Lessons from the farm

After shoveling rabbit shit out of ten cages, my arms were throbbing. Rabbits are amazing creatures. They procreate like no other — mothers are sent on honeymoons every six weeks to keep the babies coming. After four weeks, a bunny is fattened up and ready for slaughter. This is assuming, of course, a certain farm volunteer doesn’t accidentally let them out of their cages.

I brought a monster of a black male down from the farm to the house. Kim took him with her bloody hands and told me to leave. She couldn’t do what she was about to do with me in the room.

I was called back in. Then I learned how to skin a rabbit.

It’s my final night on Eglantine Farm. The past week has flown by. Now that I (kind of) know what I’m doing, the work days are more enjoyable and the mistakes are few. Another helper arrived as well, all the way from Australia, and we’ve spent our nights talking about food and laughing about this bizarre situation we’ve gotten ourselves into.

It has been bizarre, alright. It has probably been the most bizarre thing I have ever done.

Eglantine Farm is not a normal farm. It’s one woman’s project. It’s Kim’s world.

It’s a woman who came under mental illness, shed city life and created a habitat for her own happiness. It’s self-sufficiency in survival-mode. It’s waves of knowledge, learning and teaching. It’s resourcefulness, sure, but it’s a whole lot more.

On my final night, Kim had a coincidental dinner party. We had freshly killed rabbit, roasted in five-spice, with butternut squash and potatoes. There was kale, which I had picked as the rich orange sun set. There were stewed apples for dessert, with custard, and wine, and tea, and coffee, and homemade cherry vodka.

Kim said I did a good job on this farm, considering my youth and naivety. I know she wasn’t just saying that to be nice — she never says things to be nice — and I’m relieved. I worked harder these past two weeks than I have in ages. There were lots of odd jobs, like moving furniture or painting hallways or burning garbage. But there was some exhausting physical labor, and some exhausting pig, rabbit, goat and dog chases. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been so unsure of myself, second guessing every little action, and under so much deserved criticism.

“So, what did you learn?” Kim asked.

“Oh goodness,” I answered. “Everything.”

I learned a lot of little things: Pigs will eat just about everything, except lemons. Rabbits only need a few moments alone together before the action begins. A lot of English people live in France, and a lot of English people fear what England is becoming. I learned how to start a roaring fire and how to keep it going. I learned how to best peel the shell off of a six-minute egg. I learned how to prepare a chicken roulade, cauliflower cheese, rabbit stew…

I learned a lot of big things: Do things for you. Advancing in your career could mean unexpected moves, moving to seemingly lower positions, but don’t fear staying on the move. If you’re unhappy, make a change, don’t wait for things to get better. People can come into your life for short periods, and make  impressions deeper than those who have been around for years — let it happen.

And if your children are too needy and you need to get away… There are worse ideas than moving to rural France and starting your own farm.

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