Curious Hearts

Candle Balloons over the wedding tent. Photo by Corey Conant
 "There’s a common misunderstanding among all the human beings who have ever been born that the best way to live is to try to avoid pain and just try to get comfortable. A much more interesting, kind, adventurous, and joyful approach to life is to begin to develop our curiosity, not caring whether the object of our inquisitiveness is bitter or sweet." -Pema Chodron

Over the weekend, RM's youngest sister and her beau tied the knot. The reception was held here at the farm under a magnificent tent. The bride was radiant, the weather was spectacular, the food was delectable, and the crowd consisted of all the family's nearest and dearest. It was an absolutely wonderful affair.

As night fell on the farm, dozens of candle balloons were released into the sky, sending up a message of joy, hope, and remembrance to the bride's best friend, who passed away in a tragic car accident several years ago. I can only imagine how many hours those two girls spent discussing their futures together, and how difficult it was for the bride to keep on living after such a huge loss. This tribute was such a touching way to celebrate the beginning of the couple's life together, and honor the formative girlhood friendship that shaped the bride into the woman she is today. The balloons reached up into the sky, over the mountains, and towards the moon before gently fading away. I have never seen anything so magical.

This was a wedding with a certain depth not often found among the heaps of crinoline and frosting flowers that define many nuptials. So much love, but also loss. So much happiness, but also moments of sorrow. That's what life offers us, if we are open to living it. What better way to start a marriage?

The reception tent, with the barns in the background. Our house is in the far left corner of the photo. Photo by Corey Conant.

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Chicken Wordplay


Every now and then, here on the farm, I have one these amazing moments of etymological discovery - when all of a sudden, some word or trite expression I've used countless times makes sense in a completely new way. When you think about it, so many of our everyday adages have agricultural origins. Take for instance...

"Against the grain"
"Make hay when the sun shines!"
"An axe to grind"
"Putting the cart before the horse"
"The cream of the crop"

...and on and on.
It got me wondering just how many of the phrases we use everyday are derived from the farm. Can you think of any? I'd love to make a list. Help me out by adding them in the comment field below.

My new chickens have really underscored this farm-phrase origin issue.  A few weeks ago RM surprised me with a small flock for my birthday. (He also got me a massage at Stowe and took me out to dinner -- now that's a man who understands my range!) It's been so much fun collecting their eggs, and observing their funny little mannerisms and the truisms they represent...

Turns out sometimes chickens can be terribly excitable, fretful creatures...in other words, big fat chickens. When the young rooster tries to cut the dominant hen off at the feeder, he will inevitably be hen-pecked. That big hen really rules the roost! But she can also be a gentle, nurturing, cooing creature...the typical mother hen. And when my feisty little terrier sneaks in the coop, they all run around like chickens with their heads cut off (even though, thankfully, they are fully intact).  Even after all the feed is gone, they'll be searching around furiously for chicken scratch. And don't even get me started on chicken shit....

I wonder if any of my English professors would be pleased to see me using my degree to decode chicken cliches?
(Help me make a list of expressions derived from farm life! Please leave any you can think of in the comments field below.)

For those interested in learning more about keeping chickens, I'd definitely recommend the book Keeping Chickens, with Ashley English.  Ashley's Homemade Living books and her blog, Small Measure, have kept me entertained and inspired as I've waded through many of my rural adventures, and chicken husbandry has been no exception. Her writing is witty, and her book designs are uncommonly chic among the other dowdy Ag books on my shelf. Check her out!

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After Irene



The flood waters have receded, and we've had a few days to assess the crop damage from Tropical Storm Irene. The more we learn, the worse it gets.  The corn is coated in a thick layer of dried mud and silt, and there's really nothing that can be done. You can't feed cows dirty corn. What now? R&D have spent many weary hours trying to figure it out.

We are so grateful no people or animals were injured, but the mud hangs on the plants like the nagging sadness weighing on our hearts for all the time, effort, and money lost as a result of this storm. I've seen photos of other farms that were hit worse than ours, and my heart aches for those families. We are so lucky our barns weren't damaged and our animals stayed safe. But we still have a big problem on our hands.

I was telling a friend from college about the storm today, and was struggling to explain what it's been like. The best I could come up with was this: You know that awful feeling you get when your computer crashes and you realize you haven't saved your work? This is like crashing while writing the final paragraph of your thesis.

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