This Easter weekend, I managed to actually pull off a surprise family adventure for Robin and Jay. We went for a full day of hands-on learning fun at the Brattonsville historic plantation and farm in McConnells, SC. This is a beautiful area of the state and of particular importance due to its Revolutionary War history. The Battle of Huck's Defeat occurred less than a mile from the Bratton plantation, and up the road was the Battle of Kings' Mountain, which marked the turning point of the Revolutionary War in the South.
They do have re-enactments here, but we came for the Childrens' Day at the Farm. I don't mind saying right up front that I felt wonderful out in the clean country air. I've dreamed of a small farm all my life, and that desire has only intensified as we raise Robin and Jay. For their part, I think they had a pretty fantastic time, too.
Jay especially loved the chicks and the lamb. He even began to overcome his nervousness around the big animals--a huge step for him, since he had a very traumatic experience with large undisciplined dogs when he was about three. We've been working through that ever since, but this weekend he pet the full-sized cow, felt the big Percheron draft horses while they rested between plowing demonstrations, and keeps talking about Seven, the adult Nubian goat.
The lamb is a week and a half old. It was especially poignant, right before the Easter holiday.
The Percherons were very calm and easy-going, as many draft horse breeds are.
I remember listening to Jethro Tull's album Heavy Horses from an early age (tease me if you like, but he wasn't wrong about them). One of my agrarian and literary heroes, Wendell Berry, is in his 90's and to my knowledge still farms with his draft horses in Kentucky. "Names of Horses" is a haunting and beautiful poem that began to teach me what poetry really is when I was about 14.
These gentle giants have shaped humanity in ways we are too quick to forget.
In coming weeks I plan to share some more quotes and poetry, some from Wendell Berry and other admired authors on important agrarian topics. I was able to speak briefly with these animals' owners; one had read Berry's work as well, which was of course delightful.
The guys also enjoyed the chickens, making me wish we were ready for our own little flock--an inevitability, really, but all in time. I have my hands quite full enough at present.
That delight. And they were so gentle with all the animals.
We'll be going back for the Sheep-shearing in a few weeks if my hip holds out.
I suppose I could let DH take them without me, but that would be no fun at all.
I'll go on crutches if I have to.
In addition to the animals, there were brick-making demonstrations, candle-making, cooking, blacksmithing....it went on and on. DH was impressed with it all, never having been to an event like it, and especially after the wool-dying commented on what an incredible chemical process, when you begin to study it--these folks were NOT simpletons. They had a kind of practical intelligence that we have, by in large, lost in our day. Yes, I said. The things they did with simple machines, their ingenuity is really extraordinary. He was amazed at all the uses to which you had to put things, how you had to plan for every little detail.
I am so glad I grew up homeschooled, and that my parents taught us to have an appreciation for these things. It's an important core that I want to pass on to our children as well. Who knows? Perhaps that farm dream will be just around the corner one day.
For now, I'm just glad we have such a positive family memory to look back on.
As we were sitting in the hayride wagon, Robin looked up at me and said simply but sincerely, "We're a good family."
I think he meant he felt a wholesome happiness too, being together in a great environment.
And for that
and especially these
I am very, very grateful.