lot A. On Friday, will NOT park in Lot A; you will be turned aside or ticketed if you try. On Friday, you will park in the muddy field behind the gym.

On Thursday you will iron a shirt for what feels like the first time in your life, even though of course it isn't. You will think suddenly of ironing your wedding dress, which was almost a year ago now, and was the last time you held an iron.

On Thursday you will forget and remember your schedule so many times that the very forgetting and remembering begin to feel comfortable. The schedule is written on a scrap of paper tucked inside the new, fancy calendar book that you bought for this new job, and which does also have things written in it. Still, you somehow prefer, almost viscerally, to write things on handy scraps of paper and stick them in the front pocket.

You will accidentally iron in nearly as many wrinkles as you iron out, and you with think - not for the first time - that this is one of the downsides of women's liberation. You thought that also when your husband's grandmother sent you the set of silverware and a beautiful box to put it in and you did not know how the silver was meant to fit in the box.

Surely, fifty or a hundred years ago, you would know by now how to do such things as iron a shirt and care for silver.

On Thursday you will park in Lot A. You will fall asleep alone in a hotel room, sleep alone for the first time since you-can't-remember-when. Since long before the last time you held an iron. You will arrive to your destinations precisely on time, even though you tried to schedule yourself an extra fifteen or twenty minutes on either side of everything.

You will speak in a high, sweet voice that is not entirely your own, and you will try very hard to speak the truth when someone asks you a question you can't answer.

You will walk down the halls of high schools and universities and wonder if they can tell that you are not one of them. That they seem impossibly young. That you fill a space in the universe that an adult might fill.

Fifty or a hundred years ago, you would surely have children of your own by now, or be a spinster aunt by now, your younger siblings well into child-rearing themselves. It is one of the upsides of women's liberation, you think, that there are no spinsters anymore. Still, on Thursday night, when the event is over and you are hungry, you will not walk down the streets of this college town, alone.

On Friday, you will park in the muddy lot behind the gym, try not to get mud on your nice and professional clothes. On Thursday, you will park in Lot A.


September flipped her switch, and the season slid into an almost strangely smooth transition. The last two weeks of August, hot and muggy and miserable, and then switch, those cool nights and bright days. And now, two days out from equinox, the first frost. Right on time.

Last night we filled the kitchen with armloads of garden salvage: all the basil, all the ripe tomatillos and peppers. The cilantro, lemon balm, and mint. (Our tomatoes were long blighted and gone.) A gallon and a half of salsa verde to can, cups of pesto to freeze in ice cube trays, and the bundles of herbs to dry for mid-winter teas.

We covered the pepper plants, for this first frost was only light, and they may ripen a few more fruits before the next. Then, probably, we will pull them out whole and hang them to dry.

I still never bought the bushel of corn I meant to can. It's likely too late, now. The pear tree needs to be picked, and the potatoes dug. The seasons will spin quickly from here out: soon a hard frost, then hard freeze, then winter.

But the sun shines alluring outside, slanting already into afternoon. Get it while it lasts.


It's like September flipped a switch. All the unsettledness of the unsummery summer: gone. And in its place, the perfect early autumn weather of cool nights, clear skies, warm and sunny afternoons with that strangely September light that says get it while it lasts.


We make a good team
of mules.


We spent much of the summer trying to secure ourselves some farmland for next season; I don't think I mentioned that much here. (I don't think I mentioned much of anything here, this summer, and the overwhelmingness of that search is part of why.)

One place we looked at was in New Hampshire, which turned out to be the deal-breaking blow against its otherwise near-perfectness. The near-perfectness included some good garden space, established orchard and berries, pastureland and run-in shelter, a sugarbush and well-kept sugaring house, a barn with a pottery studio and two - two! - woodworking shops, a blacksmith's shop full of old horse implements, a pond, a truck, and a woodlot. All for free -- or rather, all in exchange for our work to keep it up.

It should be some measure of our love for Vermont (and its state-run comprehensive no-cost-to-us health care program) that we aren't there right now, picking apples and looking into baby Clydesdales instead of baby tractors.

The other strike against it was that we'd be living in a one-room log cabin without electricity or running water, half an hour from the nearest country store and even farther from anywhere that might sell -- much less serve -- a good Belgian beer. The electricity I figured we could deal with alright, with a woodstove and some lamps. The outhouse across the field, however, while inconvenient but alright in the summer... well, let's just say I didn't relish the thought of February mornings.

So the short of it is that we're staying here, in our current house just minutes out of town, planning to work land ten minutes away, and I like this house and it's good land and a good arrangement and I can't stop thinking about that cabin.

At the time, and in previous conversations we've had about where and how we want to farm, I said that I do not want to be so far away from the world. Do not want to be so far from town that we go only once a week at best. I want internet access. I want to be able to get take-out on a whim. Want a hot shower on demand. Etc.

And I'll stick by that part about the shower. But the rest, I'm not so sure. For about three days that place in New Hampshire was at the top of our list, New Hampshire or no, and in that time I tried to imagine as fully as I could what it would be like to live there.

I have a good imagination.

And here's what I saw: It could be crushingly lonely. We knew there were a few couples approximately our age in the area, and if we didn't get along, we'd be likely to be alone a lot of the time. But if we did get along? I saw evenings by the woodstove with home-brewed beer and a lot of stringed instruments. I saw giant pancake breakfasts in the sugarhouse. I saw the little cabin stuffed with books, its cold cellar stuffed with a winter's worth of food. I saw an attached shed we could turn into a sauna and perhaps solve that shower problem altogether.

I still saw harrowing February mornings in the outhouse. But I also saw us farming full-time, or near to it -- and since I've been working six days a week off-farm lately, that seemed pretty appealing indeed.

But it isn't the specifics of that place I meant to write about. It's the yearning for the back-of-beyond, which surprised me and hasn't let me go. I think it is the same part of me that wanted to be a monk, or almost the same. To be apart from this society that so often leaves me alienated and drained. But this isn't renunciation, exactly. This is reclamation. In a movie we watched last night, a character said, "Everyone makes their own fun; otherwise, it's entertainment." I want to reduce the entertainment in my life and increase the fun. I want to practice my guitar or play cards instead of watching a movie. I want to cook even when I'd rather get take-out. I want horses instead of tractors. I want to create community, real interdependent and self-reliant community, instead of just knowing some people I can drink a beer with on Friday nights.

And I know, of course I know, that you don't have to be fifty miles out in the woods to live that life. We are building community here, and that's a large part of why we decided to stay. And just because town's right here doesn't mean I have to go. I could be planting spinach instead of writing this, right now. But the body is weak, and the spirit sometimes is weak as well, even when willing. On Wednesday I harvested for the CSA, filled big baskets to overflowing with good vegetables that we grew, and that night we got Chinese food because we were too exhausted to cook. And that's okay, but it's also a little ridiculous and sad. And householders can reach enlightenment too, of course, but everyone agrees its easier if you're a monk.

So next year won't be perfect. But I have a clearer sense of what perfect might look like, and I think it's farther out of town than I'd originally thought.



(How is it, though, that 30 pounds of tomatoes yield barely a gallon and a half of sauce?)