seasons

THE FIRST KIDS

 

And just like that, Farmer Winter is over. The kids are here, arriving in a mess of legs, fluff, and tiny sounds that only a newborn can make. Half look like Franciscan monks, the other half like Lloyd Christmas. On the part of the farmers, we are smitten. Never mind the relative chaos it will be in four weeks time when we have hundreds of bucklings and doelings to care for. For now, these kids have brought life back onto the farm, and with it, renewed purpose. When you deliver a baby goat, you make sure it's breathing and then lay it in the hay next to the mama doe, who instinctively gets to cleaning the baby with her tongue. This moment is magic every time. It is a true privilege to observe animal birth—strong, natural, intuitive. 

With the arrival of Kidding Season, we begin our second lap as farmers. The sights, the sounds, the smells & textures are all familiar now: the weightlessness of a fresh-to-this-world kid sprawled out across your lap, bottle feeding; the mama's milk that drips from the corners of its mouth; the way its full belly feels when you squeeze it at the end of a feeding. Suddenly, memories of late winter & early spring, already a year ago, come flooding back as if the ensuing seasons were a mere blip on the radar. The life cycle is spinning on, yes—and it feels like magic. 

These long days & nights spent watching, waiting, and participating in a great bloom of life on this farm—on the eve of Spring, no less—are true gifts. We learned as much last year, and the first kids are a timely reminder. So we begin. Farewell, Farmer Winter. Hello, Kidding Season!


—M&S

NORTHERN WINTER + THE DANCE OF LIFE

 

As I type this, a snow front is sweeping across our region. The beauty of the North (rather, one beauty of the North) is the preparedness of its residents. Six inches is a lot of snow to fall overnight, but it doesn't seem to stop anyone from doing anything. In chatting with a  neighbor who runs a small cow dairy and hauls animals for us, he explained that his plan was to start milking at 2:30 a.m. in order to get on the road by 5:30 a.m. for where he was headed. Come snow, come freeze, that was his plan. If inhabitants of the South have a warmth all their own, those in the North are tenacious. And I like this. Maybe especially on a farm, where the weather cannot deter what Must Be Done. Living among a community that responds to this call is welcome.

The animals and the mornings have made it abundantly clear that winter is here. With their thick coats, their early roosting time (the chickens are roosting in their coop by 4 p.m., as determined by the setting sun), the frozen water lines and, perhaps most of all, the moon that hangs in the sky longer than the sun—it's all a magnificent dance of seasonality. The kids we have been personally raising, Dill and Tuna, live in a small lean-to with a short concrete wall for resting behind. There is plenty of hay on the ground for added warmth, but still Mark and I wondered if they would be "OK" in the impending weather: warm enough, dry enough, full enough. The answer is Yes. Very Yes. As farmers we often care for animals as if their lives depend on us, but most times — like today, for instance — I am reminded that animals are fueled by a need to survive, and a healthy animal will find a way to survive 99% of the time with no human intervention. Conversely, if an animal is unhealthy, it probably will not survive. That's it. Mark wrote a post on this subject early in the spring that rings as true today as it did then. We do our best, and so do they. The dance of life is most magnificent of all—humbling, awe-some, tenacious.


—S

THE SEASONS | ON OBSERVATION + STILLNESS

 
canadiangoose

Life in a four-season environment can be a humbling experience. Ohio is such an environment, where there is a very real chance that you may feel the touch of winter, spring, summer, and fall in a single day. Over the course of an entire year, it is a guarantee. 

Our coexistence with nature's annual phases of change is a blessing. It is a lesson on stillness and observation, and a reminder that all things must pass. But we have to be there for it. We must show up.

Each year seems a new opportunity to be present with the changes that come and go seemingly too quickly, and to appreciate the unique state of our environment at any given time. We tend to enter into the cycle in the throes of a deep freeze; we see the local flora & fauna slowly come to life, grow, and flourish before retreating in a cherished (and currently ongoing) display of autumnal glory. 

cardinal-in-trees
cardinal

The distinctive presence of all four seasons is, without a doubt, the greatest joy of living where we do. If not for the seasons, Ohio might be (ok, would be) humdrum. But because of the seasons, we are ecologically rich. Even so, as an Ohioan it is all too easy to get out of your car, bundled in thirteen layers, after having navigated brutally & very frightening snowy roads, vowing to never leave your house again. 

We have all cursed the snow. But hear us out. There is beauty to be found in it all. Our feeling is that a little observation goes a very long way. 

canadian-geese-walking

The sky alone is seasonally contingent: migratory patterns play out, gifting us with glimpses of a vast array of species to appreciate; the sun, the moon, and the stars reveal themselves to us in different configurations; the clouds offer us snow and rain, and sometimes disappear altogether. This year, it rained on all but one day in June, giving way to two full months of drought in July and August.

There is more change, yet, on the ground. The trails we hike scarcely resemble themselves from one season to the next. The trees are constantly transforming. They are obvious, and they deserve our gratitude unabated.

Produce. Ah, produce. We pull fruits and vegetables from the earth and from branches, sustaining ourselves on a bounty only possible at a specific time & in a specific place. (Seriously, seasonal, local eating will transform your perspective on our food landscape. It will probably transform your health, too, but that's for another post.) The animals around us forage & hunt, rear their young, and plan for the seasons long before we doburying foodstuffs, growing a winter coat, doing that magic thing they do.
But what about us? Where do we fit?

backpack

Ideally, as stewards of this unbelievably complex & dynamic environment. If all of the animals around us are observing & adapting to the changes ongoing, should we not, as well? The human race is a part of the environment, not its master. There is no us and them. We are codependent from the moment we arrive in the world. And the seasonswith all of their unpredictable, volatile, and beautiful waysshould be a reminder of that.

Let us observe. Let us be still. Let us learn from the seasons; moving and growing and dying together, but always always always making way for the next.

canadian-goose-on-water

—M&S