my friend sarah took me on an outing to spend a glorious afternoon at a pastoral paradise located on the east side of the county. it is called the Sustainable Arts Society , an arts organization offering residencies for artists and writers. An historic home lovingly restored by Elma Ettman serves as the lodging for the guest artists. it is a place where you can step back from the anxiety-driven frenzy of modern life and experience it as it once was. this is the view from the front porch.
the entire place is all organic and organized to be earth friendly. farm implements dug from the vegetable and flower beds were reconfigured into art pieces or used to decorate the sides of barns. The little seedlings were started in pots of newspaper that would decay into the earth. the front yard was left for native plants to flourish and share space with ornamentals such as thrift and lamb's ears.
the new spring kids cried for their mother, heavy with milk, and separated into a different pen so that she could first be milked for cheese. there were two calico kids and a blonde and each had a distinct personality. their movements reminded me of the little toys where you press a button underneath the base and the figure moves on strings, the action very dramatic and erratic. their little hooves were fleshy and pinkish still. so new and soft. and their ears could inspire a week's worth of paintings or poems.
there were two nanny goats, several herding dogs, chickens of every stripe and shape, a silky chicken who kept a blind rescue horse company, and a little black and white puppy on vacation. as i admired the old bed frame used as a garden accent, a shadow passed over the green.
i looked up to see a turkey vulture with the fingers of his wings spread exactly like Andrew Wyeth's painting "Soaring". The sweet scent of native azalea and honeysuckle hung heavy in the air. i bent down to feel the variety of mosses growing between river stones, marveled at the greens and remembered the formula for spreading mosses. it is this: find a moss you like. harvest some of it. put it into a blender and cover with buttermilk. blend it and pour it out where you want the mosses to grow. voila!
Elma has a lot of chickens so her daily haul puts my 2 a day to shame. I liked her hen pen and the little ramp for the hens to access the laying loft. i collected feathers the barred rock hens had plucked off and thought of my first pet chicken, the original chicory, who i once rolled into a towel and held all night when she was sick. she was my learning curve chicken, along with Helen, both of whom i lost while in New York. I had neglected to fence off a tiny space under the eaves of the tin roof of their chicken church and some critter slunk in and took them. now i have a "chicken penitentiary" and have had current bantams Red and Dovey for three years now; a long life for the amount of free-ranging they do.
i explored the apple house behind the big house which has a guest loft upstairs and a root cellar below stocked with rows and rows of "put-up" vegetables: corn, tomatoes, beans, okra, carrots, potatoes and all kinds of combination mixes. i was struck by how cool and dark it was, made all the more astonishing by the bright view of landscape outside.
after we had played and milked the nanny, Elma made cheese fresh right then and added her own spices and chives to the blend. i only thought i didnt like goat cheese. it was delicious and flavorful, mild and not gamey at all. i made an appointment with Cheryl the uber farm hand to come back the next day and weed. and weed i did. for my effort i was rewarded with a bounty of baby spinaches and greens and some gigantic white asparagus. but i didnt do it for the food.
the time i spent there was a glimpse into what i would like to build for the second half of my life out at the cabin. as i dreamed of how it might be, i pulled over on the way home to watch canada geese land in a cow pasture gone golden in the afternoon light. i noticed a cow with a solid white head which i painted when i returned to my little work space at home. i fell into my bed content and tired. i pulled the old-fashioned second quilt over the first. the night was quiet still. too cool for the grasshoppers and cicadas to rub their legs together in a summer serenade. i thought again of chicory and helen, and the old chunk of lab, my eva, mr. chickory, trout, the kingfisher, and all the things i love and ever have loved until at last i fell asleep.