Even though book touring is quite fun, it was nice to have a little break at halftime. "Break," however, is a relative term. While many of my friends head to the beach for the Memorial Day weekend, I head to my goat farm in upstate New York.
Yes, that's right. A goat farm. I would wager my next advance that I just might be the only ex-drag queen goat farmer in the world. How I got into this situation is anyone's guess, but if you're trying to picture it, Eva Gabor in Green Acres is probably as good an image as any.
It all started two years ago when I was upstate on an apple picking weekend with my partner, Brent Ridge. (Some of you may know him as "Dr. Brent" from Martha Stewart's show and magazines.) We drove by what we considered to be the archetypal farm. It was positively Disney-esque. I half expected bluebirds to drape our rental car with ribbons as we drove by.
Better yet, it was for sale. One bucolic dream... now reduced for quick sale.
It reminded me of growing up in Wisconsin. White house. Red barn. Green grass. I'd always been fascinated by farms ever since I got my first Fisher-Price farmyard. (When you opened the barn door, it emitted an anemic "moo.")
What I've learned, however, is that red barns don't stay red without constant repainting, old white farm houses tend to break far easier than Fisher-Price facsimiles, and green grass grows at an alarming pace.
While our friends frolic in the surf in the Hamptons, we spend every weekend trying to swim against the tide of mother nature.
We have a "co-farmer," John, who tends to the animals. He's a goat-whisperer. The farm is home to over eighty goats right now, and not only does Farmer John know each one by name... they come when he calls them by name.
Memorial Day weekend is a big weekend around our farm. Around most farms, actually.
Here's a short list of what we accomplished:
- Transplanted seven large trees.
- Put in the tomatoes and peppers.
- Trellised the peas.
- Spread four tons of gravel in the garden walkways. (You can see our heirloom garden plans here.)
- Smelled the lilacs.
- Weeded the flower garden.
- Put in the window screens.
- Baked three pies and six loaves of bread.
- Put in 45 new blueberry, currant, black raspberry, and gooseberry bushes.
- Ate our first harvest of the year ? French breakfast radishes (with lemon juice and salt).
- Spread the humongous winter manure pile.
While I was in Seattle and Portland on tour, there was a fashion photo shoot for Out magazine at the farm. The "story" of the shoot was "Depression-era farming." Which meant, from what I understand, half-naked male models looking poor and hungry and stunning enough to make you want to buy what little clothes they were wearing.
Brent was at the farm during the shoot, and while he was slaving away in the garden, he heard the photographer and assistants shouting to the models to roll around in the hay pile.
Only it wasn't a hay pile.
It's an easy mistake. The goat pens are bedded with straw and hay, which collects the manure all winter to help keep the barn warm. Three weeks ago, Farmer John cleaned out the pens, resulting in a large pile of ? excuse the language ? shitty hay.
Which is what the half-naked male models were rolling around in.
Brent said he looked over at the barn and swore the goats were smirking.
[Click here if you want to see more of our farm.]
TOMORROW: Back on the Road with Candy for Strangers.