Saturday, August 29, 2009

Farm Camp

This past week I’ve been in Fennville MI, visiting my wife’s brother & sister-in-law, Mark & Kim. They have an acreage in the country where they homestead and also hold down full-time jobs—as nearly as that’s possible in Michigan’s seriously depressed economy. (Kim’s an automotive engineer and lately she’s been making better money selling Tupperware.)

For the second year in a row, Mark & Kim have set aside a week in August for “Farm Camp,” where friends and relations are invited—kids especially welcome—to spend as much of the week as they can experiencing the bucolic life, with events scheduled daily. There was garden work, animal care (new calves and ever-hungry chickens who looked forward with relish to every bowl of kitchen scraps that came their way), trips to the beach (Lake Michigan is just a few miles to the west), a horse drawn wagon ride, a field trip to a Michigan State University experimental dairy farm with robotic milking machines, a raku pottery firing with Grandma Kay (proprietress of Capricorn Clay in Jackson MI), and U-pick blueberries. Some days it was hard to catch your breath.

All of this was capped off Friday with a block party. Mark believes that everyone ought to have a neighborhood all-skate at least once a year, both for social relations and to nudge a person into seriously cleaning up their yard. Ma'ikwe and I got a rare chance to dance together and the DJs taught us to line dance the Electric Slide (where do they get these names?).

I thoroughly enjoyed a week of being with my wife every day. This was her one break from a summer of house construction and she was cherishing putting up peaches and blueberries for the winter ahead. Heretofore she’d had no time whatsoever for food processing, and we did tomatillo salsa, pizza sauce, peach chutney, apple-peach sauce, frozen peaches, and blueberry preserves. (Of course, living on a farm myself, if I’d been home this past week I’d have been doing food processing there—but it was a pleasure nonetheless “putting up the summer in jars” (a la Greg Brown) for others. It was especially satisfying helping Mark & Kim get current with their garden during a stretch when they were serving nonstop as hosts & tour guides.

I even had time to read a Jeffrey Deaver potboiler, and watch Kay’s Alaska slide show (she was at Denali last month).

The thing I did not have was Internet service. Mark & Kay have rigged up some kind of dial-up service to work with their laptop, but I did without. Every now and again it’s good to be reminded that the world can basically get along just fine without me being plugged in every 12 hours—though I'm girding my loin for the 100+ emails relentlessly accruing in my In Box.

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