The Round of a Country Year is David Kline’s new book, which once again chronicles life as he sees it as an Amish farmer and community member. The words round or cyclical may be used to describe a vision of a world gone through endless, meaningless cycles. In this regard, think of Yeats’ “The Second Coming.” Or think of the world-without-God weariness (weltschmerz) of the opening of Ecclesiastes in the Bible.
Kline’s world as he describes it in his “Farmer’s Day Book” is anything but meaningless. He sees things as ordinary as food (s’mores, peach cobbler or the “hundred thighs and legs of chicken” provided by Ivan Miller for a neighbourly ice cream social. I presume there was plenty of ice cream, too).
Work for Kline is entering a new phase as he is more the senior advisor than the manager of his home farm, having turned that job over to his daughter and son-in-law. But Kline stills helps with milking, plowing, mowing, caring for chickens . . . the many labours of a mixed-farming operation. It is in the silence of work with only the creaking of harness and the heavy breathing of the horses that Kline finds time to observe, meditate and relax, no matter how physically demanding the work is.
Kline’s book also documents his dedication to finding time to observe the creation and the Creator: he “can’t help but see God in natural events and places on the farm.” Larkspur Farm is anything but a sterile landscape of exploited fields; it is an organic operation that – under the tutelage of Kline and his family – has become a haven for wildlife. More than 300 pairs of cliff swallows are seen not as pests but as creatures to encourage by provided nesting ledges for them on barns. Working the fields with horses in healthy crop rotation that involves wheat, legumes, corn, oats, pastures and woodland means that the soil is regenerated. Kline is happy to lift the plow to avoid a nest of killdeer or horned lark, and to mow around a milkweed patch to save the home of threatened monarch butterfly larvae.
David Kline also records his dedication to making time for neighbours. He visits and helps out his neighbour Rollie; his family visit others and host guests. They “make time” for these things by conscious choice and received tradition. And he makes times to be involved in local and regional agricultural conferences.
Finding the time to do all these things is something that Kline records matter-of-factly. He doesn’t proselytize or pontificate but simply records the life he lives, a life which deals with challenges such as cancer, dementia and death, a life of eight-hour communion services and the kind of daily work that is itself a sort of Sabbath, a picture of the shalom described in the Old Testament and the contentment in the New.
The word round can suggest futility, but it can also describe a continuous loop, year after year of opportunities to serve and to observe, to grow food and to eat food, to speak loudly and to meditate in silence, to labour and to stand in awe.
Thanks to David Kline for taking the time to witness to the possibility of such a life and to his family and community for supporting him in this work.
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