Farming Gifts, Daily Cycles.
Every morning I milk a pair of Alpine goats. Their names are Bonita and Ida. Bonita was bought years ago shortly after I bought this farm, and Ida was born here shortly after. The goats demand to be milked twice a day after they give birth to kids, but as the summer heats up and the days grow longer they can be transitioned to once-daily milking. At this farm that’s first thing in the morning. I sit on the wooden stanchion and hand milk the goats into a steel pail. After that, the goats are given a few flakes of hay and clean well water in their trough and I head inside to the work of straining, chilling, cheesemaking, soapmaking, or just pouring it into my coffee thermos – depending on the day.
Besides milking there are eggs to collect from the hens, vegetables to pull from the garden, and the regular chores of making sure every animal is in good shape and spirits. So when the milking pail has been washed and milk is separating into curds and whey on the stove top – I can sip my goat-spiked coffee and watch to make sure no sheep are limping, piglets escaped their pen, or any chickens were stolen off their roosts in the night by a clever raccoon. As a farmer, it is understood that if I tend these animals and gardens I’ll gain the rewards I described. They take care of me as I take care of them. A gifting cycle of sorts.
There is a Hof inside this farmhouse. It’s situated on a small table and holds a horn, bowl, flowers, hammer, and a candle. There are also photos of family members (alive and lost). Every few days the bowl becomes full and it is taken outside with the flowers to be offered to my ancestors and the wights of this farm. I don’t do any sort of god-bothering, just a nod to family history and the spirits of the land I share. On a tree stump is an older, cracked, but beloved wooden bowl and into it goes the gifts of goats milk, or cider, or wine, or whatever was offered the days prior. The flowers set behind it. Few words are said, and none of them are practiced. The point is to keep this tradition alive and take time on a regular basis to be grateful for this land that feeds me and mine and the line of ancestors that got me to this place. Then fresh wildflowers are picked, and fresh offerings are set inside the house on the Hof.
I try not to overwhelm this simple altar with anything too self-involved or “special to me.” The heart of Heathenry is our family, ancestors, community – not the self. There was a time where precious little stones, wishes, and trinkets might surround the offering bowl but the more I learn about our faith the less impressed I am by the individual. Which isn’t to say our personal reputation and deeds aren’t important — but their entire purpose should be to add to the worth of you family or Kindred. We are never the whole story of a time or place, even to ourselves. We’re chapters.
I see tending to this indoor Hof much like I see caring for my animals. Not a chore, nothing so profane – but a part of my everyday life. It is understood if I keep caring for and milking those goats I will receive the milk I need. It is also understood that if I keep the gifting cycle of offerings to memories and land, I’ll receive the luck I need. And I don’t know any life that needs luck quite as much as farming does. As a Heathen, I am in the unique position to know how to grow that, too.
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