There are two breeds of chooks (chickens), two jersey cows, a bull and a ram on loan, two new mother sheep and two very pregnant ones. In front of the henhouses are pots and styrofoam boxes and garden beds of plants in every shape and variety, from tomatoes to roses to aubergines (eggplants). Behind the feed shed and beyond are rows and rows of fruit trees, and potatoes planted in stacked tires to protect them from the rabbits.
And then there's the beautiful, English-inspired home with animal skin rugs, tall windows looking out at the gardens and, beyond them, the Southern Alps; the kitchen is full of Japanese cookware and tea pots, the walls are lined with artwork, and in the sitting room there is a fire stove that we feed every night to heat the water for our showers.
Besides taking care of the animals, vegetables, flowers, and trees, the Prof is an awarded writer who always has a full load of editing, writing lessons for retreat visitors, managing an author's selected publishing group, all not to mention her new novel she's working on to be published by next year.
The icing on the cake? The Prof is a fantastic cook and baker! Honestly, the past week I've had the best food of my entire life. When you pick bok choy straight from the garden, wash it up and steam it for dinner -- ahh! It has so much flavor and crisp freshness. And the hokey-pokey ice cream over hot rhubarb? Oh! it makes me swoon.
Every day I go out and "earn my bread;" I help feed the animals, and work in the garden, and patch up holes the rabbits have left trying to get at the chooks's leafy greens; and every few hours I get to sit down at a big dining table with the Prof and we eat together a scrumptious, fantastic all-organic meal, and she tells me stories from her life and her work, about farming and poetry and Shakespeare, with bits and pieces of what life was like when she lived in Japan herself. And what makes that meal special is the sweat you put into it: your hands sow the seed and reap the harvest, and cook the meal - and it tastes so sweet, so wholesome, because it is (sometimes literally) the fruit of your labor.
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