There are plenty of days here that slip by without visitors, phone calls or trips off the farm. But yesterday was not one of those days. Rolling out of bed at 6 am, I fixed coffee and fired up the computer. One of my first tasks daily is to compile a to-do list: what needs to get done, what supplies or groceries are needed, and what we will have for dinner when I’m fixing (This is my list, after all). That task done, I dedicated an hour to reading (Still slogging through the history of debt), began preparing a brine to corn brisket and tongue for a dinner next Saturday, and did my critical stretching before tackling farm life for another day.
Then began the onslaught. Eighteen-year-old Shannon showed up promptly at 8:30 to work. Most Saturdays she helps with assorted chores—cleaning buckets, pulling weeds. I assigned her tasks and marked them off the list. Once I completed the livestock feeding, I took a cattle panel, pulled it into a circle and fastened the ends together. This would serve as a new compost bin for the next project.
About that time Craig showed up. He and I had corresponded about farming and mushroom foraging, and upon my invitation he had come out for a work day on the farm. (I think Aunt Polly still has a fence to be whitewashed, if any of you are interested.) We got started cleaning out a sheep stall, deep in soiled hay and manure. That hay went into the new compost bin.
As we were finishing, our neighbor from two valleys away, Tim, stopped by to drop off a borrowed item. An orchid grower himself, he was on his way to an orchid giveaway in Knoxville, and in a hurry. He hung out for half an hour before departing. Tim, although a native of Chicago, has taken to a slower life on the Tennessee farm he owns with his brother. He gets a ferocious amount of work done–but all in good time, my man.
Craig and I moved onto clearing a fenceline for a new sheep fence. The farm’s master plan calls for cross-fencing and predator-proofing the old barn pasture, about three acres. Clearing the brambles was the first important step. Figuring the tractor and the bush hog would speed the job, I went back up hill. Cindy was busy talking with Andrew and Amanda. Andrew conducted a pruning workshop last December and will repeat the exercise next month. They stayed for an hour or so.
I went back to help Craig with the fencing, but after just minutes, was summoned back up the hill to greet Whitey. A forestry professor with an avid interest in mushroom foraging, he had volunteered to lead a mushroom hunt here next weekend. Today was a chance to survey the woods in advance. I called Craig, who was diligently clearing fence rows in my absence, and sent him off into the woods with Whitey. They returned with a three-pound lion’s mane mushroom, a real prize for gourmets, and a pound or two of small puffballs. Meanwhile, Cindy was meeting with our roofer to discuss a chimney leak and I was grabbing lunch before the Baptists descended onto the farm.
The Baptists have caravanned from North Carolina every year for the past 7-8 years. They come to learn about farming for upcoming missionary trips. They are always polite and interested in our work and I look forward to their annual visit. Soon five vans and cars pulled into the barn area and unloaded an assortment of adults and children. Cindy went up to the house to bake hoagy buns for supper.
The next couple of hours were spent walking them over the farm. We covered the past successes and failures of the year. The tour is a standard bit, but it is nonetheless always exhausting. A couple of hours later, after Cindy and a guest finished exchanging bread recipes, we waved goodbye and headed to the house.
Cindy joined me for an early cup of coffee and we headed to town for much needed supplies and groceries. Back home Cindy finished baking her bread and then returned to the workshop. She is building a pine-and-poplar kitchen cupboard, doors on the bottom, glassed-in cabinets on top. I think I added some sugar to five gallons of muscadine wine and did little else until dinner.
We set our clocks back and fell asleep early.