The last week here in Veryork has been magical. I’ll try and catch y’all up but it starts in the river.
I have been spending a lot of time there, mostly along the winding banks of the Battenkill near the Georgi (a small park and art museum/community space). The Georgi is a great place to park and explore, with lots of access to beloved fishing holes not-frequented early on weekday mornings. I gotta say, there are some real perks to being a feral childless mountain lesbian, and fishing after morning chores on a Thursday is one of them.
I’ve dusted off my old Orvis rod and reel (which has been resting over a door like a set piece at Cracker Barrel for 2 years) and even though the line and backing and reel were all ancient (hasn’t been cleaned or re-strung in a decade) to that company’s credit, after some river water and a few casts it was good as new. I spent $25 on a fishing license back in early May and it’s been the greatest investment in my mental health in months.
When I’m at the river I am there to do one thing, which is locate, trick, hook, and reel in brown trout. And while I am in no way a remarkable (or even decent) angler the statistics are on my side. If a woman goes fishing a few times a week, and casts a couple hundred times each trip, eventually something is going to take the fly. And hoo boy, they do!
Thursday morning I was on the river, half exhausted and half buzzing from Litha. I didn't sleep at all during the shortest night of the year, was up talking till sunrise. But there is something invigorating about all that light, even at my advanced age, sleep isn't as necessary as hope. And summer is about hope.
Our solstice celebration at Caer Luna Farm was lovely. The longest day of the year was celebrated with friends old and new beside a bonfire. We ate goat kebabs, cookies, and rhubarb pie. There was fire-grilled trout and strawberry cakes and the kids all ran around with their wild animal masks and handmade lanterns. Folks plucked at instruments, chatted, and I got to read a story about the folklore of the Oak and Holly Kings out loud to our steadily-growing community. And best of all, the weather finally permitted all this. After a June of what felt like nonstop rain, we had sunshine and fireflies and hot afternoons. And I’m sharing all this because that is how I found myself on Thursday morning, buzzing from Litha on little-to-no sleep after the holiday, and still unable to not step out on the river stones with a heart full of hope.
I have been stalking a big trout for weeks. He lives in a hole at the Georgi, and we're rivals. He occasionally bites my fly, when I use something that sinks with a shiny bead on the head, and I’ve even fought him a few times, but he always manages to slip and disappear under fallen rocks and ancient rocks to a world I will never know. He's like a wise old river prophet, and I'm a silly primate with a stick. It's been a gas.
If you're wondering how I keep losing him, it's because fly fishing lures are small, and have a single hook.They don't have living worms or scented bait. And if you manage to present the fly to a trout in a way that resembles a living thing (in my case, a disco-fly nymph) enough for the fish to actually strike it, it not only needs to swallow the hook in a way and direction that's conducive to hooking.... you need to lift the rod at the exact right time. It's gambling and then dancing. It's force and hope, my two favorite things, and outdoors in the summer sunlight.
Brigit's Mantle, I adore fly fishing! There’s more at stake. You’re dealing with more defense. It’s plain harder, and that is why I love it. I love that I am having to think like a fish, hunt for them like I hunt rabbits with a bird on my fist, scrambling over rocks and falling into the water, casting dry and wet flies that are little pieces of artwork used to trick wild animals into thinking that I'm a part of their world. And Thursday I finally got that big boy to bite. I reeled him in and felt a crescendo of joy like fireworks! On no sleep, in direct sunlight, with an Osprey flying past to judge my clumsy technique, is how I spent the first day of the Holly King's rule.
Trout are beautiful and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Brown trout look like garnets hidden in a river bed. Their auburn fins, almost Halloween orange in summer sunlight, catch rays like stained glass. I didn’t have a tape measure or anything—and don’t want to know the stats on what I catch and release really—it’s not about the size of the fish or details, but this one was a prince of the Battenkill. At least three years old and a true honor to catch. I released him with well wishes and an apology for the hook. I hope he's doing well on this rainy morning.
