THAT first wakeful night at the Little Farm is made up for by the second night's sleep. I oversleep a bit, too - until about 8 a.m. (gasp!). Beau consistently starts his day at 6 (cooking breakfast, remember), Maya at 7, Ray somewhere inbetween, and I had wanted to get up early enough to get well into weeding and hay-spreading before it got warm. But after breakfast, Maya and Ray lend a hand in the pasture, and the job is done lickety-split. "You guys are a whole lot faster at that than I am," I remark sheepishly. Robert replies, "We've had a lot more practice."
After lunch and more dishes, Maya leads me past the outdoor shower, across a beautiful meadow and a little way into the surrounding woods to show me the spring house. The spring is currently the only water source at the Little Farm, and its uphill location means that all plumbing is entirely gravity-fed (except for when it needs an assist from a gas-fueled pump). Though Ray and Maya would like more water for irrigation, it provides more than enough for household, livestock, and garden needs.
The spring house was built by Ray and his father after repeated bear visits to the spring churned up enough muck to make the water run cloudy, resulting in some intestinal distress for the farm's residents. (Yeah, I'm really glad I missed that episode.) It's a neat little structure, containing a set of pipes that channel the water down toward the fields and buildings, and also allows enough water to spill down the hill that the lush woodland vegetation continues to thrive.
When Maya and I pass through a gate in the fence surrounding most of the farm, Cotter becomes extremely agitated. He hasn't done this when I've gone through any other gates, but now he stands at this one, barking incessantly. "Aw, he's worried about us," I say, and Maya says, "He just does that sometimes." But as she's showing me the spring house, Cotter comes bounding toward us. "How did you get out?" Maya exclaims. Apparently the gate wasn't fastened as securely as we thought. He has brought Nita, the young livestock guarding dog who lives outside the fence, and the two of them are extremely excited. "Stay close by," Maya warns them, and then goes back to telling me about the spring.
Only a minute or so passes before we're ready to head back. Maya calls the dogs, but there is no answering bark, no crackling of underbrush. They're gone. Nita is always free to run out here, but it's only with Cotter's roving influence that she'll stray out of earshot. Beau is recruited to the search; when calling does not work, and waiting a while does not work, he and Maya get in the truck and go to look for them.
Maya leaves me with a bin of dried mustard plants, asking me to remove the seeds from the chaff. It's a soothing and time-consuming activity, and I have to kind of figure it out as I go, which is fun in an undertaking of this scale. I'm sitting in the shade, rubbing the fibers between the palms of my hands, when a truck rumbles up the drive. It has hippies in it.
[To be continued!]