I came to visit Spirit Hill Farm for a week, and four months later, I’m still here with no plans in the foreseeable future to leave (keep this in mind when you book your visit: pack something you are willing to wear for the rest of your life!).
Carolyn had invited me to stay here so I could write about what a week at Spirit Hill does for the mind and the body. A week turned into two weeks, and then I was writer-in-residence, farmer-in-training, learning about how to care for chickens, plants, a pool, a big house, a guest house (where I live) and a tiny dream house (the Sugar Shack). I learned to look for gopher holes so I could holler down them and tell the critters to go-pher pizza because I was hungry.
I have become a chicken wrangler. There are six hens, and one, the white one, I named The Notorious RBG because no fence holds her back. If she wants to go somewhere, she goes. Luckily, I discovered the power of the afternoon snack. I went to the local feed store and got a big bag of dried grubs (who knew those things even existed?), and now the chickens LOVE me and Notorious runs back INTO the gate when it’s grub time.
And yes, I did give one of the chickens a pedicure. I am still new to chickens, and so picking one up seemed to be as smart as putting my arm into a chipper, but my daughter came to visit and so I felt I needed to be brave in front of her. Together, we got Old Chicken up and upside down and we clipped her crazy nails. Old Chicken was the calmest of us all.
She thought she was all that before the pedicure, but you should see her strut now.
I have fallen in love with seeds. Somehow, in my 55 years on the planet, I never really looked at a lettuce seed and fully grasped the miracle of speck of hardness turning into something that could fill a bowl and feed a person. I set up a table with heating lamps, heating pads, mini-grow gardens and sprouted lettuce, kale, yellow and red peppers, eggplant, parsley, borage, corn, sugar snap peas, tomatoes, dill, basil, collards, spinach.
Much to my surprise, between inside the guest house and outside in the garden, all the baby plants got marked as dill (by me, just to be clear). That means there are 17 planting containers of dill growing outside the Main House’s kitchen windows.
(When you visit you can try to figure out what is what: what’s kale, what’s lettuce, what’s celery, what’s dill. If there even is dill.)
I fell in love with Spirit Hill the moment I saw it. And then COVID-19 happened, and suddenly this was a place where I was essentially alone for weeks on end. I know so many people are suffering, so many people’s lives have been turned upside down and even destroyed during this time, and so it’s hard not to feel guilty, but I feel compelled to tell you there may be no better place than to shelter-in-place than here.
I bottled olive oil, did a bunch of rookie farmer-in-training moves on the olive trees and the plants (I wasn’t entirely clear on what was dead and what was alive), deep cleaned the Sugar Shack, the Main House. Got the gardens planted, had tons of fun on Instagram, got hay for the chickens, took a zillion photographs because, when you look closely, every plant is spectacular.
Every morning I dive into the pool. I started this in the winter when the water was shockingly cold. Now it’s just refreshing. It’s my way of saying yes to life. I’m here. I’m showing up. I’m eager to see what will happen next.