The farmer’s kitchen. A place of warmth all year ’round when we used to cook on wood stoves. Still a place of warmth at meal time, but there are so many other parts to it, and it’s not all about food. It’s about the workings of the farm and the place where everything is brought: to be cleaned, to be cared for, to be stored, to be dried, to be warmed, to be processed. Doesn’t sound like your kitchen?
What’s in your dish drainer? I bet you don’t have a drench gun for wormer and rings for canning jars next to the baby spoon! Of course, when I look up from the sink to the window ledge, I see the injection syringes drying next to the potted plant, the dried poppy heads now devoid of their seeds, and my sheep collection given to me largely by friends in support of our farm name, Leaping Lamb Farm.
Turning around I survey the ‘animal rescue’ area of the kitchen. There is a turkey sequestered in a cardboard box in the window bay and a chicken in a cage, both with heat lamps over them. I checked with another farmer. “Where do you keep your chicks, your bummer lambs, your injured animals when they are in need of attention?” The basement. Hmmm, we don’t have a basement, but I know other farmers who use their kitchen just as we do and sometimes even for baby calves. I find the linoleum floor makes it easier to clean and the location (not at the barn) makes it easier to creep down in the middle of the night to feed the baby lambs their bottle of milk warmed in the microwave overhead.
It seems expected that there would be dried oregano, with its purple flowers, and sage and mint tied in bunches hanging from nails pounded into the wood beams of the ceiling and wood posts exposed in the walls. Then there is the colorful feed corn hung everywhere there is a nail, to dry with the heat from the wood stove when it is first shucked. And at some point these things become ornamental and no longer visible except when needed for cooking or to the guest passing through a room.
There’s more. Jars of dried chilies rest on the counter when there is no room left in the pantry. These sit a-top the cheese kit waiting for the time when the neighbor’s goats have kids and we can try our hand at making goat cheese from the nanny’s milk. The orange press waits for oranges that our move to Oregon can’t promise, at least not from our own trees. It adds a farm kitchen touch all its own, partly because it’s ancient, and partly because it stirs memories of my grandfather’s kitchen that was always warm and always promised fresh-squeezed orange juice from this very press.
All the implements of a farming life and more reside side by side as if there were no purpose other than to be handy. The needles, the tools, the implements, the artwork – they all tell a story of life on the farm. With all this warmth and goodness, I wonder whatever possessed the writer of the song about the three blind mice, the farmer’s wife, and her carving knife…that was likely kept in the kitchen. On reflection, that is one weird song and stories about the mice in our kitchen are best saved for another time.
Photos: (top) above the sink; (middle) orange juicer; (bottom) family photos mixed with sheep
All rights reserved. Copyright 2011 Scottie Jones