"Do you ever ask questions one at a time? Or do they always come in twos and threes?"
"What do you mean? Do I ask too many questions? Am I talking too much?"
I WWOOFed at Davis Farms for about a week at the height of New Hampshire's glorious Indian summer, and was still getting used to the reserved New Englander response to my chatty tendencies.
Davis Farms is owned and operated by Barb Davis, a potter and organic farmer who -- in addition to tending her orchards, gardens, and vineyards -- runs a CSA, a pottery studio, and teaches English in the local schools. She was also a librarian for years, and every Saturday night bakes pizzas at the village general store for anyone who cares to visit.
Barb is busier, mellower, and better at farming than you. She's of the disappearing breed who doesn't say "please" before telling children not to stand near the spinning flywheel of a cider press.
We got along well from the word go.
An accidental flower garden popping up around the house.
Most of my work on the farm was weeding her vegetable and herb gardens, which had overgrown since her trip to South America a few weeks ago. We added compost to some freshly dug plots and harvested kale, plums, and other treats for her weekly CSA pick-up.
The goat barn, and a wheelbarrow full of apples for pressing.
One of the vegetable gardens, with a freshly-hoed bed for garlic.
The chicken coop from the back porch's glassless windows.
Davis Farms is almost completely off-grid, with the exception of internet access. Barb and her husband built first a one-room cabin with a loft in the 1970's, then a larger cabin as their family grew. Both cabins are made of stone and logs, and are heated by wood stoves.
A couple with a wonderfully plump 4-month-old now occupied the smaller cabin, and a young woman lived above the pottery studio, but everyone converged into the main cabin for anything requiring plumbing or electricity.
The "main house" for the farm dwellers, where the plumbing, electricity, and internet live.
I stayed in a tiny room-sized cabin sans power and water, shown below.
My cabin, behind the woodpile and to the right.
My cabin in its entirety, taken from the doorway.
We ate together, bringing in food from the garden and cooking our meals on an antique counter-top gas stove. Errands included going to the maple syrup supply store to get jugs for fresh-pressed cider, and picking up our yogurt (and letting the calves suckle on our fingers) at the nearby dairy.
This was New England at its most pastoral. This was me at my most removed from normal life.
With the nearest town a 40-minute drive away, evening activities were few. Barb had a visiting friend in town, and the three of us drove west to Bellows Falls, VT, for a French-Canadian folk music house concert: one guitar, one fiddle, one accordion, and six feet for percussion.
Everyone looked like the parents from Family Ties: clean skin and practical clothing indicating outdoorsiness and no-nonsense undergarments under earthtone swaths of corduroy and fleece.
A trio playing Brittany-style folk music in a host's home in Bellows Falls, VT.
Vermont was so calm. I nudged it a couple of times and took its pulse just to be sure it was still ticking. At get-togethers like these, I like to find the bosomy women festooned with loops of silver jewelry and sparkly clothes. There's usually just one, and she's likely to make, or laugh at my own, dirty jokes.
I found her easily but didn't get to chat, as the music started promptly and I was swept up in a conversation with the fiddler during intermission. Alas, I will never know if she's as tickled as I was to hear "Fellows Balls, Vermont" for the first time.
By ten o'clock, we had to cut out early: Barb's circadian rhythm was synced securely to Farm Time. On the way home, we told jokes and talked about the Acworth, NH, library where Barb was once head librarian.
(Barb told a great joke about a chicken and a librarian. Remind me to tell it to you later.)
I left Davis Farms the next day to return to Massachusetts en route to another WWOOFing gig in Rhode Island, and happened to pass Barb's old library in Acworth on my way out.
She had urged me to stop in, and I happily obliged. Her glowing description of the library's golden cupola and marble couldn't have prepared me for what I saw, though.
The Acworth library exterior -- squat and proud, like many New Hampshireites.
I opened a pre-war screen door to find an ornately tiled foyer, with twisting wood-and-marble staircases flanking the entry and leading down to a large children's reading room (such bliss).
The cupola was a dazzling gold supported by marble columns and inscribed with bronze lettering championing dead men and their thoughts on thinking, knowledge, power, or posterity. I didn't bother trying to make them out, but I think those are safe assumptions.
Then something odd happened as I was squatting in the Classics section, hunched over a book of verse. Alright, perhaps that wasn't the best way to start that sentence.
Anyway, as I leafed through some pages. I heard, through the screened windows, a car drive by slowly with the chorus of Grand Funk Railroad's "I'm Your Captain" ringing throughout the marble like a bell: "I'm getting closer to myy hooome."
I laughed, thinking, That can't be right. That can't actually be happening.
As if on cue, I heard the car wheels slowly pull against the dry pavement again, the chorus louder: "I'm getting closer to my hooooo-ooome."
I could tell it was time to move on.
On my way out, I went to the restaurant at the famed Burdick's chocolatier in Walpole, NH. ("The houses there have white columns," Barb rolled her eyes.)
Scanning the menu, my eyes landed on the farm plate. "I'll take that," I told the server, and nursed a mediocre Chardonnay with high expectations of the cafe's rural-chic offerings.