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Since Melissa is living on the farm full time, she has farm jobs. Her job is to get my younger son to take care of his lambs. Technically raising and selling two lambs is his business. He wanted to earn money like his brother, and his eggs selling is no longer high enough stakes for him.
But if the lambs are a small business, Melissa is a co-founder.
Imagine my five-year-old with his two front teeth missing and his blond curls still flat from the last night’s bath.
Imagine Melissa sitting next to him. Each with dark black lamb in their lap, each lamb the size of a kitten and each is drinking out of a bottle.
But here’s what it is, really. My son is swinging a bat, threatening every living thing with accidental decapitation as he walks sort of to the lamb house and sort of not, as I shout, “Get your butt to those lambs!”
I go into Melissa’s room where she is curled up under the covers worrying that she will never get married.
I say, “Can you go feed the lambs now?”
She says, “Can’t he do it himself? I’m being sad.”
“No. You can’t be sad when there are kids. He needs help.”
“You have to stop doing phone interviews where you say all women should be married by the time they are 28. I can’t take it.”
“Okay. I’m going.”
Melissa is at the lamb barn and my son is gone. He is jumping on the hay bales. I yell out the back door, “You’re going to be late for school if you don’t finish chores now!”
He pretends he doesn’t hear me.
“Feed those lambs right now or you can’t play video games for the rest of your life!”
Melissa has been so diligent about feeding the lambs three times a day—and twice a day with my son in tow—that the Farmer has capitulated in the long-going discussion about whether I can get horses.
Melissa is a horse expert and she will take care of the horses and also teach us how to ride so I don’t get a concussion like last summer.
I spend mornings in the garden, thinking while I weed. The best part of starting my new company is that the beginning of a startup is a lot of thinking in between doing. Because it’s hard to know what to do next. So I think of the garden as integral to launching my company.
Last year I wrote about how excited I was to plant a garden on the farm, and a commenter wrote: “Sticking plants two feet away from each other in brown dirt isn’t a garden.” At first I thought She’s a bitch. Then: I think she’s right. I thought about her comment all winter and now I think that buying a bunch of annuals and planting them is like painting. Gardening should be more like sculpture. So I’m moving dirt and rocks all over the place right now.
Melissa talks to me while I garden. But she brings a New Yorker.
“You carry the New Yorker like it’s a security blanket,” I tell her.
She says, “I need it in case I get bored.”
“You get bored taking with me in the garden?”
So I made her a little rock perch in the middle of the garden. I made the perch close to the fence so that the lambs can’t get in, but they can be near her so they don’t baa for her.
Melissa decides she doesn’t want to work at our new startup. She can’t get her head around something that is nothing. She says, “When we have a warehouse full of cheese, or a web site that sells stuff, then I can get excited about working at this company. I can’t work in a company that is air.”
I tell her, “It’s not air. It’s ideas.”
“Ideas in the air.”
Melissa decides that since we are already getting horses, she will turn the horse barn into a business. She will buy four-year-old Welsh ponies and train them to be jumpers. She will qualify for Pony Finals from Wisconsin, where, apparently, there is scant competition in the area of rich pipsqueaks riding overpriced ponies. Then she’ll go to Pony Finals and sell the horse to a parent who thinks their kid is going to the Olympics for horse jumping, or is going to marry a horse breeder. Or something.
It is lunch. I make lunch for me and the farmer. I pick at my food because I like eating alone but the Farmer likes us to eat together. So I eat beforehand and then pretend during lunch. Melissa does not eat anything. When she first started living with us she would pretend. But now she only does that when the kids are at the table.
The Farmer says grace. He says, ‘Thank you, God, for taking care of us and for the food we are about to eat.”
He asks us how the business is going.
We tell him Melissa is now just an investor. She has her own horse business to run.
The Farmer laughs.
I say, “Are you surprised?”
He says, “No. I’d be surprised if you guys stuck to a single plan for longer than a week.”