After finishing Arlo Crawford's memoir A Farm Dies Once a Year, I found myself wanting to quit my desk job and do something that involves working with my hands. The book details Crawford's decision to leave his city life to help out on his parents' farm in rural Pennsylvania. To my surprise, the narrative is as much a curious look at the intricacies of organic farming as it is a rich, poignant portrait of Crawford's family and their relationship to the land and their neighbors. (On top of moving to the country, A Farm also gave me the urge to call my mom and tell her how much I appreciate her.)
If that's not enticing enough, Crawford was kind enough to share a handful of photos of his parents' farm and a few words to go along with them.
These pictures are different than what most people expect when they think "farm," but I love how still and solitary they are. For me, the most distinctive part of growing up on our farm was how isolated and quiet it could be, and how separate it felt from the outside world. The beauty in February is less conventional, but it's also unadorned and bone-deep.
My father turned out to be a hugely important part of the book, and people always ask me how he's reacted, partly because the farm is such an intensely personal project for him. He was wary of trusting someone else to describe it, and we both look a little dour in this picture, but in the end he was proud and happy. It's a real testament to his character that he was able to set aside his feelings and respect the book as my own document of the place.
That's my mother in the background, picking some sage for dinner. She's always spent a huge amount of time working in the greenhouse, being alone, listening to the radio. In the winter it's warm and humid, and it smells like soil and things growing. It's a little pool of summer captured in the expanse of all that frozen land.
This is one of our dogs, Okra, being joyful. I've never been on a farm that didn't have at least a few dogs, and they're really essential to the enterprise. On a hot summer day, when there are endless rows of basil and tomatoes to pick, they take always take the time to flop in the creek or lie in the tall grass to gnaw an ear of corn. Even with all the beauty surrounding you on a farm, sometimes you need a dog to remind you to stop and take a little pleasure in it.
We have 200 chickens living in a coop down below our house, and they eat like kings. These guys are currently snacking on kale and butternut squash"”whatever's left over after the last farmers' market on Sunday. Chickens also go crazy when they see a broken egg. They LOVE to eat broken eggs. It's a little creepy.