Spring is hard to imagine from this white and blanketed vantage. This morning I have been perusing photos of last season, peering closely at a shot of the greenhouse to catch a whiff of that earthy smell particular to its indoor/outdoor environment. Or noticing the casual strength of my tanned arm holding a bouquet of summer flowers for market, muscles that have since relaxed into a less rigorous winter routine.
This winter, in addition to end-of-the-year bookkeeping, next season’s crop-planning, and seed orders, we have chipped away at renovating more of our new house, only half of which is currently inhabitable. Since the snow cover is heavy and has been for months, the only consistent outdoor tasks are the animal chores twice a day. No one is ever enthusiastic about animal chores in the winter (frozen water buckets, slipping on ice carrying bags of grain, how long it takes to stick to the shoveled paths, instead of walking directly from one place to another). But it seems that I am always glad I was forced out into the cold once I’m there, where the gray day seems a little brighter than it did looking out the window, where the stars that I hadn’t checked on in many nights are still there, brighter than ever, where the animals (as tired of this weather as I am) are glad to see me.
And lately, Spring has begun dropping undeniable hints of her approach: birds are singing! Through the falling snow! They’re flying back and forth from the shed to the Cedar and building a nest in the rafters, eyeing me warily below. Last night I could still see well enough to collect eggs from the nesting boxes at 5:30pm. The kitchen at our neighbor’s goat dairy is full of boxes of baby goats, just born, and brought inside to keep warm by the wood stove – the older ones (born the day before yesterday), already hopping around playfully.
On a few recent sunny afternoons we have snow-shoed into the woods behind the farm, and out onto the frozen surface of the brook that runs alongside our property. Or pond is also solid, and standing out there in the middle gives me a point of view I hadn’t experienced yet, looking up from this small clearing in the towering pines. And in the stillness of looking up, realizing that there is no sound around me, just quiet trees. These are some of the trees that Jonathan will fell this early Spring to make way for new fence lines and growing areas on the farm. As we stand among them we talk about which direction they can fall without snagging on each other or hitting a shed. The summer work creeps into our winter-time conversation.
This is the time of year when I have a love-hate sentiment about the work lurking around the season’s corner. We have moved our farm business so many times by now, starting over to some degree every time. Each of these “first” years have been rife with the struggles of beginning a farm – setting up a greenhouse before trays need seeding, turning over a new field, the unknowns of new soil and its inevitable imbalances, setting up a home. Perhaps it is a sort of PTSD I am feeling when I find myself dreading the very work that I am planning out with pencil and paper all winter long. It is overwhelming to think too hard about the reality of working 14 hour days when you are still finishing your second cup of coffee on the couch at 9:30am, watching the snow fall outside. But this coming season is the one we have been longing for all this time – the second season on our own property. A season where a few systems are in place, a few projects already completed, a few important decisions already made. This is a season we will approach with familiarity and a strong base of knowledge, maybe even realistic expectations.
Certainly with an ever-increasing sense of place.