Maine, part one: the farm

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I ended the first leg of my journey the way I started it: by sprinting to a bus/train and only barely making the bus/train. I actually can’t remember the last time I haven’t sprinted to a train. Whoops.

Slacked off on blogging duties because of other deadlines and it was too beautiful out all the time, so I have a fair amount to catch up on. Here we go.

I left the farm last Saturday and miss it terribly. I almost cried looking at organic potatoes in a store in Yarmouth last weekend. Alas, I’ll be back up there eventually.

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Blue Hill Peninsula is kind of my ideal climate and environment. Rocky beaches, lots of trees, ocean, small farms, cute towns. It also breeds and welcomes a lot of artists, pacifists and revolutionaries. Scott and Helen Nearing, homesteaders extraordinaire and authors of The Good Life, lived in Brooksville where they created a self-sustaining homestead and were total ballers. I hadn’t read much about them before, but I got the chance to read some of their book. I especially like this quote from Scott Nearing that I read in a profile on him, in which he was asked what the single most important piece of advice he could give a young person today would be:

Scott answered without hesitation: Be true to yourself. That is make up your mind, or perhaps better, make up your spirit. Decide on what you want to be, how you want to live. Decide on the ideals and principles you wish to follow. Then constantly measure and judge yourself against that standard. If you are not doing it justice, change how you are living. Be true to yourself!

Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman of Four Season Farm, pioneers of the organic gardening movement, also lived down the road (pretty much everyone in Brooksville is down the road because there are like five major roads).

Life on a small farm was relaxed punctuated by periods of good, dirty work. During my time there I picked beans, picked kale, picked chard, prepped the farm stand, hauled and stacked wood, harvested seaweed, spread vermicompost, grass clippings, and comfrey leaves, made pesto, soup, salsa, and sauerkraut, dug for potatoes, blanched and prepped kale, broccoli, and beans for the winter, spread mulch, spread hay, helped build a chicken coop, took Maggie the dog for walks, chased Marty the chicken, picked flowers, volunteered at the animal sanctuary, cleaned bunnies’ cages, met an awesome pig.

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It was extremely nice to have breaks, lunch and dinner all together and have conversations about root cellars, radical politics and how to catch a porcupine over meals of vegetables that we picked that morning. I ate very well, certainly more food than I normally ever eat. I also gained a newfound respect for tea as I drank more of it in two weeks than I have all year.

I wasn’t sure how well I would acclimate to non-city life, but I enjoyed almost every aspect. Instead of going out to dinner all the time, you have potlucks or big shared meals. Entertainment involves open mics in barns or at the local bar, and there’s generally lots of good music everywhere. You wake up early and go to sleep early. Lots of animals and walks and bike rides and good food. It’s hard to complain.

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I  tried  not to romanticize farming much, but it’s hard when to me it’s all very romantic. Working the land, raising seedlings to harvest, taking care of animals. But even just flipping through a few gardening books, I get overwhelmed with knowledge and details and stuff I never even thought to think about. It’s a lot of work and a lot of organization and planning and decision making. It’s also why I like talking to farmers . They often tend to be hard-working, very intelligent, easy-going people.

I’ll be staying on several other farms on this journey (I imagine) so will be interesting to see how the experiences compare.

General thoughts:

–I am surprised at how easy it is, for now at least, to not have a home and not feel freaked out about what I’m going to do after November. It feels good. I’m really excited about everything all the time, except when I have minor panic attacks.

–”Woods queer” is a special (Mainer?) phrase for cabin fever.

–Community radio is the best. I hardly ever listen to radio (‘cept for Morning Edition or WMBR on my phone) because I don’t usually drive so I forgot how 95% of all radio stations are complete crap. Up in Blue Hill though, they have WERU, a 25-year-old community radio station whose first benefactor was Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul, and Mary. I found some kind of station in Portland, which seemed split between Bluegrass and college radio. I think it’s important to listen to these stations every once in a while instead of Spotify playlists/iTunes/Pandora etc. 24/7.

–I have not had a pumpkin-spiced coffee or cider donuts yet. One of these things is not OK.

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2 comments

  1. Having grown up in a small city surrounded by farms and open space, I often find myself forgetting how much I miss the beauty and simplicity of it all. Thanks for a brief reminder.

    1. I think if we all spent an hour in the woods or fields every day, we’d all be happier and healthier.

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