Inkling, the shyest of the free-range cats, is coming around more, eating kibbled cat food with the others, and getting used to the presence of humans. It helps that Emilie is outside so much, quietly friendly to cats.
Greg stayed up late last night reading Joel Salatin’s excellent books, You Can Farm and Pastured Poultry Profits. This morning he went alone to the home site, while I stayed behind to catch up on some housework and Daniel worked on his knives.
To power the bench grinder and other tools out in his shack, Daniel runs an extension cord from the screened porch. The shack is not wired for electricity, but it seems like just about everyplace else around here is. The carport has four outlets, and in the dirt yard there is one mounted on some PVC running alongside the trunk of a tree. It is a fire marshal’s nightmare.
For hours Daniel stayed in his shack, grinding away. During a lull, while waiting for his blade to cool, he came inside and offered to sharpen kitchen knives. I gave him several, and he returned them to me with new edges.
Later, he had a little accident with the sander, and came in the house with the side of his hand scraped and bleeding. The sight of the wound gave me a turn. The affected flesh was white, and at first I thought he had scraped all the way down to the white tissue that surrounds the muscle. Happily, this was not the case. He had merely removed the top layer of skin, which is very brown, and exposed his dermis, which looked especially pale compared to the rest of his hand.
I made an herbal wound wash from an infusion of comfrey, plantain, rosemary, St. John’s wort, and thyme, and followed up with a poultice of the same herbs plus slippery elm bark.
Now that the kitchen is no longer swarming with ants, I am starting some kombucha. This is a lacto-fermented beverage of ancient origin, very refreshing and nutritious. Anna has been making the kombucha for our family for over a year now. We also started some lemon ice today with milk and cream from Stryk’s Dairy Farm.
Clover, Anna’s guinea pig, died today. She was five years old. Most of her life was spent in the company of her sister, Emilie’s guinea pig, Tutti-Frutti, who died a few months back. The pigs were lovable and entertaining pets. When they were especially happy, they would make a high-pitched whistling noise: “Wheek! Wheek! Wheek!” Through our association with these animals, we learned a word that was new to us: thigmotactile. An animal that is thigmotactile is one which likes to cuddle with others of its kind. Guinea pigs are thigmotactile; that is why we had two instead of one.
Lately I have been rereading Little House in the Ozarks: the Rediscovered Writings, a compilation of about 150 articles and essays written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, prior to her “Little House” series, between the years of 1911 and 1924. (This book should not be confused with Roger MacBride’s Little House in the Ozarks, a somewhat fictionalized account of the girlhood of Laura’s daughter Rose.) Laura and Almanzo left the drought-ravaged Dakota prairies when Rose was about seven and settled on a farm in Missouri, where they remained the rest of their lives. For many years Laura had a regular column in The Missouri Ruralist. The personal essays she wrote then are now compiled in this volume.
These writings of Laura’s are of particular interest to me just now. Her reminiscences of her and Almanzo’s early days on their Missouri farm have some striking parallels to our current situation, particularly their disillusionment with the place and situation they’d left behind, their hopes for a healthier, genuinely prosperous life for their family, and the need of the Missouri land for some serious work of reclamation. Besides the personal parallels, I am struck by the contemporary nature of many of Laura’s topics: deforestation, abuse of farmland, excessive packaging of consumer goods, sustainable farming practices, the benefits of home schooling for young children, and environmentally-friendly building materials, to name only a few. Remember, these essays were all written prior to the 1930s. Laura even touches on the topic of “free trade” (though of course she doesn’t call it that), challenging the assumptions, common even then, that food should be cheap and farmers should not aspire to a lifestyle beyond a subsistence level.
This evening Emilie told Greg how much she and Anna like the house we’re living in. It has been surprising how easily our family of five has managed to live in so little space (750 square feet, not counting Daniel’s sleeping porch).