Wednesday, June 2, 2010


April is our month to vacation, it seems. The lambs have been born, and the crops are not massively out of control. There’s still the greenhouses to water, the animals to care for, and the threat of cold nights that require the woodstove to keep burning, but it’s not May and June planting chaos, or July haying, or August harvest. So for the third year in a row, it’s off the farm for four days to stay on the beach.

This year, we had the great fortune to stay in a little cabin on the Cape owned by a friend of Kyle’s named Dave. They used to work together, back when Kyle was the biologist for the Cape Cod National Seashore; Dave’s in charge of everything that has to do with fire in the Park. He also coordinates the forest fire fighters for the Northeast.

Anyway, Sarit agreed to take care of the farm, solo, after being here for only a month, and saying things like “how do you tell the difference between a rooster and a hen,” and “isn’t it a little cruel to roast the lambs whole on a spit, I mean, don’t they feel it?”

Needless to say, she’s like a sponge, learning everything from the difference in comb size between hens and roosters to the fact that the animals are actually dead before they’re skewered and roasted on the fire. She’s already soloed at the farmer’s market, watched her bottle lamb be sold for meat and battled the quack grass in the hoophouse. She’s been stung by an orange-butted bumblebee and slogged through wet snow to harvest wild leeks. She’s a transplanting mad woman, and a mean winter squash bread maker. She’s even making friends with the cats, despite never ever having had a pet.

That everything is new to her and an adventure kind of came home to me on our vacation. It occurred to me, as Kyle, Bradford and I went on six mile hikes into the marsh, or 4 -mile walks along the Atlantic in search of whales, or 13- mile bike rides, that in the two and a half years that I lived on Cape Cod, I did nothing except drive to and from work. I hated the crowds, the cars, the tourists. So I’d go to the remote seabird colony off Chatham and do biology, and then it was back to the house in Wellfleet, in our unheated barn with no plumbing. I didn’t even know that just behind our house was a fabulous beach with gigantic cliffs and far-reaching sand dunes. I mean, when your job is walking miles of beach coast a day, who wants to spend your day off beachcombing?

This time, I watched the piping plovers dig their scrapes and court. I didn’t have to dig holes and post signs and string rope to keep the beachgoers out of their habitat. I didn’t have to find every pair and count their eggs and keep track of their chicks. I just watched them in the warm April sunlight, while Bradford and Kyle looked for rare birds and whales, and threw the Frisbee on the beach.

Back home, a record-breaking snowstorm greeted us. I saw the silver silhouette of a common snipe flying crazily into the snowflakes, and two hermit thrushes, burnt-red against the snow-white branches in the forest. We’ve postponed planting the onions until the weekend, when it’s forecasted to be in the 80s.

Sarit says that when she looks at snowflakes she believes that there is indeed a god. I know what she means. I look at Billy, the peacock, with his ridiculous show of feathers and can’t wrap my mind around the thought that this just happened randomly or for the sake of evolution- I mean why does it have to be so incredibly complex, when a simpler thing could just as easily perpetuate itself into the future? If evolution was the only answer, shouldn’t we all be amoebas?

Anyway, the vacation, and Sarit’s enthusiasm are good reminders for me to keep the joy in the job and not forget about the adventure and the wonder of every day, like a snowstorm in April, or a deserted beach where hundreds of people will gather soon.