Simple Pleasures

The dawn is still dim as I awake this morning. Even before my eyes are open, my ears are showered in the chorus of cheerful birds singing outside my window. Trills, chatters, caws, warbles. Each morning they delight to greet the dawn as if for the first time. So many languages of joyfulness!

In the evening, there are more songs of birds and frogs and toads. One in particular caught my attention, a melodic cascade of kee-ru kee-ru kee-ru from the birches behind Farmstead. Jan, one of our members who is an avid birder, said I should record the call so she could help me identify the singer. Later that evening, I was able to snag a short video looking out over the creek as the distinctive song wafted over to the barnyard.

“That’s a Veery,” she offered. “It’s a member of the thrush family.”

The Veery was new to me, so off to the bird book I went to look it up. There it was, next to robins and bluebirds, much like a smaller robin without the red breast. A few days later, I spied it in the branches of a tag alder beside the creek. It spied me too, and off it flitted.

Even after decades of living here on the farm, delighting in connecting with and learning about nature is a wonderful source for simple pleasures. I see it every day at Farmstead as folks are in awe of the glimmering of hummingbirds that return every summer to partake of our flower gardens and slurp up the sugar water in our many feeders. No need to surf the internet to keep yourself entertained when nature is on display and you’re observant.

The harvest can also be a great source of simple pleasures on the farm. As an experiment, we have a bed of strawberries growing in our smaller high tunnel behind our house. I had heeled in a few plants there one year from when we were retiring our production beds, and they’ve overwintered miraculously well. As they multiply each year, I spread them further down the bed until now they have a whole bed to themselves. Because of the protection and warmth of the high tunnel, these strawberry plants come up earlier than local field cultivars, offering handfuls (or now bowlfuls) of fresh, juicy fruits for the family breakfast.

Beside the small high tunnel is a small patch of asparagus, so my current pre-chores morning routine is to grab a bowl and harvest these two plots, bringing the small bounty down to the kitchen. Asparagus omelets? Fresh strawberries on pancakes or waffles? We bite into the juicy honey-oye berries and bask in their natural sweetness. No sugar needed to savor these treasures.

Additional simple pleasures abound in the stewardship of the animals. There’s the softness of the new baby chicks, the delight of the pigs as we throw them a wheelbarrow full of weeds, the adorableness of the bouncing lambs. These little things help to feed our soul and keep us going through the long days of toil and labor.

So often, we receive the message that pleasures must be found elsewhere—in travel, in adventure, in material acquisition, in fame and fortune. Yet, when we chase these things, we find that they don’t last. Upon returning to our hum-drum, we’re bored yet again, yearning for the next thrill.

What if, instead, we cultivate a practice of simple pleasures, right where we are. Here are a few ideas to help you get started.

• Take a break at sunrises and sunsets to pay attention and admire the beauty at these transitions. Take pictures. Listen to the nature sounds. Watch the color of the sky and clouds.
• Make a special meal that celebrates the flavors of the season to share with your family. Try sourcing as many of the ingredients locally and share the story of where these foods came from and who grew them. If you grew them, take time to savor the fruits of the effort that took to bring the meal to the table.
• Take some quiet time to write a poem, strum an instrument, paint, weave, embroider, carve, or whatever brings you joy by working creatively with your hands and mind.
• Create a sanctuary space for wildlife at your home. This could be as simple as a toad house or a hummingbird feeder or as elaborate as brings you joy like planting pollinator friendly habitat. Watch how nature thrives with the invitation over time.
• Keep a journal or notebook to record your observations and document the simple pleasures you find during the day. Sometimes negativity can be so overpowering, we forget the good parts deserving gratitude. Writing them down gives them more presence in our consciousness.

As you cultivate a practice of simple pleasures, see if it changes your perspective of home. Instead of illusively chasing after happiness out there somewhere, we can find that joy can be a daily choice, found in the little things right where we are. Time for chores. See you down on the farm sometime.