“Love involves the ascription of a very high value to a being who is separate from the subject and not fully controlled; it cannot be love if the response is fully controlled.” - Martha Nussbaum
Nestled snugly between two river-facing apartment blocks in south London is a place that I have come to love dearly. What had been written off as a desolate wasteland in the 1960s was transformed by some capable hands, over the last 47 years, into a charming little urban farm across 2.2 acres. A 15-minute-walk from where I live, it is very much a community project in that it trains and employs residents in the neighbourhood—especially adults with special learning needs—to tend to its livestock and vegetable plots. All of its produce is sold in its shop, where locals are regularly seen patiently queuing to buy eggs, cheese or sausages.
Since the beginning of spring, the farm has opened up access to areas that were previously shut off to the public. Before the pandemic, you could only stand behind the fence of the front yard and watch as sheep and goats frolicked, dozed, and chewed on hay. Now, visitors are allowed to walk down a stone path to see a range of other animals. There are spacious shelters attached to the enclosures for the chickens and pigs, while the cows and donkeys graze idly across a small pasture.
One of the things I noticed about the farm after a week was that the animals are predominantly female. A couple of rams and billy goats are only brought in on loan during breeding season from September through January, after which they are promptly whisked back to their owners.
“The ladies boss us around here,” a farm worker once joked while sweeping up droppings from the goats’ pen, as one of them yawned imperiously. In a sense, the farm is like a boisterous girls’ school, except one that is incessantly clucking, grunting, braying and bleating. There are two donkeys that I call the Gilmore Girls: they are mother and daughter, and they spend their days placidly wandering the grounds, impervious to the shouts of young children enraptured by them.
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