The making of a farm stretched over eight years and at least as many landscapes is a lot of stuff to move. I carry apple boxes and bushel baskets laden with tools, seeds, jars, milk pails, more things than I ever imagined possible, or necessary, through the threshold of a
place I’m still learning to call home.
In between loads I notice a hand-written excerpt from E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web tacked on the doorframe connecting barn to farmhouse. I pause to read: “The barn was very large. It was very old. It smelled of hay and it smelled of manure. It smelled of perspiration of tired horses and the wonderful sweet breath of patient cows. It often had a sort of peaceful smell—as though nothing bad could happen ever again in the world.”
I step around the accumulated chaos of a farm now failed or forgotten to reach the barn’s southeastern corner. Jagged window glass frames the young apples I planted in last May’s wet earth; late fall’s harrowed ground rests beneath the first scant snowfall. Beyond that, I know little of this landscape’s story. But I am not the first to farm here, the evidence is everywhere: from the low stone wall now overgrown to the flat and recently fallowed fields.
I breathe in the scents of the barn: the perfume of hay and musk of cordwood mingle with the mustiness of rust, dung, mislaid soil. These are peaceful smells. Still I know bad things are happening in this world. Absorbed in the aroma of last year’s sweet grass and lulled by my goats’ gentle neighing from below the well-worn boards, I hope. I hope for someone else to push seeds into this same soil with the deft and accuracy of work-callused fingertips. I yearn for another shepherd of blood, bone, and muscle in these pastures when my stock is eaten or buried. I wish with aching wrists, with sun-weary skin, with the idealistic phantom energy of youth that I am not the last to farm here, that my work will be
harnessed by the generations to come.