Too Short to Drink Milk

May 20, 2013 § 6 Comments

"Camp Dubbins"

“Camp Dubbins”

Penny and the boys were away for the weekend, helping her parents pack up their condo in MA in preparation for a move to VT. Her folks want to be closer to me, of course.

With the family away, I went into git ‘r dun mode. Both mornings I was up and out the door by 4:40, doing what chores could be done in the spectral half light of the four o’clock hour: Feed the chickens, slop the pigs, give the cows a fresh paddock, heat a bottle for Foster, and so on. Then, as light filtered into the sky, milk Apple and Minnie, pausing every few minutes to shake out hands and forearms, all those small muscles reorienting to the task. After milking, a piece of toast (I am making some wicked good sourdough these days, if I do say so myself. And I do), a cup of coffee, and then, by 6:30, the house reverberating with the heavy thunder of all the infantile music Penny cannot tolerate (goodness, but I’d almost forgotten about Dio!) and me with hammer in hand, framing the sidewalls of the new woodshed. A decade-and-a-half we’ve been here, the whole time stacking firewood under sheets of old roofing tin, weighted by old tires and other random objects of significant mass. But this year, a woodshed: That, my friends, is what passes for upward mobility in these parts.

On both days I treated myself to an hour or so of mushrooming, with the result being well short of last year’s haul – it’s been terrible dry – but plentiful enough that my primary meals of the weekend featured steaks cooked just past the point of biting back and a sweet mess of pan fried morels. I scarfed them sitting on the front stoop, then picked a salad out of the greenhouse, and scarfed that, too. Then back to framing, then chores, then leftover steak, a glass of cream (because life’s way too short to drink milk), and another salad.

Sitting there last night, gnawing cold steak from last year’s steer, drinking cream skimmed from the mornings milking, eating early salad out of the greenhouse, and picking at the crusted remnants of morels in the fry pan while Metallica’s Ride the Lightning (I know, I know: I really need to grow up a bit)  rattled the windows, I couldn’t help but feel like ’bout the luckiest fool ever to walk this good, green earth.

And I thought of how, just a couple days before, Penny and I had been discussing our finances, which are not actually all that bad at the moment. Then again, they’re not actually all that great, either, particularly if the current proposal my agent’s shopping around doesn’t find a home. Ah, to have my family’s financial fate resting in the hands of a bunch of NYC publishers I’ve never met. “Comforting” is not the word that comes to mind.

Yet there I sat, every last morsel of food in my belly a product of the very piece of land on which my family has made our home, onto which my sons were born, and onto which, if my luck holds, my own flesh and blood will decompose. There I sat, full and satisfied and tired in that sweet, bone-deep way that can only come of physical labor.

And then do you know what was best of all? It started to rain.

§ 6 Responses to Too Short to Drink Milk

  • Dave says:

    Sounds like a sweet weekend Ben, thanks for sharing. Once again with a great quote …”a glass of cream (because life’s way too short to drink milk)…” I think you need to be putting these quotes on ball caps or t-shirts and have them around for folks to buy.

  • Dawn says:

    Nothing more staisfying than hard work and a meal of your own making. We had a similar weekend here in NC. The smell of sweat and smoke in the air as we tended the bees, moving rocks to shore up a retaining wall, dragging chicken tractors to fresh grass, and then, just as I was lamenting that it has been hot enough this week to cause some of the Romaine to bolt already… it started to rain, which we needed. We just stood out in it, it felt so good. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I agree with Dave. Tshirts or hats with your quotes could be quite good “revenue enhancers.” Peace!

  • Lindsay Koehler says:

    Great post! To say it is “evocative” of your world sounds too high-falutin’…but I felt the joy you feel in it, and I thank you for sharing.

  • Jenn B says:

    I can relate Ben! Same here up in the good ol’ State of Maine. My four days a week work has me in a climate controlled office (hopefully not for long). My husband and I worked on chicken fence, raspberry bush planting, garden plans, sweaty, sunburned and never happier from swinging a hammer and getting that fence up to provide our own food. These office folk think I’m nuts until I bring in a dozen fresh eggs and fresh veggies!

  • chiotsrun says:

    Reminds me of that quote: “Some people are so poor all they have is money”. Sounds like you are a very rich man indeed!

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