I just finished reading Goat Song by Brad Kessler. I’m a sucker for homesteading memoirs of all sorts. After failing as a chicken farmer, my plan to raise goats and make cheese are on the back burner. But, I figured if I can’t do it myself I can at least read about a guy who did.
There were a few great passages in the midst of the milking and cheese making details that I think deserve a wider audience than homesteading memoir addicts like myself for whom subtitles like “A seasonal life: A short history of herding, and the art of making cheese” are a point in the pro rather than con column of the judging a book by its cover exercise we all do.
“Wherever the notion of paradise exists, so does the idea that it was lost…We live in exile, not from Paradise but from the present. How often do we dwell there?” (Goat Song pages 127 and 131)
As a mother, I need near constant reminders to stay in the present. It’s easy to idealize the stage that just passed as easier, or lose myself in worry over stages yet to come. When I do that, I am in exile from the present and cheat myself out of the little glimpses of paradise that hide in the right now moments.
The look of satisfaction on Son’s face when he reads a whole passage without a stumble.
The way Daughter’s dimple sometimes arrives before her actual smile.
I want to dwell in those moments, not miss them because I’m exiled by nostalgia or fear.
“These mornings I tend to believe in Gandhi’s prescription; that one’s own bread labor – labor that is not for hire, that doesn’t turn into a commodity but feeds you – can enrich one’s life and lead to a kind of liberation.” (Goat Song page 129)
I used my last head of garlic from last year just weeks before harvesting this year’s crop. I had to buy a handful of heads from the grocery store, but otherwise have been my own garlic supplier for the past year. It’s a small accomplishment, but it matters to me.
On our small city lot, subsistence agriculture is not achievable. I rely on local farmers, my preserving skills and our neighborhood grocery store to supply most of our food needs. But, there is something intensely satisfying about reaping what I’ve sown. Whether a salad of greens from the planter strip, a sauce seasoned with a bay leaf from the pot by the rocking bench, or a handful of blueberries or currants from our rain garden – each bite is treasured because I cultivated it.
My “bread labor” is a few dozen heads of garlic braided and nailed to the kitchen wall. It’s not a cellar full of cheese, but I do find it enriching and a kind of liberation.