Dear friends and customers of North Mountain Pastures,
'Community Cure' by Brooks, written April 24
It all started with some really old kitchen cabinets. When we moved into our home after buying a farm (and having a baby on the same day) seven years ago, we knew our kitchen was not our ideal kitchen. It was a gift from a friend who had the cabinets sitting in their barn and it worked for us after a little paint job. We got a sink on Craigslist and some cheap light fixtures, and had a friend build us butcher block countertops, and we were in business.
I was at the end of my rope renovating an old log home and trying to run our farm and business, and Anna was nursing and hauling a chubby angel and her big semi-helpful brother around the farm and garden while living across the street from the farm. In her spare time, she continued to help run our business, checking the brooder, going to market with Leila in a sling, and feeding our family with the most nourishing meals you can imagine from an unusual apartment kitchen.
But we finally moved in! and our kitchen served us well for seven years, although we live in the Bermuda triangle of dishwashers. until one day recently we learned that our cabinets and our basement were full of mold. The particle board in the cabinets and some old countertops in the basement were the culprits, so new cabinets were in store.
Much debate ensued about whether this was a temporary fix or 'our final kitchen.’ I wanted to be done with renovations so I could farm! In the end, we agreed on having our stainless steel fabricator (who builds our processing and field equipment) build some stainless steel shelves that would hold some poured concrete countertops: clean and simple and budget friendly. Anna drew up plans, I started building countertop forms, and the kitchen was beginning to look like a reality!
For tearout days, Anna and the kids headed to her parents place to avoid the mold and construction residue. I donned my respirator and cracked some beers with my best home renovation pal and got the space cleared, sanded, and prepped for new lighting and counters. while I built a plumbing and electrical chase out of our old barn door, i had a friend go to work sanding the stairs. might as well get everything done now so we’re DONE for good, I thought. well, just as I finished the light fixture and was excited to show Anna and the kids my progress, Anna got home, realized we had sanded the stairs, and 8 months pregnant, had the sense to be aware that we had probably just sanded lead paint. ugh...so much work now felt like we had worked against ourselves.
Talk about being at the end of your rope...with no research on the subject, and knowing I was leaving for LA the next day, I taped up all furniture and shelves and literally pressure washed the entire house. it wasn’t enough, though, and our lead tests came back positive.
I went to LA, attended the Wim Hof method advanced training and deepened my relationship with my body and mind. More importantly, though, I had a renewed sense of our need for social support, positive feedback and emotional understanding. While there, our only remaining intern and full time help called to tell me he was having health issues and would have to leave the farm.
Since returning home 3 days ago, I’ve been living alone in my house beginning the work of lead abatement, while my wife and kids are supported by so many of our favorite people - for sleepovers, meals, rides, etc.
Going into spring on a farm, 8 months pregnant, with 3 kids, and a trip across the country is a lot. But with our intern leaving, it looks like now I’ll be doing all the production work solo again! On top of that, our regular butchering crew moved on last year and we’re training a whole new crew.
It's been stressful to say the least. This last week has made me question my priorities, my job, whether farming can really pay if we’re always barely scraping by, why I have to often work 16 hour days just to make our business and farm work. But right now I feel grateful. If people really value the food we grow this much, then it is worth it. And if that's true, then the food we grow builds community and brings people closer together. And that reminded me that Anna and I are the closest when we're sharing and eating a meal together. And not when everything is easy and perfect, but when we've been through hard times together and come through better on the other side.
I had braised an oxtail and a beef tongue the night before, so as Anna brought the kids home from jiu jitsu and it Carlisle delivery, I assembled a mix of that stew, bacon, carrots and celery, and leftover potatoes and greens from Anna’s previous meal. I set a table in the butcher shop, made it nice and toasty with the propane heater, and toasted some bread. She came in and said, "it smells like home!". The whole family sat down, and the meal filled us as much as our love for each other. We all felt how it was our food that mattered, as that was what restored our purpose, energy, and perseverance to keep us going. And it is our time spent together around the food that made our family feel connected and safe. We all are growing, changing, confused, focused, stressed, happy, disappointed, and attempting to understand life as it hurtles toward us everyday seemingly at random. But if we stop to sip the stew, the healing takes over.
P.S. We will be postponing the Farm Visiting Day, previously announced as May 12 so that we can be better hosts. Stay tuned for a final date.
Join the Meat CSA here.