pink cameron

PINK CAMERON | A CLEAN BREAK

 

After three months of unforeseen joys and sorrows, triumphs, frustrations and lessons learned in the confines of a seventeen-foot camper, our time at Pink Cameron has come to an end. The arrival of September in Vermont has brought sub-forty degree nights and a generous offer to move into a one-room stone cottage on the farm. As such, we have moved our lives a few hundred yards up the farm road, into "The Smithy," a former blacksmith shop built by Consider Bardwell himself in the early 1800s.

This was a summer of scaling back, of learning (and choosing) to live with less. We washed and ate from the same two bowls, the same four forks and spoons, time and time again. Our clothes, all of which fit into a snug camper shower-turned-makeshift closet, faded in color with repeated and heavy use. We slept on an air mattress for three months—well, two air mattresses, since the first one popped after a month of dutiful service. It was a summer to trial a new way of life, in many ways.

Most notably, we started our own herd of meat goats, four in total. We gave them names: Satchmo, Smithers, Dill & Tuna. We had to say heart wrenching goodbyes to Satchmo and Smithers, having tried everything that we could to keep them alive, ultimately watching them both succumb to the same parasitic disease within the span of ten days. It was extremely painful, a time wrought with feelings of utter failure and sadness—an experience we did not feel open to sharing in this medium. The real failure, though, would be to bury the reality of what had happened. Thankfully our time at Pink Cameron was filled with a parade of other beautiful and poignant experiences. The gathering and passing of each summer storm; the fields alight with fireflies in June; the daily majesty of the sunrise, the sunset, and the infinite night sky. All was gift. Right before we moved out, and against all odds, seven pathetic zinnias sprouted. They were piddly with weak stems, but those zinnias gave us hope. After so much growth and experimentation during our Summer In The Camper, we knew that, come moving time, we would need a clean break. A figurative break, we thought; but what we got was literal! Enter REDBUDSUDS.

Camper living was not particularly clean. Though we did our best each day, it was never going to be the sort of living to be handled by a person who prizes cleanliness above all else. When you have no choice (and we did not—it was our home), you simply adapt and make do. If an apt name were to be given to this summer, Dirty Feet Summer wouldn't be a bad contender. By the first of September, outdoor showering was frigid. By using a tough bar of Castile soap as shampoo and body wash, we were able to be in and out in under a minute. It left our hair equal parts greasy and dry, but it mattered not. Adapt and make do.

Around the time of contemplating our "clean break" strategy, Sam received a providential email. The creator and owner of a small-batch soap business in Ohio, REDBUDSUDS, reached out to us about testing her new product, the Shower Bar, in our outdoor shower. Aubrey's new soap eliminated the need for separate bottles (or bars) of shampoo and body wash. In other words, she was asking us to do what we had already been doing, except with a product that was made for the job.

Sam has known Aubrey for a year or so, having chatted at farmers' markets and commiserated over the unnecessary packaging waste of shower products. Long before we knew the woman behind the company, we had been mailing our Greek family her soap bars because they smelled and felt really rather exceptionalWe've read enough sponsored blog posts to know that the job of the blogger is to write an unbiased review. But, in this case, we already believed in REDBUDSUDS. She makes soaps with ingredients derived from the earth. They are soft yet durable, lather beautifully, and smell gently of meadows and forests.

It feels a bit challenging to write a "review" because we are not "review" people. Reviews can feel gimmicky, non-substantial. We are farmers who bring in humble incomes. We like simple products—food, wares, and body care—that are utilitarian and work nicely. We work hard to prioritize investing in people and products that do good for the planet and do good for us, even when it costs more. Aubrey's soap meets all of our criteria, and it doesn't cost more. It is biodegradable—which will remain every bit as much of a concern in The Smithy as at Pink Cameron—and leaves our hair and skin feeling soft and truly clean, without any of the residual greasiness left by other bars of soap. This all goes without mentioning that, along with all of the REDBUDSUDS soaps we have used over the years, it is beautiful and feels like a treat to use. The Shower Bar is a substantial product that we will continue to use as our showers move from the great outdoors to the indoors. 

