Photos don’t do justice to capturing the beauty of the winter sky here. Watching the daily flow of blues, greys, and purples is reason enough for us to be thankful for our daily work here at the farm.
Our January work has us moving in two concentric circles. One is based on the palpable needs of critters, plumbing, and general care that takes place in a circle of barns and greenhouses that are near to one another on the farm property. The second circle is that of the planner, and dreamer of the season to come. This circle takes place with hands on a keyboard, the flip of catalog pages, bookkeeping notes being filed, and checks to seed and equipment companies being written.
The daily needs of the animals largely fall under the work of Lee and his son Aran, who recently rejoined the farm to be a full-time farmer. Taking care of animals in the winter can develop a routine that for the most part is as circular as the footsteps we take between barns, grain, manure pile… As in the summer, milking happens twice a day, but it is the extra work of feeding out stored hay and rebedding pens that can make what was once simply a morning chore, a nearly full day event. There are breaks in the routine that capture our eye and make us smile. We’ve had several new calves born over the past month that are feeling good in their bodies and are full of play.
Sometimes a usually mundane event becomes entertaining. Last week the very large truck (34 ton!) that delivers our sawdust for animal bedding backed-up to the barn door, as normal, and started to blow the sawdust into the barn. The noise of the blower practically halts my attention to anything that is not in front of my eyes, so neither I, or anyone else, noticed that the driver didn’t attach the extension pipe to blow the bedding to the back and far side of the barn. The truck pulled away and the new bedding made about an 8′ high mini-mountain all the way up to the calve pens. A path was shoveled and the normal chore day went on. But that evening as the nurse cow was being led to her babies, she too had to stop and look at the pile, uncertain if she wanted to proceed. This same material that she lies on each night was a totally different beast, as a big amorous pink pile outside her pen. After a short ponder, she decided to make her way past the bedding. Lee had a story to tell me at night, and the every day circle of chores had a moment of being broken.
During the month of August, when the stress of harvest time has me quietly day dreaming of seed catalogs and a rocking chair by the wood stove, I forget that this time of year can definitely feel like work too. In this time of reflecting on the past season and planning for the new, I’m very aware that the days, and weeks, and months are passing by. It won’t be long before I’m starting seedlings in the greenhouse again. In my planning I’m living in the past and the future, and just like the summer, there aren’t enough hours in the day.
Our seed orders have all be submitted and I’m starting to imagine what the new crops will look like in the field. I’ve long ago retired the idea of A Plan, because summer sun and rain never work the same way as January calendars and pens dictate. Instead, we will go into this next season with good notes about what each crop will look like, and the general time of year it likes to be planted.
This season we can look forward to a return of the Allium family, as leek and onion seed has been ordered. I haven’t planted onions since a disastrous 2009 and am excited to slowly start bringing them back into our growing routine. Our most notable change in the seed order was the purchase of a large quantity of lettuce seed, all downy mildew resistant, all packaged individually be type. Last year a mold landed at the farm that will plague us for many years to come, unless we are careful. All of our dear salad mixes will now come together from lettuce and mustard types that are grown individually, cut separately, and mixed back at the packing station. The new seed is very expensive, and this will be a significant change in seeding and harvesting routine (a practice we only did on a limited basis in the past), but it is necessary. On the bright side, I’m already imaging my giddiness over watching the different leaf patterns and colors come together as we blend the greens. I find salad greens to be ridiculously beautiful.
As our days continue to turn forward here at the farm, we are enjoying this quieter season that keeps us at home, spinning in our animal and desk work circles, but we think of you – our customers and community.
I hope you are having Maine wintertime dinners that fill you with warmth. Tonight we have a winter squash, carrot, ginger soup simmering on the stove. Kale from outdoors (!) is awaiting a quick sautee’ on the side.
Hearty eating to you,