The difference four weeks makes in Upstate New York is shocking. When I last wrote this column, spring was barely a suggestion and the last of the ice on the mountain had just melted. Buds on bare-branched trees were the closest I came to greenery. But now the mountain is bursting with life. Hay has already been cut in neighbor’s fields laying and drying and waiting to be baled for early winter storage. Chicks have been ordered, raised inside a brooder, and are now outside growing into strong laying hens. The goats have kidded and those kids have already been sold to other farms, so daily milking is back on the chore schedule. The sheep have been shorn, two hogs butchered, crops planted, and soon meat birds will arrive with a different type of harvest in their future. The farm is galloping into production. It makes a woman feel safe.
In a few days, members of our Kindred will gather here. We’ll be sharing stories, plans for Summer Thing, and raising the horn as a community sharing luck and reputation. To make the farm worthy of such a gathering I have been planning a meal of slow-cooked pork, saving up for some good mead, and preparing our gathering space by setting up new stones around the fire pit and hacking back at the weeds. Still much to prepare and I feel I have ages of lessons in hospitality to learn, but I’m getting there.
This month I wanted to talk about Community. I am the only one living at this address, but a farm is not an example of Self-reliance. I depend on a network of neighbors, customers, farmers, shopkeepers, repairmen, farriers, shearers, butchers, and more. I don’t have the fields for hay so I buy it from others that do or barter for something I do have like meat or fleeces. This week a neighbor from a Christian Commune down the road happily bartered a used pony harness for 2 loads of first cut hay. Their flock of Scottish Blackface sheep grazing their beautiful rolling fields came from my stock. All of us around here living an agrarian life need each other.
I feel this also is part of being a Heathen. We need each other to practice. Some of us are lucky to have active Kindreds, Theods, Tribes, Gatherings or Groups. Some of us are raising families or working three jobs to get by, and the idea of finding time to make active membership a priority in something as consuming as a Kindred is a pipe dream at best. But regardless if you’re passing the horn with a large group of fellow Heathens or passing the mashed potatoes at your family dinner – we are a faith of togetherness.
Our worldview is grounded in the import of maintaining our Inner-yard, frith with those inside it, and living a life that honors our ancestors, reputation, and builds worth along the way. That practice doesn’t require an arm patch or attendance at Thing, but it does require something far harder; an attention to trying to live within a Heathen worldview with those you care for. It doesn’t matter if you’re seventeen or seventy, part of a large group, or just reading in the corner of your public library alone. Your community is the root of your practice. Your family, friends, the people you work and live beside by blood or choice. They are your practice.
There are plenty of people outside my Kindred I consider part of my Inner-yard. They make up a life worth living and working to improve. The same goes for this scrappy farm. The community that keeps it moving is the lifeblood of that animal. Your community should be the center of your practice. Labels don’t matter, but your intention and worldview do, so be mindful and grateful of those who got you where you are today. Give back what you can. Farm on.
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