The Care and Feeding of Others

Today I pulled the final bit of pumpkin from last summer’s garden out of the freezer in order to bake up a batch of biscuits for our dogs, one of a couple of tasks I have set for myself this afternoon. I’ll also spend some time in the garden (starting the seeds for this year’s pumpkins in fact!) and continue with some reading on the subjects of chickens and bees (more on that soon). I can’t claim to be accomplishing anything of great importance these days as I putter about, but I am nonetheless deeply satisfied by day’s end — and that, I’ve decided, is accomplishment enough.

The thread that seems to run through my activities on a given day seems to be tied to my urge to nurture: the organizing principle behind my efforts is the value I place on the care and feeding of others. I feel it as a driving force, and one that I’ve recently come to acknowledge as THE motivation for rousting myself from my cosy bed each morning. By extension then, almost paradoxically, the care and feeding of others is, for me, a completely selfish act (perhaps my mother was right after all!): acting on my desire to nurture others is the very best way I have to nurture myself.

I’m happy to bake biscuits from scratch for the dogs, willing to spend the time it takes to water the garden by hand, delighted to tidy up and refresh the cottage ahead of the arrival of guests. I actually don’t mind even the routine maintenance tasks of house and garden — planning and executing meals, weeding and pruning, neatening and cleaning inside and out to ensure an easy comfort. Each of these activities affords me the blissful solitude I crave as a confirmed introvert and ensures the payoff of eventual company (which even an introvert needs from time to time!). Pets and garden, friends and family actually do me a favor by asking of my time and energy because there is no other way I’d rather be spending my days: the care and feeding of others is my true religion.

My darling daughter found this recipe online and I have no idea whom to credit — but our dogs will do anything for these biscuits!

Dog Biscuits
⅔ cup pumpkin purée, canned or fresh
2 large eggs
3 tbs. peanut butter (I use one with no added salt or sugar)
2½ cups whole wheat flour
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place all ingredients in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium for about a minute to obtain a stiff dough. Gather up half of the dough and roll out to ¼” thickness. You can either use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes or use a knife to cut squares or strips. Repeat with the other half of the dough, then gather the scraps together and reroll to cut more until all the dough is used. Place the biscuits on a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes until browned and crisp. Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

“There are random moments — tossing a salad, coming up the driveway to the house, ironing the seams flat on a quilt square, standing at the kitchen window and looking out at the delphiniums, hearing a burst of laughter from one of my children’s rooms — when I feel a wavelike rush of joy. This is my true religion: arbitrary moments of nearly painful happiness for a life I feel privileged to lead. Think of the way you sometimes see a tiny shaft of sunlight burst through a gap between rocks, the way it then expands to illuminate a much large space — it’s like that. And it’s like quilting, a thread surfacing and then disappearing into the fabric of ordinary days. It’s not always visible, but it’s what holds everything together.”

— Elizabeth Berg

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