When I first moved to the central Washington desert back in 1991, I thought I’d been dropped into hell.
It wasn’t just that it was an honest-to-god desert…sagebrush, rattlesnakes, and killer heat…it was having to get used to living fifty miles from anywhere. I’m an adventurous person, but even a trip to the doctor required an hour’s drive (one way) and my husband (having grown up in said small town) couldn’t figure out why I thought it was scary to haul my sick six-month-old baby sixty miles to the pediatrician.
That first year, I was planting baby nectarine trees and feeding bummer lambs while No. 1 son napped. We only had television reception on calm days (the wind blew our antenna around) so my dad used to ship me VCR tapes of Sesame Street (all the way from Denver!) so I had something to keep the boy entertained for a little while on windy days.
This was back in the days before internet (not that we could’ve afforded it anyway). We were strapped enough that we did things like haul big bags of frozen french fries home when a truck overturned on the highway. That was probably hardest of all for me–I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth or anything, but having to learn how to be frugal (read: “poor”) made me feel even more desperate and isolated.
But then I got used to it.
One day I noticed that everyone else’s farm had a name, and I brought it up with Husband-Man. What could we call the farm? I asked him. It was his folks’ property, and they’d never called it anything but “the farm.”
HM didn’t blink. “Pork Belly Acres,” he said. (HM is occasionally quite brilliant, but don’t tell him I said that.) In three words, he’d wrapped up my general bemused/horrified attitude about the place–along with the fact that helping with the family farm was a way of investing (we hoped, anyway) in our future.
A little while later, I spray-painted our mailbox on the highway bright turquoise and painted “Pork Belly Acres” in red on the side, which amused passerby and slightly horrified HM’s parents. One thing I hadn’t learned about small town living is that being flamboyant is not a great idea. (The idea is to keep as low a profile as you possibly can. My inability to learn this lesson created some interesting situations years later when I became the editor of the local newspaper.)
Then we found out that No. 1 son’s sibling-to-be was actually two siblings. Surprise.
Ten years later, I stepped out of the childrearing and newspapering whirlwind for a moment and decided if I really wanted a horse that I’d better do something about it before I got too old. Good thing, too, since I was diagnosed with IC just a month or so after I bought my first horse. If I’d waited until after I’d been diagnosed, I never would’ve been brave enough to go through with it.
So my horses live happily on my sister and brother-in-law’s farm (which, of course, has a much more sensible name than Pork Belly Acres). For me, the farm is a place where little things mean a lot. It’s a place where a peaceful moment listening to horses eat hay is paid for with blizzards, mosquito bites, hours of fixing fence, and financial sacrifice. But that’s exactly what makes those moments mean so much.
It’s taken me a long time to figure this out, but Pork Belly Acres isn’t a specific place. It’s more of a state of mind. So it seemed fitting to name this blog–something that exists out in the ether–after something that really only exists in my head. “The farm” is not a place that I own, and the older I get, the more I think it sounds weird that someone can actually “own” property anyway.
It’s just as ephemeral as a waking dream. And I know that my gratitude for what I’ve been given is required–daily–is the only thing that keeps it a dream.