One of the best things about small-scale farming is the kind of community that can build up around it. When you work and farm right next to where your fellow market vendors, customers and co-workers live and work, it isn't long before friendships form and ideas are exchanged, and help and support are offered and received.
We've had Farm Days off and on over the last few years- it started the year I broke my wrist in January (an encounter with a bad patch of black ice) and had to break down and accept that if we were going to have a market season at all that year, we just needed help. We put out a call, and had so many friends show up and generously spend a day weeding, chopping, planting and mulching, getting us back on track for the season. We shared good food (we are blessed to know many fantastic cooks) and good stories, and the kids got to run around like wild things, pick daffodils and poke around in the creek.
We've also had a few bonfires- there is something just so primal and satisfying about setting a huge pile of debris on fire, especially when it largely consists of blackberry vines. I know, I know, it screws up our whole carbon footprint thing, but we do our best to offset this every day, I promise. Plus it is a great excuse to make homemade marshmallows and graham crackers and eat the best s'mores ever. Although after eating just one, you kind of have to go lie down and recover.
So this year, when I was scrambling to figure out what to do for Packy's birthday, which falls at this time of year when I am so consumed with transplanting and weeding and mulching and planting that he is lucky if he gets a homemade cake, I had a last minute thought- we'd have a Farm Day, ON his birthday, AND set fire to the huge pile of debris that had been collecting in the 'to be burned' pile in the pasture.
The cold, rainy, gloomy weather we had been stuck with for the last few weeks hung on until about 10:30 that morning, pelting us with one last shower of hail before breaking up and heading East. The sun managed to break through, friends showed up bearing some truly delicious food and drink, and all were amazingly eager to work- so eager that I had to ring the dinner bell and go out and roust them to come in and partake of the amazing meal that was laid out.
There was a lot of laughing, way too much sugar consumed, a great keg of Sunrise Oatmeal Pale Ale supplied by the Fabulous Fort George Brewery (we love you, guys!) and possibly one of the best Spontaneous Combustible Art Moments I have had the good fortune to participate in.
I'm not sure whose idea it was. There was a decrepit rocking chair sitting there, waiting it's turn to go on the bonfire. Someone commented that we needed a effigy to sit in the chair while it burned, and I think it was Martin who piped up, "Old Man Winter! We need to Burn Old Man Winter!" Given that we had all been suffering through the most wretched month of cold rain and sleet, the idea of burning Winter Personified was tremendously appealing to us all, and after a bit of creative scrounging around, suddenly sitting there in the chair was a cobbled together Old Man Winter. The final touch was shoving one of the bundles of flash powder (that the crew from Lance's Farm Vittles had brought Packy as a birthday gift) into Mr. Winter's head.
It was all SO satisfying.
Old Man Winter, aka Burning (Chair) Man
Taking advantage of Old Man Winter's slow ignition to roast
just a few more marshmallows....
And do you know, the last two days have been Truly Beautiful- clear, sunny and warm, the first two days this year where it has actually felt like Spring.
So maybe it worked, after all.
We are already thinking about Burning (Chair) Man 2010....