Rootedness & Becoming One with the Earth

Humbly laughing at themselves Red Tail Ring stood in our barn and began to strum, pick and sing. Their voices are “earthy”, others say “as swift and clear as a mountain stream”. Their clever and care-filled lyrics were as fresh as this week’s salad greens and romanesco cauliflower! But the depth of joy, loss and wonder the audience of neighbors, farmers from nearby and guests from Boston and Williston enjoyed Sunday was complex, weighty and lasting. Like the week’s bulky harvests of storage carrots, beets, leeks and celeriac, nicely sweetened by recent cold nights, washed and tucked away in the walk-in. When it comes to Michael and Laurel and their old-time-minded music, it ties us closer – to bliss and loss, to the land and each other, to humanity and our ancestors.

Someplace in the mix of roasting the pig and pumpkins for the farm fresh tacos, and boiling the beets for red velvet brownies; we slipped into Montpelier for the premier of Samantha Muilenberg’s short kids film featuring our farm. Proud God-mother Sylvia and her partner Nina hosted Sam, her crew and us farmers for supper and stimulating conversation. We were also treated to a glimpse of the latest web-based material Nina has produced for the recently launched Wake Up to Dying Project.

One idea stands out from the rich collection of audio on the site which builds up from the simple question “What would happen if we paid more attention to the fact that we die?” The image that stuck with me was a story about a farmer who comprehended that dying was the highest privilege. Death is when one becomes soil, the medium for more life, future life.

This was comforting. We had spit roasted a pig that day. Moreover, we had facebooked images of that process. This brought forward a full range of responses from “ouch” to “full circle!” Full circle feels right. And brushing face to face with this exciting awareness campaign that day made clearer the obvious connection between facing mortality and humanely raised meat.

I wish the theme came to a full stop here. But on Monday afternoon we got a call from Bill Billings, the brother of Bruce who raised our four new goats (old blog) with his wife Trudy. Bill and Bruce had visited the farm earlier in the week and helped us move animals. Bill delivered the shocking news that Bruce had died suddenly Sunday of a heart attack while tending his chickens at the altogether too young age of 52. We can’t stop thinking about Trudy and their families.

Last week word had come that Mari’s Uncle Jaxon had died. But Jaxon was in his mid 80s and his passing doesn’t haunt in the same way. But it equally reminds us to hold close to each other!

Our farm logo depicts hoofprints and footprints. They are a bit light,

though vibrant, trying to convey our intent to tread lightly, always remembering our neighbors (human and otherwise) and leaving the land more capable for the future, not less as with most of modern industrial agriculture. Feel your feet on the ground. Dig in and be rooted!

Celebrate the spirit of Bruce, others you have lost and those dear and living, and even the pigs and goats and all they continue to contribute.

Red Tail Ring has a song on their new album, The Heart’s Swift 

FootSuffer Every Sound. It speaks of slowly peeling away the layers of grief to promote healing and find what is still fresh and full of life inside.