Sunday, August 1, 2010

City Girl Visits the Farm

Yesterday I spent 7 hours canning peaches by hand with my friend Emily.  She and her family own a farm about an hour away, and they rent another farm near there as well.  I've spent my whole life in the city, so traveling out to the countryside and volunteering at the farms a few times every summer is a novelty for me.  And their land is in such a beautiful area, with lakes and woods and lush, lush greenery for miles.  It's like a deep cleansing for my parking lot-weary eyes.

We worked mostly at the rented farm, which has the most happily-situated little cottage on it.  Here's the driveway:

And the back yard:

For supper we joined the rest of her family at the regular farm.  Here's the side porch:

And the driveway:

And the den:

Supper included fish, beef, potatoes, cucumber salad, cauliflower with cheese, and corn on the cob, and while everyone dug in, I felt like the silliest, wimpiest city girl when I had to cut the corn off my cobs because of my braces.  But it was still extremely tasty.  Nearly everything on that table was home-grown and made from scratch.  Afterwards we went out to water the pigs and feed them the dinner scraps:

One of the hogs was very skilled at puckering his lips and drinking the water right from the hose:

They even had a palomino Shetland pony and two little beehive towers, covered with undulating gobs of bees.  I've seen apiaries on TV and I've always thought them terrifying and strange, but yesterday when I first saw them in real life, the steady hum of the bees was purely hypnotic.  I couldn't help but walk right up to them.  They weren't scary at all, and I could have stood there watching them all afternoon.  But, we had to get back and finish canning the peaches. 

Most people dislike canned fruit, but Emily pointed out that there is a big difference between factory-canned fruit, which is hard, pale, and bitter, and home-canned fruit, which is dark, wholesomely sweet, and buttery soft.  I tried a few raw slivers and indeed, these peaches were AMAZING.

We finished around 9pm:

Emily has long wanted to escape the backbreaking farm life.  She's traveled to Europe more than once and will soon be a licensed English and arts teacher, and this is where we have a lot in common, along with our love of antiques and our difficulties in finding tolerable careers.  On the ride home we chatted about the details of bean planting.

"Do you ever worry that all this knowledge will go to waste if you leave the farm?" I asked.

Her hands were steady on the wheel.  "I think that's why I've struggled so much with leaving.  At the farm, I have a certain role within the family and I'm in my element and I know what I'm doing.  Whereas in the studio arts and the fine arts, I've worked on and perfected my talents, but it feels like success is behind a curtain and I just can't reach it.  It's like walking into a brick wall."

I understood her completely. 

I know how to work minimum wage retail jobs in the city.  I know what I'm doing when dealing with arrogant middle-managers and endless lines of screaming, condescending customers.  I know how to sell useless junk to the public to make thousands or millions for some CEO I've never met, because I've been doing that since I was 15.  I've been perfecting my skills to leave retail, but real success (and by that I mean making a living wage) seems like this foreign, weird, faraway thing that I'll probably never reach.   

But out in the country, beauty is everywhere and all of that garbage seems superficial and laughable.