So we have made the clean break. We are out of Pink Cameron. Our possessions, removed; our dirty feet, cleaned. For his inaugural shower in our new home, Mark set down 'That Extra-Meter Cedar' bar on its cedar soap deck and used nothing else. 


—M&S

SHOWER THOUGHTS | OUR HOME LATELY

 

I turned the spigot on in the forest shower, felt the cold water pour over me, and realized it had been more than two months since either Mark or I had showered indoors. Two months since a hot shower. I peeked through the shower curtains and looked about. Our clothes line had become a hamper—destined for dirty farm clothes stained with a scent only a livestock farm can impart. The burdock patch was growing virulently once more; Mark would need to mow soon. I would need to fill the bucket with water from the shower in order to wash out the french press for morning. I turned off the spigot and saw our shock-white cat zip through the brush. Officially a feline obsessed with being out of doors, just like his parents. There it all was: our campsite. Not bad, I thought.
—S

The shower has always been a place of great peace for me; a place where a lot of my best ideas come to the surface. My tendency has been to linger too long under the running water, entertaining novel melodies in my brain, fragmented snippets of imagined prose, and enterprising ideas for the future. In short: wasting water. That place, the slow, indoor shower, is no more. Now, my showers are gone in sixty seconds or less, filled with hurried breaths brought on from the shock of cold water and evening air. I spend less time in there—thinking, bathing—than ever before. Still, the shower that stands just outside of Pink Cameron has become the de facto epicenter of our living grounds. It is our only source of running water: our well, of sorts. We draw water from the outdoor shower throughout the day; to wash dishes, to do laundry, to cook rice, to quench the thirst of the kids we are raising about a stone's throw away from where we live. We tote a small, steel bucket—back and forth, back and forth—taking the water wherever it is needed. It can be rather inconvenient, but enlightening too. We now know exactly how much water we use on a daily basis, and it is a lot less than what we were using in the past. It's a comforting thought—more comforting, even, than a hot, twelve-minute shower. —M

Possessions—especially the wares for cooking and eating—wear a patina from being carted from our camper kitchen to our outdoor sink. In general, things are a little rougher. A bit dirtier. Things break more often. We are becoming less attached to things.

If a storm is coming, we cannot bunker down until all the clothes are off the line, all the shoes are hurled under the camper, all the dishes are brought inside, and our pots of herbs are protected. I have the thought, during times like those ones, that the vast majority of human experience did not exist so comfortably within four walls. Communities used to live, well, communally. Life was less about neighbors and more about flourishing in conjunction with others who worked towards similar goals: rearing families together, growing food and raising shelter. Sharing the toils and the bounty. With trepidation society calls this hippy commune living. In my humble little opinion, this is a disservice to millions of people who came and prospered before us; to the communities around the world who still maintain this way of life. —S

Recently Mark and I have been researching yurts, or wooden and canvas cylindrical huts that originated in Mongolia. Apart from just being interested in living in our own yurt, I found it fascinating to learn that yurts traditionally have no windows, but rather a door and a sunlight. Life was to be lived and worked outside, and a yurt only one of your many rooms in nature. Many of our family and friends tell us they could not possibly do what we are doing this summer — what with the no bathroom, and no running water indoors, and no wifi, and only 17 feet to sleep, cook, dine, and relax in. Ah, yes, but what of all the treasures that can and do exist here. Countless, unexpected treasures. I have come to know the night, with her denizens of coyotes, and foxes, and stars as multitudinous as the blood vessels in my body. I have come to know the night and I love her. —S

And I have come to know the land and love her—even the dirt and grass clippings that we track onto our pale pink, painted floor each & every time we walk indoors. She is beautiful, and rough around the edges too. “Unrelenting” would be a good word. We are always close by, subject to her mood swings. From dusty heat waves to days-long deluges of rain, we must endure. Sometimes it is terrible. But most of the time, it feels apparent just how blessed we are to live this way. A way that is not necessarily comfortable or idyllic, but one that feels right for us. The thought of separating from the land, back into a house with indoor plumbing and creature comforts and everything you need under one roof, feels alien. It is not to say we want to live in a camper permanently, but that we hope to forever blend our lives with that of the land, just as we have this summer. —M


—M&S

ON RAISING A (TINY) MEAT HERD

 

On a day that now seems so long ago, at the beginning of June, we decided to raise our own goat. We called him Satchmo, cleaned out a pen for him in the barn adjacent to Pink Cameron, and agreed that we would raise him for meat. Our choice was the culmination of a conversation that we have been having since we began our work at Consider Bardwell Farm; a conversation that we thought worth having with the community around us. We promised to give updates and to discuss our thought process and ethics as they relate to the choice of raising animals for meat.

