I have this thing for ice cream. It’s kind of a love thing. One of my first jobs was at a local Friendly’s restaurant with perks of free or discounted ice cream during your shift. I was told that it wouldn’t take long for me to stop liking ice cream all together because I would be around it so much. They were wrong. Not. Possible.
Fast forward almost 20 years to today. I am a total ice cream snob. And it’s all because of a man.
When I first met Harley I was 21. Fresh out of college and new to Massachusetts. He was 24, not long out of boot camp and a relationship that ended badly. Victims of a blind date set up by my mom and his aunt (thanks guys), he took me out for ice cream. I had a feeling he was a keeper then.
Three years later we were married and venturing into the world of backyard chickens. So, naturally, I blame all of this on him. He had grown up with farm animals and knew what hard work looked like and the reward it brought. I was an animal lover and never could say no to a cute face. When all four chickens were killed by a fox later that year, I got my first taste of what I was in for.
Life on a small scale farm has been quite a ride. It’s full of highs and lows. Good times and bad. Richer and poorer. Sickness and health. Throughout it all, Harley has been there for me. While working three jobs, he still manages to find the time to build shelters, cut wood, carry water and haul hay. He listens to my rationales for adding animals and tolerates my rants about udder development or milk production. He is the one who makes dinner when I’m still in the barn after dark. He makes sure the kids are ready for bed while I clean up after chores. He waits for me at the chopping block when I tell him that we have a hen that needs to be put down. He covers the cost of gas when we’ve spent the last of the money in the bank. And he holds me when I can’t keep the emotion in any longer.
It’s our 10 year wedding anniversary today. When I look back at who we were back then vs. who we are today, the difference is staggering. Our bodies are scarred. Our hands are calloused. Our hair is greying. We are undoubtedly changed. But every experience that we have had together is buried in these signs of aging. As we slip further away from mainstream modern day culture, we rely more on each other. When everyone else thinks we’re crazy for turning down a grocery store hamburger at a BBQ, we can catch each others’ eyes and feel camaraderie in the reason why. We can come home and open up the freezer to find meat that we grew and butchered ourselves, remembering every emotional detail that went into it.
Living this way, so close to what sustains us, has slowed time a bit for me. The growing takes time, and we need to be present for that- for weeding, for watering, for feeding, for observing, for harvesting, for preserving. Each meal tells a story. And as we sit together as a family around the dinner table, we talk about where our food came from. A spear of broccoli can remind us of a dear friend from the farmers market. A slice of pork can help us recall an afternoon of playing with piglets. A spoonful of ice cream can evoke a story of milking together too late one summer night.
And speaking of ice cream, have you ever had homemade, homegrown, grass fed, naturally sweetened, seasonally flavored, AMAZING ice cream? If so, I’m willing to bet that you’re an ice cream snob too. Nothing compares to full flavored homegrown and homemade food. Mostly because it’s made with love and full of memories, which are even better than ice cream.
I’ve come to realize that life is about spending time with those you love while preparing to do more living. It’s cyclical. And I’m still prepping for lots more of it.
A song from our wedding, where we served “gourmet” ice cream cake for dessert. (Side note: I recently stopped at the fancy ice cream shop where our wedding cake was from in 2006 and was severely disappointed with the taste. I suppose they can’t hold a candle to 10 years of living packed into a pint of our own…call me a snob.)
Better than Ice Cream by Sarah McLachlan
Is better than ice cream.
Better than anything else that I’ve tried
And your love
Is better than ice cream
Everyone here knows how to cry
And it’s a long way down
It’s a long way down
It’s a long way
Down to the place where we started from.”