AgriCulture: Just Encased

If you live near here, you’ve been encased in ice for the last day or so. A quarter inch of it wrapped around every surface, everything glimmering.

There is a brittle beauty to the ice-encrusted landscape. The pasture is paved with Baccarat. The blackberry patch lit with neon as the sun glints off the glassed-in canes. The branches of the wild plum trees are transformed into crackling wind chimes that break off if you brush too close beneath them. It will remain this way until the thermometer rises above freezing early next week.

Enchanting? Sure, but also a royal pain in the ass. The ice is even more paralyzing than a deep winter snow. I generally start clearing driveways and walkways with my trusty snow shovel as soon as the storm stops. But this arctic crust that formed is impervious! My shovel just glides along the top, ineffectually, as do I.

Luckily, my friend Steve is here for a refresher course in farming before he takes charge and I decamp for a ski trip. “And don’t tell them I farm ‘like a gay boy from the city’ this time!” he warns me. “It’s homophobic!” And though I sometimes worry about his skills, it’s a relief not to be contending with this mess on my own.

In a farm landscape organized so carefully with a system of fences and gates, the ice wreaks havoc. The metal latches have all frozen shut. Door frames are locked into solid ground. The chicken yard gate is off its pintles. Chaos all around.

When even your simplest, most dependable stuff doesn’t work, a chain of dark, entropic thoughts brew. What if the power goes out? Suppose I can’t get the car started? How will I ever get the driveway operable? How do I manage all this and still get my office work done? And, as things escalate: Should an old man really choose the farm over city life? How long can I make enough money for this? Oh god, what about my taxes?? Before you know it, I’m lost in visions of life in a refrigerator carton under a highway overpass. Hopefully, somewhere less icy.

Steve, 20 years younger, struggles with a different set of demons. Is my grandmother safe in DeSantis’s Florida or will she catch COVID again? Is society falling apart? Are we descending into fascism? Do I have a future in this country?

For both of us, deep down, the question is actually the same: Can I stay here? And if not here, where? Maybe we are just as entrapped as all these branches in their tight sheaths of ice. And in this equally brittle state, prone to just breaking off at the slightest touch.

Consumed by our respective angsts, we proceed to the last remaining chore: the sheep. Armed with boiling water, we defrost the metal gate latch and reach the barn.

By then, we we’re both ready for disaster. But the very first sheep we spot is Sophie. Possibly the loveliest girl in the flock and usually the first to say hello most days–but we find her occupied with licking birth fluids off her newborn, probably around two hours old when we find them. She’s a petite eweling with a larger version of Sophie’s white cap and white stripes on her nose and ear as well. “Adorable,” we agree. Faced with this sweet girl, our troubles just melt away, though the snow still refuses.

Éric, informed by phone, names her Clara. Since this technology doesn’t host videos, you’ll have to content yourself with the image in your mind of Sophie methodically licking every inch of her newborn as she gently nudges her to nurse. Little Clara sucks and wags its tail, the mom licks and utters little muttering noises. And thus, they bond. We, their human observers, realize that there will always be anxieties and things will always go wrong, yet there is a force of life that counteracts the spiral of disaster we imagine and fear.

And yet, agita dies hard. The following morning, we find Clara has diarrhea. In an attempt to take her temperature, we puzzle at which orifice under her tail is actually her rectum. “Well, this is officially a gay farce,” says Steve.

Thankfully, my wonderful vet informs me, based on her normal temperature and behavior, the problem should resolve within 48 hours. Indeed, by late afternoon Clara seems fine. The farm is still encased in ice, but in good operating order nonetheless and all anxieties are resolved. Until, that is, I read the front page of the New York Times: “GOP Declares January 6th Legitimate Political Discourse.”

And with that, we’re back!

(For those who desire a moment of Zen, let me know and I’ll email you a 30-second video of Sophie and Clara together.)


EGGS: $5/doz Limited supplies, which will increase as the hours of daylight do

LAMB COMING: Finally a date at the slaughterhouse. They go to market March 8. If you’ve expressed an interest in lamb, it will be ready frozen the second to third week in March, and I’ll be sending you a cut sheet. For you others, there will be cuts of lamb available then.


Email us your order at, and let us know when you’d like to pick up your order. It will be put out for you on the side screened porch of the farmhouse (110 Lasher Ave., Germantown) in a bag. You can leave cash or a check in the now famous pineapple on the porch table. Because I’m now here full time, we’re abandoning regular pick-up times. Let us know when you want your order any day between 10 and 5, and unless there are unusual circumstances we’ll be able to ready it to your convenience. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to call or text at 917-544-6464 or email.


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