Naturally, much has happened since then. First, Satchmo gained a pen mate. We named him Smithers. Many people decide to forgo naming animals being raised for meat for the simple reason that they do not want to become too attached, as if they were pets. We worked around that by purposefully choosing names that weren’t too cute (because how can you skip out on the opportunity to name your own goat!). We set up an outdoor enclosure and began weaning Satchmo & Smithers from goat’s milk. They started to forage plants and munch on hay and grain, growing bigger by the day.

Then, two more kids came along. Suddenly, we had a herd and an experimental homestead going on our humble little campgrounds. As I write, I can hear Dill & Tuna outside, loudly voicing their displeasure over weaning. Today will be their first day without any mother’s milk. Fortunately for them, they have two older, capable pen mates showing them the ropes of a post-milk diet. Also fortunate for them: Smithers has decided to stop bullying them. Surprising as it was to see sweet little Smithers head-butting the newbies, the naturally selective & competitive instinct in animals always comes to the surface, no matter the size of the herd.

Raising our own herd of meat kids has been challenging, enriching, fun, not-so-fun . . . all of the above. There are many times when the last thing we want to do at the end of a twelve-hour farm shift is more farm work. Alas, these four kids are living beings that need and deserve our best care, day in and day out; and because we really believe in what we are doing, it is not too difficult to muster the energy required to do just that. This whole experience circles back to the fact that we are consumers of meat. More than that, we are striving to be conscious consumers of meat. For us, that means coming face-to-face with all that choice entails; it means that we will see the process through from beginning to end, and that we will try to “do things the right way” from pasture to plate.

Our goal is to keep Satchmo, Smithers, Dill, and Tuna as healthy and as happy as possible. We make nutritious food available to them in an outdoor environment that is perfectly suited to goats; and we personally interact with them, showing them affection on a daily basis. If we are going to be consuming meat, we want it to be coming from an animal that we know was happy and healthy during its lifetime. And a significant reason for why we have chosen to raise four goats is so we can nourish not only ourselves, but also our family & friends with the very same peace of mind.

We have received a few common questions on the subject: Why don’t you just raise them as pets? Don’t you think that it’s wrong to kill them? These are valid questions and deserve answers. It is our view that goats fall into a category of working farm animals that are called to a productive life (just as we are!). The herd of milking goats here at Consider Bardwell is a prime example of that. They work hard to give us clean, nutritive milk, which is then made into cheeses of excellent quality. They “come to work” twice per day, seven days per week; and between their “shifts” (a.k.a. between milkings), they are rewarded with lush, fertile pasture and all of the tasty shrubs and weeds that grow around it. In order to do all of this, they need to be bred every year. As is the case with humans, with all animals, without babies there is no milk. So, there are kids every year—kids whose gender it is impossible to select or predict. Some are female and can be raised as milking goats, while others are male and cannot. In a world where meat is consumed, it makes sense for those kids to become meat. It is their most productive purpose. In that way, meat is a necessary byproduct of dairy.

As for the final step in the process—slaughtering—it is an inherently difficult task. We have yet to perform it ourselves, but we have given it a lot of thought. Let this much be clear: no, we do not take pleasure in the idea or the act of killing anything. We anticipate that the final act of our goats’ lives will be a painful and emotional one for us.  Nevertheless, it is a part of the production of all meat. And as consumers of meat, we have already had a hand in the slaughter of those animals we have consumed—whether we see it or not.

So long as we slaughter our goats in a humane manner, it is an act that we believe is acceptable and in no way “wrong.” Their meat will help to sustain our bodies and give us the energy needed to live, and that seems reason enough. Moreover, that goes without saying that the meat kids who are being raised on the farm for sale—who will be slaughtered and processed at an Animal Welfare Approved facility—help to pay our salaries, giving us the ability to make an honest living. Their mothers, the milkers, do the same. They make our lives here possible. So it goes on our little experimental homestead at Consider Bardwell Farm. We owe so much to these goats, and so we try to give back to them the best way we know: by caring for them, by loving them, and by giving them the best lives that we can.


