“Farmette” in Farmer-ish

Was it really only one year ago this week? It seems like much longer than that since our authors group gave our first ekphrasis reading here in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

No thanks to the coronavirus pandemic of 2020, it’s as if we’ve all been living through a worldwide war, where time has become, like war itself, foggy. The anxieties and stress caused by this pandemic, plus other manmade and natural disasters, have aged each of us, I feel, beyond our years.

Yet it’s true. It was just one year ago this week. And I have proof.

As I wrote in my WOW post of that event last year (www.blog.bonnieleeblack.com/the-alchemy-of-ekphrasis/ ), each member of the authors group chose one of artist-and-author Florence Grende’s abstract paintings as inspiration for our respective creative writing. We then read our pieces, standing beside our chosen painting, to the invited guests happily filling (we had yet to learn the term “social distancing”) Florence’s living room on that late-September Sunday afternoon in 2019.

Me with the painting I chose

I chose a painting that looked to me like a duck in distress. So I wrote about an experience I’d had when I lived for a time in a small farming community in northern New Mexico, just south of Taos. I titled this true story “Farmette.”

This week I had the honor of having my “Farmette” essay included in a beautiful new online literary journal, founded and edited by Crystal Sands in Maine, called Farmer-ish. Here is half of the story. (To read it all, please go to:

https://farmerish.net/volume-1-issue-2-fall/ and scroll down to “Farmette.”  And while you’re there, be sure to read more of the journal’s other fine submissions.)


A poet friend visiting from New York called it my “farmette,” and the name stuck. In my mid-fifties I was going through a “farm-girl” phase, a belated “back-to-the-land” urge, a need to unearth a hidden side of myself.

I bought a little A-frame cabin nestled among ancient apple trees in a small farming community in the mountains of northern New Mexico, about a half hour’s drive south of Taos.

My nearest neighbors, who were not so near, were wizened Hispanics whose families had been farming in this fertile valley for hundreds of years, ever since their Spanish ancestors trudged up from central Mexico — as well as gray-headed, pony-tailed, skinny old hippies who’d followed their own back-to-the-land impulses decades before me.

Most of the old hippies still lived in the backwoods shacks they’d built by hand in the ‘70s — out of old planks, discarded windows, corrugated metal, and bailing wire.

None of these neighbors seemed to know what to make of me – a single, older woman, originally from the East Coast, who lived alone, half in the woods, and kept pretty much to herself. Whenever we crossed paths at the Post Office — the only official building in this small village — they scooted away from me without a word. My sister in Denver quipped that they likely suspected I was in the Witness Protection Program.

I had over an acre of land, including a field in front of my house, that I put to good use. I planted 100 tiny lavender plants, over a dozen raspberry bushes, several peach saplings, and, of course, a generous vegetable garden. If the village had given a prize for the most impressive compost pile, mine would have won. Privately, I crowned myself Compost Queen.

I did all this “farmette” work — from Spring’s thaw until Autumn’s freeze — with my own two hands, on the days I wasn’t teaching English at the local university. I made these earthy efforts – shoveling, planting, weeding, watering, mulching, and more – stubbornly, manically, as if my life depended on it.

Early on, on an April afternoon at the feed store in a nearby town, I fell in love with baby chicks, just hatched. So I bought a half dozen of them and brought them home in a cardboard box. I set up their box in my bedroom, with an electric lamp to keep them warm.

Still desperately in love, I cooed to them, sang to them, and stroked their little pale-yellow, baby-chick feathers. They quickly grew to trust me and ultimately let me carry them in my arms like babies.

On another day that same Spring while walking in the woods, I saw a hand-made sign by the dirt road near a hippie shack that read DUCKS CROSSING — with a painting of a momma duck followed by ducklings. When I enquired of the resident hippie, “Do you, by chance, have ducklings for sale?” his answer was, “Yes!”

So I bought three – one male and two females, it turned out — brought them home in a box, and set them up in my bathroom, swimming happily in the tub. They were, I thought, the cutest little ducklings that had ever lived, and I swooned at the sound of their soft, gurgling, duckling-quacking.

When the weather got warm enough, and these babies had matured enough, I built pens for them close to my cabin so I could watch them from the window when I was indoors working at my desk. In the ducks’ pen I dug a pond for them to swim in, and I’d found a big, old dog house that would serve as their new home.

I needed to make the chickens’ and the ducks’ pens impenetrable because I knew there were dangerous predators lurking in these woods. I’d seen clear bear tracks on my long, muddy driveway, and plenty of coyote scat everywhere. So I built both pens with tall chain-link fencing, covered by strong nylon mesh. I was sure my “farmette” family would be safe and secure. …

(Continue reading by scrolling down to “Farmette” at:  https://farmerish.net/volume-1-issue-2-fall/  .)

I won’t give away the underlying, unwritten message of this story. I’ll only say I believe it also applies to the times we’re living through now. I welcome your thoughts and comments, after you’ve read all of “Farmette.”

16 thoughts on ““Farmette” in Farmer-ish”

  1. I understand completely how you feel about the chickens and ducks.January 1,2019,y neighbor let his dogs into my partly enclosed yard and a sturdy pen and my ducks were stained.I was devastated to say the least.Love your writing ,I am a friend of Judith Hadlock .l

  2. Dear Bon,

    Your story seems far more allegorical only one year later, but such are the times in which we now live. Maybe we could have a sequel where you raise some new chickens that are protected by the spirits of their fallen brethren?


  3. I believe writing or talking about a horrifying experience and allowing others to see and share our pain somehow makes it fade a little. And now you have turned your experience, thanks to some help from Florence’s painting, into a lovely essay on the joys and terrible sorrows of living close to the land. A fine achievement from a sad, sad day. Congratulations of the publication of “Farmette”.

    1. Thanks so much, dear Pamela, for your thoughts and insights. What you say here reminds me of something an old friend said to me a long, long time ago: “A problem shared is a problem halved.” — xx

  4. Lovely story which, to me, is about the pain that comes with joy and caring. “Ay, in the very temple of delight, Dame Melancholy keeps her sacred shrine.”

  5. Such a beautiful story, Bonnie. Your adventures continue to amaze and inspire. This sentimental one was full of spirit and courage – brought tears to my eyes. Your photo is beautiful. Just subscribed to Farmer-ish.

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