It’s 6:15 in the morning, pitch-black, and there’s a thin layer of crystalline frost that coats the field outside the cabin. Normally, I would not be thrilled to get up at such an hour, but there are chores on the farm that need to be done, and I don’t particularly mind doing them. My cabin mates and I stumble out of our cabin, barely awake, and head to the dining hall to grab the slop and compost (the food waste from the meals). Ben mumbles something about how, after twelve hours, the beef stroganoff looks slightly less appetizing. We put the green and white buckets into the esoteric, rickety wooden cart that awaits us outside. As we trudge up the dirt road pulling the cart, the lofty white pines hang over us, their shadows sprayed out like brushstrokes on the gray rocky ground. We come to the farm. To one side sits the barn and the gatehouse, the one source of light on this bleak, blustery November morning. In the distance– before the wall of chestnuts and oaks– stands the windmill, its great, towering, hundred-foot silhouette perceiving the faintly pink sky. We break into pairs, Jake and Ben head down to the pasture to milk the expectant Lola. Later that night I’ll eat a warm brownie with an ice-cold creamy glass of this milk. Andreas and Aiden head to the compost bin to toss in the food. The compost is an orgy of decomposition: even in the cold of February it will reach temperatures of over one hundred degrees Fahrenheit before it cools into rich, wonderful organic fertilizer. This will be spread on our fields in the spring. Lastly, Mack and I head to the esteemed barn– he to feed the calf and the chickens, and I to brush the horse Sal and feed the sheep.
Sal is an essential part of the farm; she plows the fields and will skid logs that we will split and use to heat our cabins. Brushing is a three-step process. First the currycomb looses the dirt and hair from her coat, secondly the coarse brush removes the dirt and hair, and lastly the fine brush polishes her brown coat to a silky shine. Sal loves to be brushed, with each stroke of the currycomb her long brown eyelashes flutter as she expresses her gratitude. If her hind legs are too far to one side and I can’t brush her, I’ll push gently and ask her to “step over”. She kindly will do so. After brushing Sal I lead her into her stall, and go on to feed the sheep. The sleepy salt marsh farm is a wonderful place to be in the morning.