“When are you going to get the goats?” asks 6-year-old Hansel, again, from next door. It’s the question that must be answered — everyone we take on the Tour de Farmlet asks it — and I’m still fumbling with my answer. We’ve been working on getting goats and chickens for 2 years now, but the truth is that we have no timeline. No business plan, just long hours. The Farmlet is a way to have fun and love each other ’til we die. Why rush it? The Bearded One likes to say, “I don’t care if we ever get critters. I just wanted to build a barnyard.”
Maybe it’s because this is such a hot, divided, gritchy summer for so many people, many of whom are sweating over money. Maybe it’s because I’m leaving on a road trip — all I want to talk about is how to love each other better. Somewhere I read that there are 5 ways people give and receive love: Gifts, Touch, Time, Words, and Food. All of those seem to me to be about this place.
First stop, the sweet peas. My sister-in-law and her cousin, both women I’ve known for over 30 years now, are here and we’re standing next to the sweet pea teepee talking about another woman we all loved who died. I cut them each a bouquet, a Gift. We breathe in the scent and the memories.
Second stop, the corn and pole beans. My experiment in companion planting. The pole beans give nitrogen back to the soil that the corn leeches, and the corn provides the stalk for the beans to climb. They cling and wind and Touch all summer long.
Ruby the Golden Retriever and Garfield have begun a whole new world of Touching since Ditto the temporary enemy cat showed up (2 more weeks!) Ruby rolls over and smashes Garfield flat. He doesn’t even move. They nap together. They tour the yard together. Touch, touch, touch.
Third, the recently transplanted cabbage into the strawberry hill. My experiment in crop rotation. The strawberries needed cleaning out, and the young cabbage plants needed thinning. Now all they need is Time. Time to set their roots, long days in the sun to grow and fill the space. I feel loved mainly through Time together. The Bearded One and I had a lot of time apart. We still miss each other a little.
For the fourth stop, through the gate and back up the hill (we are always walking uphill…), past the root cellars on the right and onto the path to the chicken house where the Bearded One is devoting his considerable tool skills to all things chicken. He is good with Words — he is Farmlet’s Editor ‘n Cheep. He is also the stick man artist and has been busy in the chicken house with his markers.
Last stop, back to the house for lunch. This is a big way I show love. Like my Grandma Milly, whose memorial service I’m attending in Montana as you read this, I cook meals and give jars of jam to everyone. Food is how she showed her love. I don’t think that’s how she received it, though. She was never that impressed with my baked goods. She much preferred a phone call or letter.
I rummage through the freezer, past the ice packs the Bearded One keeps in there for his neck and whatever other owie he has at the time, past the frozen muffins and burritos and cheesecake I’ve cooked for him while I’m away, to the ice tray. We’re having chicken soup, open-faced basil- tomato-and- mozzarella sandwiches, and cheesecake with red huckleberry jam, but first the iced tea.
Just then the Bearded One hobbles in. He has hurt his left foot, and he can’t put any weight on it. “Poor sweet baby,” I say, Words he loves to hear. I Touch his face. And then I get him an ice pack and crutches. “So much for having the chickens here before you get back,” he says, revealing the toxic timeline that doomed him. He’s been pushing hard. He never should have tried a plan.