I thought this blog entry was going to be about how the Perry Farm helps us to be frugal, about how it devours our time and brings us such joy that we have no desire to desert it to go to a shopping mall or a nice hotel. The farm doesn’t care what we wear, as long as it’s durable and sensible enough, which means selectively recycled town wear, the shirts with the ink stains, the pants with the frayed hems, the shoes that never will be clean but still have miles of walk left in them. The farm doesn’t want us to stay indoors, so we don’t waste our money on electronics that are of no use outside, and we don’t waste our time cleaning house, save in the one room we keep for friends who are more likely to visit if we “spend” an hour now and then removing the dust and spiders and garden dirt.
Our typical day at the farm costs us nothing, and that’s what I thought I was going to write about. The house is the place we venture out from, not the place we stay put in. We make a pot of “farm soup,” which is soup made from whatever is left from the garden and whatever is left in the cupboard. Today it is vegetable chili, a mix of zucchini, onions, tomatoes, thyme, and canned garbanzo beans. We leave NPR playing on the radio, its soft monotone a soothing reminder that people do live in the house–they just aren’t in at the moment. And we head out, Keith to get his tractor or chainsaw or hoe, and I with my cup of coffee and my walking stick, basket, and fishing rod.
We are our farm’s caretakers. Keith will saw up the fallen trees, un-dam the creek, mow the paths, fill the sloughs, working from dawn to dusk if I let him, the result of a hereditary need to keep the farm healthy. * While he tends to the farm’s flesh and bones, I tend to its spirit, which–I believe– makes itself at home in the flora and fauna.
Right now, this means zinnias that have lost their sparkle and marigolds that still are pungent, even though their frilly petals are fraying. The Mexican sunflowers still are a bright orange “stop and look at me,” but they are getting smaller and shorter as the weather cools. The hardy mums—little lavender stars with yellow centers—are home to a hundred bees I cannot name, and three butterflies I can: Buckeye, Painted Lady, Red Admiral.
There is one more zucchini to pick, a row of thyme, and the green beans we have been saving for seed. I must harvest it all today, ahead of the frost. But not right now.
On my way to the woods, I turn back to look at a Bell’s vireo, a little flutter of lime-green, and I trip on a black walnut. The flowerbeds already are pockmarked with squirrels’ hiding holes, so I pick up a handful of nuts to test for ripeness later. The deer have stripped the lower branches off one of the white pines, and I remind myself to ask Keith to hang up the Irish Spring (coincidence, or does the soap deter those blasted deer?). It has rained eight inches in the last two weeks, and the creek has tumbled my cement-block bridge. I flag down Keith, who sets down his chainsaw and comes to help me repair the damage.
The woods are upside down now, the leaves covering the path instead of blocking the sky. I see a red-tailed hawk circling, and I am reminded of our old neighbor, long since moved to town by his children because he could no longer be counted on to shoot only at what he claimed he was aiming for, in this case the hawks that were decimating the pheasant population. Where the trail circles back to the farm, there is a small stand of persimmon trees, volunteers that sprouted up from seeds Keith’s mother tossed out many years ago. The persimmons still are hard as rocks, but they should be puckered and pickable by next weekend.
I started my day at the café table under the maple tree, its leaves like a million frayed yellow suns, and I am back here by quitting time to tie a new fly and see what’s biting. I keep a pair of pliers in one back pocket and my cellphone in the other, so that the two small bass and the good-sized bluegill I caught can enjoy the rest of their day, and you can see what it looks like here in the cattails on the east side of the pond.
Keith, right on time, pulls up with the tractor and a load of firewood. And that’s when I finally know that this blog entry will not be about frugality but its opposite, the wealth we are rewarded with for taking care of our little part of the earth.
* The old family joke is that no one ever leaves the fields when the weather is good except to attend a relative’s funeral, and even a close relative warrants no more than half a day.