The ground outside is coated with a crispy layer of ice and for the first winter in probably my entire life, I don’t mind it very much. It’s been a very lean and cold couple of months. Difficult, but waterproof boots and quilted bibs have gotten Neil and I both through the worst of it, it seems. We’ve made it to the new year, and with it comes CSA enrollment and a promise of spring in just a few weeks. I feel really hopeful this year. We’ve increased the number of shares to 50 families and we’ll be growing lower maintenance crops in a second field a few towns over. Our goal is to grow more flowers for market and expand the soap business slowly and to an appropriate scale (which is to say, still pretty small!) I’ve also formed some pretty strong relationships with local people and businesses that I think will make this year more productive and emotionally rewarding.
We’ve gotten our seed orders in and have started the cool weather crops in our little greenhouse. We’ve been using soil blockers and upcycled fish tubs to start leeks, onions, cauliflower, kohlrabi, kale, broccoli and herbs. I’m most excited by an early crop of the frequently maligned iceburg lettuce. Haters be damned! I enjoy the stuff. It’s hard to feel the doldrums when your day is spent inoculating a bit of soil with future meals. The potential and the nearness of the first thaw gets me really jazzed. It’s funny how much I love being a grower this time of year. I’ve got so much to look forward to. But, you know, the tables turn eventually and come September I’m ready to bury myself in the compost pile and call it a year. I guess we can chalk that up to natural cycles. It’s just the way it is. Burn the candle at both ends and then recover. Do it all again. Repeat until your bank account is flush or your back gives out.
Our goats and chickens have certainly had a worse time of things. They don’t love the cold (does anyone?), but they’ve kept quite warm this winter when it counts. The kids are still with us until their new owners barn is completed this spring, so there’s a nice mass of warm bodies cuddling up together in the little barns at night. We’re getting eggs again from our hens, slowly but surely and the goats are getting us a gallon of milk a day. We’ve been making cheese and yogurt for us to enjoy and feeding the dogs meals of oats, yogurt, venison and eggs at night. It’s hard to feel poor when your farm animals eat better than most people do. Heck, even our hens get whey soaked organic grains! You’ve never seen yolks so orange and round in the dead of winter.
I’m starting off the year enjoying a different sort of wealth than what we’re taught to pursue by society. It’s imperfect. I have debts to pay, but I’m in no real danger financially. I’m fed and have a good quality of life. The farm is pulling it’s own weight for now and a good system has been established. Our animals are well fed, have good veterinary care and are stimulated and happy. I forget these things from time to time. I think Neil and I have done well so early in our farm business, due in no small part to a great community. I aspire to do better everyday, but these little victories ought to be savored more often.
I came across your site while searching for articles on sustainability, and I just wanted to let you know I think the work you’re doing is phenomenal. Farming in the way you’re doing — caring for the earth and its living things, treating it as a living thing, rather than coldly exploiting it — is what we as the human race need to re-learn how to do. Also, your values are wonderful. And you are doing so much to help others! I hope you and yours have the most wonderful farming season ever, and may the Divine bless you in everything you do.
P.S. I miss you. Say hi if you get a chance.
Hi Denise! Good to hear from you! I’ve been a little preoccupied with work and not near a computer much. If you think to, feel free to email me!