Last week we trudged through the forest in Unity, Maine, accompanied by the sound of the train whistle blowing through the trees, to the massive field where The Common Ground Fair is held.
This isn't just any fair. Now in its 34th year, The Common Ground Fair is a celebration of sustainable living, from forestry to farming to traditional crafts and cooking. This year 59,600 people attended over the course of 3 days.
There are maple-syrup and cider donuts,
baskets of flowers, fresh and dried, and bunches of Sweet Annie to take home to make into wreaths.
There's hand-dyed yarn from organically-raised sheep,
hobbit holes in which to peek,
and pumpkins for the picking.
Pixies and elves parade through the fairgrounds,
casting spells and scattering sunflowers in their wake.
We spent a sweet day there with the horses, goats, and mules,
a fine mist coating our hair, and our bellies full of warm cider, switchel, and Indian pudding.
By the end of the day, my bones chilled by the damp and cold, I longed to climb into the hay and nap with the pigs. There are few creatures, I think, who know how to sleep as happily and well as they do.
I should add that I myself don't eat meat and that I am well aware of the ultimate fate of these pigs, but I believe that if people are going to eat meat, the animals who provide that meat should be well cared for and the meat should be free of chemicals and hormones. The farmer who raises these pigs was sitting in the hay with them as I took these photos. She talked with great affection and respect about her pigs. Respect and care for the animal is an important end in itself, but it also means that the meat we feed children will be much healthier and more nutritious, as will our land and water. The more we support local farms the more we can trust that our meats and produce are being raised responsibly and sustainably. We can also help to preserve farmland and save it from development and sprawl. Nothing makes me sadder--or angrier, actually--than to see a housing development named "Cider Hill Farm" after the orchard that used to exist on the land where 100 cloned condos or 25 Mac Mansions now scar the hillside.
I am a girl who loves a country fair. This one is the best. You know, as you drive into Maine there's that sign that says "Welcome to Maine: The Way Life Should Be." A lot of folks go to the outlets at Kittery or Freeport and think they have been to Maine. No. The Common Ground Fair reminds us of the way life truly should be: sustainable, healthy, and in harmony with the earth.