—M

INSIDE OUR RENOVATED HOME ON WHEELS

 

We have arrived. The view looks like burdock- and nettle-covered fields, and two buckling kids — Satchmo and Smithers, respectively. It looks like three weeks of blood, sweat, and tears bringing life and buzzing back into an unused 1986 camper; it looks like home for now. And our home's name is Pink Cameron.

To inhabit a new space is quite strange a thing. Muscle memory has yet to develop, so you hit your head on new things, and your reach for something on the counter falls an inch too short. Your body feels different in your bed, or maybe it's that your bed feels foreign to your body. Our life here has become an amalgamation of all of the things we imagined, and many that we did not.

If you have been following along with this blog for a little while, you read and witnessed our first impression of the camper. Paring back our belongings was an interest of ours, and we have both long dreamed of a composting toilet outhouse, but to claim that we chose this situation would be a falsehood. The truth is that we are extremely grateful for hot water, derive pleasure from lighting, and see nothing wrong with having a bookshelf devoted to vinyl and books. Camper life lends itself poorly to all of the above. Or at least this camper. We said yes to this opportunity because what we wanted most of all was to immerse ourselves in this dairy goat farm while not entering into poverty getting there. The owners at Consider Bardwell generously offered us their camper, on their farm, with a no-holds-barred approach to renovation.

Many skills were acquired along the way; many came too late. We yelled and cursed and sustained countless minor injuries. Without further adieu, a glimpse of Pink Cameron's interior from Dark + Outdated to Light + Fresh!

A few moments, even if brief or rare, have had us feeling like vignettes from a Wes Anderson film: lying on our bed that buts up to the window, reading and rereading recipes from a favorite cookbook while our cat sleeps on the shelf above, our transistor radio relaying all the daily happenings. These moments do exist, and we want to acknowledge their goodness; they are pure in spirit and leave us refreshed. Moments of genuine connection as husband and wife and members of the planet drive our will to make this work—to make Pink Cameron our home.

There are other moments, peppered in more frequently—yet disorienting all the same—where things go wrong. The times when you catch six mice in a day and wonder if the eyes of every mouse bulge out of their head when they die. Or when you have not yet built your cat an outdoor enclosure, and so resign yourself to a litter box that will live at the foot of your bed. And when the fuses and the wires and the converters and the lines exceed your level of know-how by so great a score that you live without electricity or a refrigerator. This all goes without mentioning that hearing, “Wow, you're still painting the inside?” was something of a daily phenomenon.

Wherever we haven't used parts from the farm's equipment shed to smatter together a makeshift version of Whatever-It-Is-We're-Building, we have more-than-likely gone without. Example: we built an outdoor shower using felled logs for the four posts, baling twine for supporting the shower curtains, and rocks from the forest as a drainage base. However, we have yet to begin building our composting toilet outhouse, opting instead to run one-hundred yards down the road to the farm whenever nature calls.

Here we cook most meals over an open fire—a few successes; several flops. We tried potatoes wrapped in foil thrown straight in the embers, and they came out charred to the point of inedibility. Rice came off the fire grate perfectly, as did green peppers—which blistered in sizzling, not smoking (!!) olive oil. Laundry gets washed by hand and dried by the wind. So do our dishes. Slowly, the cadence of daily life is making sense.

Our shelves are decorated entirely with things we use & consume: mason jars full of provisions, spices, and baking supplies; an oil lamp; a few dishes & cooking utensils; a ukulele & a few of our favorite books; our begleri and briki from Greece, plus a carpet from our time in Turkey. The wind chime that our farm friends gifted us is singing a gentle tune in the afternoon breeze and this place is beginning to feel like a home. Perhaps it is because of all the time that we spent trying to make it so. Perhaps it is simply because we have electricity and a functioning refrigerator. Either way, we have arrived at a moment of gratitude & satisfaction—however humble it may be. Here's to a tiny camper nestled in the great outdoors.


—M&S