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Somebody Get This Man A Farmwife

I visited a client's home to help him plan a self-sufficient homestead. He wants to "close the gates and live inside for a year." This is rarely a realistic goal, but as Kevin and I turned down the driveway, I saw barns, ponds, and gardens surrounding great big houses and shops and auxiliary dwellings. "This might actually work!" I told Kevin.

Over the next few hours walking the property, I could see the place brimming with potential and the owner brimming with excitement. He had big dreams, but I had to level with him, because I want him to succeed and eat well.

"Listen, what you want to do here needs a tremendous amount of hand work and time, especially at the current low level of land fertility. Harvesting, threshing, canning, weeding... We're talking hours every day. That is what it takes and what it has always taken. You can do it yourself and eat very very simply, or you can work with other people and eat more deliciously. I think that is just how the biology works, and how human cultures have worked throughout time. I am not making this up."

The client was a little deflated by this. Getting along with other people is not everyone's idea of a good time. I admit that locking the gates can work for a while, but it's not a long-term strategy for a pleasant and healthy life.

My client needs a competent farmwife (of any gender). He needs a farm grandma or three. He needs kids to go pick berries. He needs an uncle who loves to fix machines and prune tomatoes.

I came home with a new appreciation for the resilient community germinating at Hawthorn Farm. I can write this essay because Clara is outside pitting cherries and drying them. Because David is cutting food for the goats, because Amiste nimbly handled the cultivator this morning while I drove Dolly the pony. Together, we accomplish more. Together, we eat better--cherries AND goat cheese AND a field ready for next year's squash. There is no gate to lock.

Subsistence living is powerful community glue. When a culture steps away from it, disintegration results. Look around. Am I making that up?


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