A Mouse of Their Own
Apparently, my farm school classmates are very good at keeping secrets. But it’s more likely that I’m easily duped. Driving to afternoon cow chores this Thursday, I keyed into Nora and Kate’s conversation:
“SO tired,” said Nora. “What time did you stay up until working on the quilt?”
Kate shot Nora a look I didn’t understand.
“What quilt?” I asked, curious.
“Oh, you know… just a project,” offered Nora vaguely. “Hey, look at those turkeys!” pointing out the window and changing the subject.
“Yeah, cool. Turkeys,” I replied. End of conversation.
In my defense, special quilting projects warrant little notice in this group. On any given day, any one of my classmates can be found carding wool, needle felting, batiking eggs or working out a new song on guitar.
So this weekend, when a bunch of crafty students decided to throw us a baby shower and dropped their accidental hint, perhaps I should have connected the dots. But I didn’t.
Saturday – party day – was one of those bright May afternoons perfect for front porches and having nowhere to be. Kim and Dina joined forces to create a pregnant-belly chocolate stout cake complete with boobs and flesh-toned divinity icing, the sight of which made Farm School founder Ben blush.
Others spent hours carving intricate designs into halved potatoes to stamp white onesies with farmy slogans like “Udderly adorable,” “Daddy’s little clove,” and “I ‘leek’ my parents a lot”.
But the big surprise emerged from a non-descript cardboard box labeled, “Not a gift” in honor of our one request for the party: no presents. Turns out the quilting project Nora let slip involved more than a dozen students, staff and community members toiling for hours in secret to figure out how to design and craft a quilt for Swisher, patch-by-patch. And all of this was going on as I went about my business, oblivious to the loving whispers volleyed behind my back.
Because Dina and I found out we were going to be parents on the very day I left for Farm School, the anticipation of this baby and the process of learning to farm have become inseparable. Living this experience alongside fourteen soon-to-be honorary aunts and uncles has been rich beyond words. Dina and I ventured down this path seeking lives of meaningful connection – to the earth, to our work, to our food and to those around us. And now, thanks to Saturday’s outpouring, I’m overwhelmed by how full life can feel when all those connections come together.
The party-goers eventually moved outdoors, coaxed by cheerful tunes, golden evening light and more than a few beers. But between games of cornhole and whiffle ball, our friends ducked inside to lend their hand to one final gift: illustrations for a story I wrote for Swisher.
A Mouse of Their Own (which you can read below) is a mostly-true story about mice, a quest, and a tall, tall tree. The names and species of the main characters have been changed, but the story is inspired by actual conversations and is true to the journey at its source. Someday, little Swish will flip through these pages and I hope he’ll know something of the years that came before him. And I hope, too, that he’ll feel the love of this community.
We sure do. And we’re eternally and achingly grateful.