Today on NPR, graduate student Lena Moses-Schmitt recalls her escape from the urban jungle last summer when she volunteered to work on an organic farm in Vermont through the WWOOF program. “I was tired of rushing through my day without ever looking around — unless it was at my phone,” she says.
Read her story…
For two months this summer I also tried an experiment: To live, work and play full-time on our farm, without stepping foot in the city. Weary from the pain of losing my mom, and from diving headlong into work for months thereafter to help chase away the blues, I found myself all of a sudden needing to be in a completely different place for awhile. So I went to the country. And here are some of the gifts and memories that came back with me:
Deepened Friendships. Instead of driving back n’ forth to the farm every other weekend, with a sense of the ticking clock and the anxious tug of needing to get back to our “normal” life in the city, I simply stayed. And by doing so, well, everything. slowed. down. Suddenly there was more time for friends and conversations. There were long trail rides, cookouts, pool parties, horseshoe games, fishing, reading, biking the Ladiga, and “kicking the tires” (as Cary would say) with all the nice folks who stopped by or stayed over.
Living with Horses. In the 15 years that we’ve owned horses, they’ve always been boarded somewhere else. From Atlanta to Madison, to Hartwell to Canton to Cumming, and throughout 10 years on the road for horse shows, we never once had a horse on our own property. That’s one of the main reasons we bought this place: to create a retreat not only for ourselves and friends, but for the horses as well. Waking up to these noble beasts every morning this summer, and kissing them goodnight every evening, brought nothing but pure joy.
Saws, Drills & Hammers. This was the year we were determined to finish the big stuff: pasture fencing, barn repairs, a funky pool cabana, trail clearing, riding arena. For weeks on end, the constant sounds of construction became part of the farm’s symphony, signaling the old place coming back to life.
Hay Days. We love watching the grass grow long and tall with the passing days…and eagerly anticipate each hay-cutting when Buster brings all his big tractors and toys, and cuts and bales the grass into giant rolls that look like alien saucers have landed in your fields. Then the next day they’re all gone and the process starts over again.
Fears Conquered. I held a 4 1/2-ft. dead rattler in my hand, which pal David bravely had killed on the trail…with a knife. He and his dad skinned it and we all ate grilled rattlesnake a couple of days later. And then there was my solo standoff with a water moccasin sunbathing near our back deck. With Mike and David each coaching from their phones, and a .38 pistol in my hand, I manned up and shot it.
Finally, I brought back what I went looking for in the first place — Peace. Found through all of these things and more — like the great barred owl’s nightly courtship calls, pink sunsets, thick blankets of stars, the frog serenade floating up from the pond, our beautiful creek, a bountiful garden, wild turkeys, little hummingbirds and sassy chickens, Great Danes galavanting all over the place, “going loafin'” on a Sunday afternoon, deep Southern accents and comical turns of phrase, and an even deeper, truer appreciation for all that is the South — I’m now filled and rejuvenated by the sights, sounds, smells and spirit of the country.
Photos by Lena Moses-Schmitt