same road, through the temperatures

Sometimes its hard to imagine this is the same road we walk down every damn day to our animals. The first photo was taken in April when we first moved here. The second shot was from my birthday in May. The third was from late August. The last was from today. I guess the colors of the fall didn't move me to photograph this year. I'll try to be more consistent next time.

Nick sled down the hill to milking today. I walked. Last night we went tandem sledding on this cheap orange sled we found in the barn's attic. I'm one of those wet blankets with adrenaline sports like sledding. I wore my insulated navy blue jumpsuit which is so shapeless and padded I could be an upright hippo for all anyone would know. I had my grandmother's faux fur hat that wraps under the chin and snow boots that are as weighted as cinder blocks. After hiking up what seemed like a mile I climbed in behind Nick on the sled and told him, SLOW. I spent the ensuing three rides dragging both feet in the ground for better brakeage. It wasn't until we would slow to the slight uphill to the house that I'd begin whopping and screaming and unclenching my gloved fists.

So this morning I walked the road to the barn and took in the sight of the snow-laden hills. With any climactic luck it will be our view and my walk for the next four to five months. I'm going to need to start embracing the cold and find more formfitting snow wear.


the holiday unwind

We left Cambridge at 4:52pm Sunday evening. It was already dark of course, being one of the ever-shortening Sundays after Thanksgiving. We figured that would put us back at the farm just before 8. We listened to an old episode of This American Life  as we left Boston, but mainly, we rode in silence. Thanksgiving had exhausted us. Two celebrations with two families in two states in three days. Everything is so extravagant for holidays. The food, the company, the noise, the activity, the dishwashing.

All of it is so amplified.

We live a quiet life by many metrics. Every day for us is just a slight variant on the day before. The food options rotate around a fairly dedicated group of farm and pantry staples; eggs, potatoes, oats, beans, beef, and milk. The company is commonly limited to us and our flock. Often that is peppered with visits from the neighbors. And, about once a week, we drive an hour south to see a group of old friends from another life. The noise is limited to the singing of the cast iron,  the sizzling of the dutch oven and our conversations with one another. Talk that most often starts off in the middle of a sentence as though a conversation the week before had merely been put on pause. Such is the intimate way you interact with someone who has become half of you. The activity follows the scared pattern of the farm. Rise. Coffee (and tea). Dress in more and more layers. Walk down to the barn. Chickens. Pigs. Hay to the beef cows. Fresh water to the sheep. Milk. We walk the hill back up to the house for a late breakfast. Eggs and oats and a tall glass of milk. The winter afternoons direct us to quiet activities that have no place in summer. Sanding down an old rocker. Mending fence in a once abandoned pasture. Drawing up grazing plans and garden maps.

So, it is no wonder with this quiet plodding through the days of late November that we are bouleverser-ed by the commotion of a holiday.

When the car wound its way up the final miles of our blessed dirt road it was 7:56pm. I was carefully wrapping my citified-self in stray farm layers I had in the back of the car. A moth-bitten and previously discarded cashmere sweater over my cardigan and dress. My blaze orange hat over some uncommonly coiffed hair. I eased my stockinged feet into wool clogs. We lifted ourselves out of the car just a quarter of a mile short of home. Nick slipped into the dark barn to close in the chickens and check on a frozen water line. I grabbed an armful of bedding straw to bring to the pigs. They were already hot asleep and snoring when I reached their hut. I had feared the sudden drop in temperature over the weekend would be too much for Rose with her sparsely bristled coat. Rose immediately jumped to the door when she felt my presence outside. I felt her belly, she was toasty. So was Vangogh. They were thrilled to see me. Assuming I had brought a midnight snack. I never bring snacks. I had just the hay, so they took mouthfuls of that and walked lazy circles around me and itched their dry backs on my stockinged legs. Vangogh went back to bed first. Ever the glutton for rest. Rose stayed. I sat there on my knees so our faces were level and scratched her chin with both hands.  She softly grunted and blinked her sleepy eyes right at mine.

And, I thought, just how very grateful, thankful, and blessed I am to have these creatures as my life. To return from a city that feels so very foreign with its lights, noise, consumption, pavement, and strangers to the quietude of the farm in winter.

