Farming, Money



So just a few days following my uncharitable comments regarding those who capitulate to their innate cowardice and flee the heart of Vermont winter like sad little rats slinking into the protective shadows, I found myself wanting, more than anything, to get the hell out. Just a day or two, and it didn’t even have to be somewhere warm… just somewhere different (at my lowest point, even New Hampshire would have sufficed), somewhere where an inch of rain wasn’t about to fall from the sky, bringing ruination to my daily ski and painting the whole damn place with an ugly brush. Everywhere, piles of cow shit and dog crap and all the small bits of detritus we never got around to picking up in November. There’s nothing like a hard rain in January to make our little farm feel dingy and ragged and sad, like some bassakwards, backwoods hovel where the father spends his days in a sprung recliner, intermittently snoozing off the prior evenings drunk and raving about the gubmint, while the wife stirs a pot of rendering lard on the cookstove and the children run feral through the woods, trapping and skinning small, fur-bearing animals. Wait a second…

As feared, I awoke this morning to transformation; the bulk of our pasture is now bereft of snow, and while there is a sort of crumpled, maudlin beauty to the faded browns that dominate the landscape, it felt as if I carried the weight of all that rain on my shoulders. I got the woodstove hummin’, made coffee, and shucked into my jacket for chores, the whole time wishing, pathetically, that we’d made so many different choices, choices that would have afforded us the freedom to simply close the door behind us and leave. No animals. No wood heat. More money. And all that.

Once outside, I smelled something at once familiar and strange, and for a moment I struggled to place it. And then I knew: Earth. The ground. I fed the pigs first, then the cows, and by now the sky was light enough that from the height of our land, I could see across the valley, to the patchwork of fields and forest that comprise Morgan and Jen’s farm and Lynn and Roman’s hayfield, where in five months we’ll be mowing and tedding and raking and baling and throwing bales until we literally shake from fatigue. I know it sounds strange, but for a second, I swear I could actually feel that fatigue, the memory of it stored somewhere in my synapses, and I stood there for a moment and let myself sink into it.

And that was it. That, right there, was the escape I needed. I came in from chores with the rain pattering my shoulders and smearing into the remaining patches of snow. I landed a boot in a pile of dog shit and then, on the very next step, slipped on a patch of ice and fell on my ass. Fifteen minutes prior, it would’ve made me curse my sorry life. But now, all it did was make me laugh.






14 thoughts on “Payback”

  1. I think we probably all have experienced what you’ve just described, at least I know I have. But it’s very nice to read someone else’s description of these feelings, it’s a validation I guess of our own experiences which makes us feel a kinship, a solidarity, a connection. Thus, less alone. And don’t the bad times make the good times more appreciated.
    Such platitudes! I hope I have an original thought some time today!!

  2. We’ve all been there for your whole experience including the dog shit. I look out at my farmette with now exposed piles of rabbit doo on the garden, soggy goat pen, muddy chicken pen and a variety of things that were hiding under the snow. Ugh! Glad you are now sufficiently uplifted because your sharing uplifted me.

  3. You being a great story teller is what keeps me coming back here on a regular basis. This one hit home for me today. As I sit here at my desk wet and dirty, I try to remind myself that all the mud and filth will bring us happy green goodness in just few short months. It’s all about the little things right, and (like you said in not so many words) being able to laugh at shit.

  4. Being a Flatlander that married a VT girl whose daughters happen to be related to Morgan and Jen, I really enjoy reading your blogs. Living in NJ, I keep trying to convince my wife of the need for a simpler life in VT. For now, I will just have to make the occasional visits and live the VT life through your stories.

    1. Hey Michael,

      Thanks for the note. Small world, eh? Maybe Morgan and Jen would carve off a little slice of the farm for you.

  5. It seems like there’s an inevitable point each winter, usually by late February, when heading south, even a little bit, fills me with hope. Sometimes it’s just a drive down from New Hampshire to a beach on the north shore of Massachusetts, or further to Cape Cod. In those late days of winter, the approach of spring feels so near down there. It fills me with hope and reassurance, just to travel south a bit and have a peek of what’s ahead. So, even us city dwellers get a little closed in at this time of year. Today’s sun and wind are doing the trick, even without the drive south. And, yes, I noticed the earthy smell in the air today, too.

  6. i love this post. i can’t tell you how many times i have felt just as you described. you describe it well. but there always is a sunny tomorrow…. where it all starts growing again and i feel sooo damn lucky. thank you for your constant inspiration ben… your writing always inspires me.

  7. Love this post. When we have a morning like this one where it is warm enough to smell the dirt, all is right with my world. I also noticed this morning on my way into work that the stand of willows along the river bank had a darker mustard color to them that was not there last week. I know it is too early to hope for consistent warm weather but the signs that it is on its way are making an appearance.

  8. I can’t tell you how much we have enjoyed your writing here in our house. Sometimes when we start to question our decision to live simply, your words keep us going.

    On a winter day, there is beauty in the ordinary. Love it.

  9. Shit Unhappens! I was getting wood from a makeshift wood pile next to a makeshift burn pile when I was found myself flat on my back on the pile of boards with a nail in my butt! I laughed. I felt like I had been toss like a discarded ragdoll in some distracted mischief by a Greek God I wonder if Vermont has it own set of dieties who sit around the glass table playing a game of Shit Unhappens? I laughed all the way back to the house, and the nail hole healed just fine.

  10. Good article and right to the point. I don’t know if this is truly the best place to ask but do you guys have any thoughts on where to employ some professional writers? Thx 🙂

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