Taking Care of the Farm

My dad grew up on a dairy farm—I wasn’t very old before that farm in Millerton, NY was sold—my grandparents had worked very hard and been careful with their money, and it was time for them to enjoy an easier way of life.

Each year, my family gives me a big gift–a week all by myself to think and write, and sit with my imagination, in the quiet of my house.  That’s what I am doing now, as I write this, but I am also “taking care of the farm.”  That’s what my ten year old calls our place.

~There’s the lizards, for starters, Speedy and Midnight.  They belong to my eight-year-old son.  They only eat live food—that’s right—things that are alive and in motion!  I was told by my family to check the homemade cricket traps they had rigged up.  I was more than a little bit nervous, because crickets jump high and fast and are unpredictable in their movements.  But nevertheless, I went outside to check the “trap.”  It consisted of one two-liter plastic bottle nestled inside another, each cut straight around the middle.  There was the lure of a baby carrot in the trap, the idea being that the crickets would want the carrot, and they would crawl through one bottle and get trapped inside the top of the other bottle, which still had the cap on.  To my horror I found four crickets trapped in there, jumping around.  Not wanting to let my family down, I carried the trap to my son’s room, holding it as far away from my body as possible.  I unscrewed the bottle cap, and the crickets descended into the lizard tank, and were quickly hunted down.  It was primitive, and it was glorious.  I was so impressed by the creativity that went into the trap, pictured here, and by the fact that it actually worked!  There’s something in the faces of those two geckos—I’m really smitten.

~Then there’s the plant watering:  This involved dipping the large watering can into the rain barrel, which was discovered at the dump.  There are goldfish in the rain barrel too, which eat the mosquito larvae, and it’s such an efficient system.  Kudes to my husband for this invention too—here’s a link in case you want to make your own.

~Then there’s the compost, a homemade machine that really works.  I dumped all the vegetable waste in there.

~And last is the pond the kids dug in the backyard, as big as the holes in Louis Sachar’s HOLES (which is one of my favorite books), full of Koi and goldfish.  There are also some pollywogs and snails we caught up at the nearby reservation.  They dug during the day while I went to work in the city, and I didn’t appreciate its beauty till I was left in charge.  I love feeding those fish.

I can see why my daughter calls it “the farm,” though I’m sure my grandparents and parents would laugh at that term for our little patch of land fifteen miles west of the Lincoln Tunnel to Manhattan.  But it is very much a farm, and everything they’ve created is from scratch.  So I tip my hat to my grandparents, who are no longer with us, and I tip my hat to my family too—I’m sorry not to have noticed what you’ve made before now, but I’m so pleased to be its caretaker until you return.

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Holly McGhee