This statement meets with some confusion to those around me. Maybe they picture me checking into a hospital and asking to be put into a vegetative coma for several months?
Which technically is an action and isn't nothing. But I am splitting hairs.
No, at the beginning of this summer I looked at my location, my life, my business and decided while the rest of the world enjoyed long summer days and weekends away I would relentlessly work. I was going to make as much cheese as I could and do as many farmers markets as possible all with the goal of doing nothing at a later date.
I even entered cheeses in competitions to create brand awareness. I had a win at American Cheese Society and not even an honorable mention at NY State Fair. Kind of like selling out on Broadway and tanking at summer stock. The state judge checked off bitter, salty, acid, and creamy all for one cheese. Hello umami? Why do we always remember the negative comments? Note to self-stop doing that.
So that is what I did. With the help of my ever eager intern Des, I miss her singing in the cheese house, and my ever patient Uncle Charlie with the herd on weekends I worked and I saved. I spent the summer forgoing any well deserved MAC purchases (if you don't know they are the most fabulous cosmetics known to man or woman) all with the plan that when the summer folk went to warmer climates and the locals just want to go to one store in their warm car and go home to their warm house (can you blame them?) I would be basking in the warmth of doing nothing.
So I should probably clarify my definition of “nothing”. My cows as we enter November will be in late lactation and can go to once a day milking. After morning milking they will saunter outside for fresh air and haylage. I will load the outdoor wood furnace and than I can return to the house with every possibility ahead of me. You see it is not the “nothing” that is important but the lack of intention and expectation. I am not planning on writing the next great American novel or learning to knit Irish cable knit sweaters and have 50 completed by Christmas. No I will just read, organize cupboards, paint a room, write, knit, wherever the day may take me. Some days I might go to the cheese house to create a new cheese or stock up on my classic aged cheeses for next summer, you see the possibilities of nothing are endless. Don't despair winter cheese will be available. The farm store will be open and I will be at the Saturday Kingston farmers market every other weekend. But the rest of time I just don’t know.
When I was a posher girl living in posher times in the city I never would have dreamed of not going somewhere to “do” or “see” something on vacation. As I look back wouldn’t a holiday at home in the city doing nothing have been wonderful? A museum, an afternoon with that golden Manhattan light and only a camera for company. I missed an opportunity but it might not be too late for you to plan on doing nothing in what still is America’s most fabulous city.
Back on the farm. My first cow, Fiesta, will calve around January 26th and the nothing will end. I will be back to twice a day milking around the time the seed catalogs start arriving in my mail box, if the snow plows don't take it down again, and I will be back to doing something. I will have intention and I will plan. So the next summer season will be bright, vibrant and successful so I can yet again do nothing.
Thank you to my loyal cheese customers for making nothing something special.
Did you know that Julia Child was fifty when she launched The French Chef? She created the celebrity chef, a title now mostly held by men. She is probably responsible for the success of public TV. Imagine what can be accomplished by a middle aged or older woman today? Are thinking women even defined by these terms of age or youth? I know we are a society that worships at the altar of youth and certain women will go to the ends of the earth to attain eternal beauty, I recently had a woman wanting to purchase cow placenta as a restorative (another story and no I didn't sell it to her).
Maybe it is a blessing never to have been endowed with beautiful perfect looks. Maybe women like Julia, six foot three and a bit odd looking, had to be brave, smart, and willing to try anything with potential of failure. That is why aging is not so scary. It is only our shell, the part of the oyster that you throw away, so what is to worry about the ridges .
I just turned 49, an age that I could not even fathom in my youth, but I feel the next big thing around every corner. I actually feel success is deserved not something that fell in my lap as I did in my twenties. More importantly I feel no validation, or lack there of, in success or failure. I am wise enough to look at both as a curious thing that is happening on a slide under a microscope. It is not even detachment I feel but analytical amusement. These are the true beauties of age.
Trading her stilettos for muck boots, Aissa O’Neil left a successful career as a fashion designer in NYC to pursue farming full time in 2001. After years of study and apprenticeships in cheesemaking she opened her on-farm creamery 2013.