Talk to Strangers

Last week I was invited to a Barn Blessing.  I had never been to one, and so of course accepted the invitation.  The barn belongs to M. –  someone I’d just met a few weeks earlier and spoken to for all of about 15 minutes.  This was all the time I needed to find out she had left a field she’d been in for quite some time (medicine) to try her hand at something new (teaching and farming).

Farming?  Oh how fun!  I had just finished listening to Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle about living on local food for an entire year.  I’d also started frequenting my local farmers market more often.  And so I felt that M. came into my life at just the right time.  Though I don’t have the property to start my own farm, it’s a perfectly good time to do some research into how it’s done…just in case:)

Renaissance Souls do this a lot – look into something just to test the waters.  They may not be able to go in full force, and many times they don’t want to.  We just want to try it out.  And M. was giving me this opportunity.

When I asked if I could see her farm and help her out on it, she invited me to her Barn Blessing and said I could come earlier to help set up.

I arrived at her home this past Saturday an hour before festivities were to begin.  I joined her in the kitchen (my most favorite room in anyone’s house – especially if I’m helping them cook), and started chopping apples.  But these weren’t just any apples.  They were heirloom apples from Montgomery Place – a local historic site that sells the produce from their orchards.  These were the best tasting apples I’d ever had.  She wasn’t sure the variety, but as soon as she said “heirloom” I knew they had to be good.

Back in the day, when most people got their food from their own farms or at least from their local area, there were oodles of varieties of apples (and tomatoes, and squash and….you get the idea).  But nowadays, what we buy in the supermarket are just a few varieties that are bred specifically for certain traits – namely high productivity, resistance to pests and ability to withstand the machines used to pick them, for example.  Note that they are not necessarily bred for taste!

You won’t find heirloom varieties in the supermarket.  But you will find them at your local farmers market, and they are worth every penny!

M. encouraged me to eat as many apples as I wanted and I graciously accepted. As I chopped, M. and I talked about the difficulties in leaving a profession for which you were groomed.

“People asked me what I would do with myself – as if the only thing I could do was be a doctor,” she explained.  I knew where she was coming from.  I went to school to be a physical therapist.  When I wanted to switch majors, numerous people said, “But it was so competitive to get into the program – why would you want to leave?”

“Just because it was competitive to get in doesn’t mean I’m going to like it,” I responded.  People just didn’t understand.

Well, M. took the leap.  She found a life coach to help her through the transition and is now, like me, an adjunct at a local college (where we met).  She also has a farm with sheep, llamas and chickens.

After I was finished chopping (and eating) the delicious heirloom apples, M. tossed me out of the kitchen to go take a look at her farm.  The barn was beautifully decorated with mums.  Hay bales were circled around one end upon which we could sit and listen to the four piece band.

The two llamas were inseparable.  They’d look you right in the eyes, close enough to your face to kiss you, but if you lifted a hand to pet them, they’d turn away.  The sheep and chickens couldn’t have cared less for the crowd of 60 around them.  They puttered around feeding on the grass and hay.

Guests continued to arrive with bountiful dishes full of great food.  We ate, drank, and made merry.  We gathered for the barn blessing, and then continued on with the merriment.  It was a quintessential fall day in the Northeast – our whole gathering was framed by the yellow, red, and green leaves of the surrounding trees.

As things quieted down, M. invited me back any morning to help her muck out stalls and feed the animals.  I plan on taking her up on her offer and you’ll be sure to hear about it.

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