So that’s what I have been up to, Litha and luring trout, and while all that has been happening this little farm has been thriving! The piglets are growing strong, and so are the lambs. The ten chicks hatched and raised by the hens are all still here, which is a small miracle for a free-range flock raising chicks outdoors on their own. And I see the young broad wings and red tails perching above Moonpie (main mamma hen) and her babies, but so far none of the little ones have perished to talon or poor luck, and I am hopeful that most of them aren’t roosters and can make up for predator losses last year without having to buy in a single new laying bird. That would be something!
The ram lambs I bought should top the ewes and bring lambs in the spring. My corn is on its way to being knee-high on the Fourth of July, as the local saying goes. My gardens are producing, and while not as well weeded as I want, are gamely clinging to decency.
I am still trying to earn the May mortgage, which has been hard as hell lately. There have been setbacks. Last week I broke a canine tooth, or thought I did. The tooth snapped in half and luckily, it was only a filling that snapped out and not the harbinger of a future root canal. My dentist got me in first thing after the weekend and repaired it, but the $355 unplanned bill set me back, as all unplanned bills do. But I hope to remake it soon. The sales that have come in have been encouraging, and I am nearly there, so remain optimistic.
Making money is hard, but on the upside it’s easy to save money right now, and that’s a blessing. There isn’t a reason to leave the farm other than fishing, catfood, and granary runs, and so days seem to mesh together in a lovely summer swirl.
Yesterday my neighbor Linda stopped by to trade sourdough for eggs, and my evening meal was a slab of that freshly-baked warm bread loaded with my pigs' bacon and avocado. It was simple, but felt so decadent, to eat so well from this mountain. And more than enough to satisfy for the night after pan-frying a smaller trout for lunch.
Damn, it feels good to spend the day with nature and the ingredients to meals that make me smile. Sunlight and feasts, that’s summer. That’s something to celebrate.
And last night, I did something else important for the soul. I set up my backpacking tent by the fire pit in the woodland cleaning behind the barn. It wasn’t for camping out, as much as spending an evening reading via lantern light in the rain. Something about that, it heals like the river does. To lay on soft and fluffy sleeping bags and blankets, a solar lantern hooked like a chandelier to the tent ceiling, and feeling soft and warm outside while rain gently pelts at the nylon, a steel drum percussion to the story you’re reading…
So many things that make life matter to me most, cost nothing. I know there are people traveling the world, and buying $10,000 couches, and treating things acquired by credit cards as accomplishments, but I don’t care about any of that. I woke up on a hot summer day and tended my own farm. I let my horses out to graze on my lawn. I tended my piglets and their promises, my lambs and their listening… and I got to spend a weekday morning beside a river catching trout on a fly and bringing it home to clean and cook. I worked on art and soap orders, and last night I got to read beside a campfire, listening to horses sigh and the veery’s haunting trill while rain fell, and now on this gray Saturday morning I am checking in with you. Mostly to let you know I am still here, still in love with the scrappy life I have built, and trying to heal emotionally, physically, and financially while flowers bloom and the Wheel turns. That's my life.
I have six weeks of summer left, and then the first Harvest Festival begins with Lughnasadh in early August. Then it will be time to get in as much hay and firewood as possible, and that is something that is hard to even comprehend right now. But I have never been great at the long view, and will focus instead on what I can control today. And if the rain means I stay inside and write, then I shall.
I hope your summer is passing slowly. I hope your summer still feels like daylight is growing and that the Holly King hasn’t won yet. I hope it is full of ripe berries, and river rocks, and soft kisses, and warm hands. I hope your summer has campfires and cold beers and music played by clever friends. I hope it has epic concerts, kebabs, and soft mornings with your feet in the ocean. I hope that it has all this and so so much more, and that the light that comes before dusk, tired and golden, doesn't haunt you with nostalgia but instead reminds you that somedays we can live forever and hope isn't lost.
It feels so lovely to be warm again.
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