The “farm” features a lake, some canoes and kayaks, a permaculture garden, and several acres of woods in addition to a rustic four-bedroom, two-story farmhouse, an old red barn converted into an events rental, and a granary converted into a screened-in porch. We have the place to ourselves and don’t run into anyone the entire time. The grove of trees depicted in the top image is visible from the kitchen’s picture window and the dock, and it has always held a special place in my heart.
The farm is predicated on the fact that its operations are straightforward. Basement showers aren’t exactly luxurious. Even though the water is safe to drink, its sulfuric odor makes it undrinkable. The cooking space is limited, and its amenities are few. There is no access to the web or international phone calls. There is usually poor to no cell phone reception. There are no screens present. The AC isn’t working. There is no comfortable seating available. While the beds are fresh and toasty, the mattresses are quite saggy. Old and brittle, the windows need to be propped up with sticks in order to function properly.
Unfortunately, it lacks these features. What it does have is something I don’t normally encounter. When I visit the farm, I always find myself asking why I don’t just move there because of how good, how rich, and how life-giving its resources are (or somewhere like there.) I feel so at peace and connected to my core values after a visit to the farm that it motivates me to make significant adjustments to my daily life.
1. Swans. Where did you see a swan last? It’s doubtful that I would have been able to give a satisfactory response to that query before visiting the farm. However, each year the same couple is seen at the lake. When I couldn’t sleep one night last year, I went out to the dock and saw them for the first time: two figures, sitting close together on a black lake as the moon cast its glow over them. At least an hour went by while I was watching them. Beavers, a bear den, hawks, cranes, ducks, fish, and frogs are just some of the other animals that thrive here; our kids become more independent and independent-minded as they play in the dirt and sweat and even pick up a few new freckles.
2. Fire. Sure, it’s nothing more than a standard fire pit with some logs. But every night, when we gather around that fire, something extraordinary happens between us. We arrive at the farm having forgotten, just a little, what we really like about each other because, throughout the rest of the year, we accumulate a laundry list of irritations between us, as all families do. (It’s important to note that this is a particularly close family who get along famously. Since we are the only ones allowed on the farm, naturally. After a night around the fire, I find myself falling in love with these people all over again, despite the fact that we all have children who wake up at 6 in the morning. The fire is where the magic happens. When we can respect one another’s differences while also appreciating our similarities, we enter a state of reverent acceptance.
3. A sense of belonging. It’s nice to find that we share so many interests and values. We have a lot of liberal ideas and a little bit of piss and vinegar in us, and we are teachers, dreamers, artists, authors, thinkers, news critics, strivers, and growers. For the past eight years, I’ve been fortunate to call this group of people my adopted family. Honestly, it sounds too good to be true. Visiting the farm gives me a two-week high because it reminds me that I belong to these people and they belong to me, which is probably the single most important reason why I no longer feel perpetually on the verge of depression and anxiety.
4. Collective effort. The place is trashed by us. It doesn’t take long for a group of 12 people, six of whom are younger than 10, to create a massive disaster. In just one hour, the house is a disaster zone, with socks, books, papers, jars of frogs, swimming suits and wet towels, life jackets, barrettes, food, food, food, cups, utensils, bowls, dirty footprints, picked flowers, sunscreen smears on the door, and on and on. However, we all chip in to do the cooking and cleaning, and even the kids pitch in when they can. Everything moves so fast, and there’s always so much to do, but I never feel like I get very far. It seems to take more effort to clean and cook for one person than it does to do so in a large group. In my day-to-day life, group projects are rare. The farm is full of it, and every time I see it, I think about how much my life would improve if I could just keep it around all the time.