Good Spirits and a Broken Furnace

farming Vermont

I am not a great memorizer of quotations or poetry but there are a few turns of phrase that really do stick in my head. At the moment it is this:

“There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.” - Aldo Leopold

Currently there is no heat (or hot water) coming from our furnace, so consider my spirit in a place of safety. Luckily, it's not all that cold out and the wood stove does keep the house at a habitable temperature but heating water on the stove for egg washing gets old quick, not to mention the lack of hot showers.

Now, I think it is very possible to avoid complacence about where our food comes from or about our energy consumption without owning a farm. For me it is more about the mindset of what is luxury. For the vast majority of our ancestors, the ability to buy food cheaply and easily at a store or to warm your home with the twist of a thermostat was unimaginable. Isn't it a marvel to do laundry without hauling and heating water, boiling, beating and twisting clothes dry and then starching and ironing them? Isn't a cheap loaf of bread that you didn't have to mix, knead or bake, much less raise and grind wheat for, a luxury?

Even before I was a farmer, I was fascinated by the way people live their lives before modern conveniences. I think it all might have started with the Little House on the Prairie books. First I was learning to cook, sew and build fires, then I discovered camping: what could be better than sleeping on the ground, cooking over a fire and bathing in streams? So I don't think you need to raise your own food and heat your house with wood to embrace the spirit of what Mr Leopold is saying. I think even simple things like cooking a meal from scratch or building a shelf can be a meditation on luxury (let's hear it for dimensional lumber and power tools!)

When I buy food or enjoy nearly instant hot water, I don't find my spirit in peril, instead I am happy for the reminder that my life is easier and safer than those who lived before me. Now I can split wood or butcher a chicken because I want to, not because I have to. My well being isn't balanced on the health of my cattle herd or the success of my potato crop. If my hens stop laying, I can buy eggs at the store and if I run out of time to split enough wood for the winter, I can turn on the furnace. 

Well, except no, I can't turn on the furnace right now, the cursed thing is broken. It even had the cheek to break a "weird" part that is apparently hard to find... Not to worry though, I'll be here putting logs on the fire, all in the name of warmth and avoiding spiritual danger.



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