Slow farm, fast friends.
I finally found the type of cat I like, which turns out to be a pig.
Cuddlier than meets the eye.
My friends Rachel and Carl run Slow Farm in Cameron, NC, and as soon as I arrived they introduced me to their kunekune, a breed of pig from New Zealand that fulfills every childhood fable depiction of dapper, jovial swine entertaining one another in spats and woolen vests.
Once we set foot in the sty, the kunekune came snorting over and curled up at our feet like bristly kittens, swooning daintily into a pile as they waited their turns for a belly rub.
Carl poured some stout cocktails and we toured a parcel of the 40-acre farm: the pigs, cats, fowl, goats, and a lone mule were all present for roll call. Except one hen.
We found her in a splay of feathers, her head hacked clean off by a hawk that was unfazed by ad hoc deterrents. Rachel, a farmer by blood and well-familiar with the grim entrails the trade entails, was still saddened by the poor bird's violent end.
Farms are full of simple pleasures and simpler-still death, which is why I like them. Apples fall from trees and rot sweetly on the ground, chickens are outfoxed (and, consequently, in foxes), and hawks wreak havoc from their roosts to the ones below.
As we left the fallen bird to see the goats, Belle, their skittish mule, approached it next. I'd never seen another animal respond to fresh death. My old dog Eliza once took great pleasure in rolling in what was left of a squirrel -- one of those moments where you debate for more than a second simply throwing your dog away -- but this was nothing like that.
The mule saw and smelled death, and bucked her head away in a mild panic. She couldn't be comforted, only coaxed away. The air was awash with feelings of disconcertment. Thank god for the goats.
Goats always make for comic relief, as did Rachel posing valiantly for a picture with an upside-down rooster and Molasses, the sweet-and-slow mutt rubbing her butt against the porch for the comfort it provided.
Dinner was roasted chicken, fried peaches with sour cream, and a conversation about art, politics, and Teletubbies that none of us wanted to end.
I slept soundly until the guinea fowl woke me up, but I had no complaints: I finally got that corner office with the great view.
Hardly working, it turns out.