I hope you all had a very merry Thanksgiving.


a quick state of affairs of early winter on the farm

There is very little color in our landscape on these early winter days. Daylight is in short supply. Sunrise today was at 6:49am and He will set back down at 4:17pm. A stellar crescent moon has been rising up to our South. And I can see Orion's group through my bedroom window. I've been falling into bed around 8pm. Which means I wake up at 5am having had too much, and it is still dark. The grass on the hayfields and in the pasture has only the hint of green. The trees are hillsides of brownish gray sticks. We are looking forward to the snow. To spark a little color onto these hills. My downstairs neighbors (see photo 1) have returned from their summer pasture for the winter months. Bella has grown the most magnificent red coat. The house cats seem unusually fat. The sheep are shockingly picky about their hay. The chickens are trying to roost in the hay loft. And Albert the bullcalf is finding welcoming friends in the pigs. We are two weeks away from drying off Winnie. I made the season's final batch of yogurt last Tuesday.  Everyone is beginning their own special hibernation. It sounds melancholy but I wish I could show you it isn't. It's early winter of our third year farming. It is time where the outside world winds down. Now is the season where we go indoors and turn on many lights and make merry with family and friends. I remind myself to be grateful for these slow dark days. They are the needed antidote to the long work of summer months.

Happy Thanksgiving

p.s. These are fake b/w pics. The last time I took real film camera photos the developer said something went wrong with the camera and all of my shots were exposed to the ever-devastating Light. Since then, I've been so scared of losing photos that I've given my film a wide berth  So, these photos have the color edited right out of them. I found the originals were too bland, too early winter.



This morning and the day before the mulched garlic and winter rye covering the garden were so crystalized it looked like snow.  The chicken's waters are frozen shut and just barely begin to thaw in the short day before the sun sets back down at 4:30pm. The seat of the outhouse shimmers like diamonds, very cold, very unwelcoming diamonds. The sheep each have a circle of frost on the small of their backs when I throw them their morning hay. The car doors are frozen shut. I've been wearing ski gloves for morning chores. Such has been the ferocity of the frost on these early winter mornings.

Its hard for me to grasp the enormity of plane travel. It took the plane five hours to get from SFO to Philly on Tuesday. And then just 52 minutes from Philly to Burlington. It should take longer. I need longer. I can't go from eating fish tacos with my sister in the sand of the Pacific to slugging warm water to the pigs behind the barn in one day. I need weeks to move from one extreme to the other. I should like to take to train-ing across the country. Or better yet riding a bike, or a mule. But, for now, there are planes and I am so grateful that my parents and I are able to swoop across the country to see my sweet sister.

We spent the last week running from ocean to redwoods and back. Following my sister in the life she has so beautifully made for herself in the forested hills an hour south of San Francisco. It wrecks my heart that she has to live so far away. Yet her life there is so gentle and peaceful and filled with such gracious and welcoming people that I can't imagine her anywhere else right now.

So despite the rash manner in which I have been thrust by plane from cold to warm and back to cold again my anxious heart has been calmed to see Fiona living and thriving and loving. That is worth any amount of airplaned hours.


the first flurry

There is a day in late October/ early November when the weather goes from glorious light-filled autumn to an unmitigated winter. Perhaps its the end of Daylight Savings where night comes that much earlier that it just has to be winter. This morning we had our first snow flurry. I'd be inclined to call it a first snow, but I'm trying not to sound as flustered by the weather as I am. Must keep up appearances. I can handle this Vermont winter! (She says to herself in a low voice, over and over again, becoming more unconvinced with every utterance).  I enjoy snow and winter and the quiet of the world when the two have finally descended. But, what I seem to block out each year is the inherent anxiety brought on by the low temperatures.

The ground is almost frozen and the grass is all but eaten or dead.  All of the grubs and spiders and crawlers and critters have either died or hibernated or moved into the dark corners of my little house. And now, it is up to our planning and storing to get these animals through the winter with safety, warmth, food, water and happiness. We start counting down the hay bales. Every bale we throw from the loft briefly tightens my chest, not 100% sure how we can get through until the grass grows again in May. I resent this about winter. The responsibility is overwhelming. The animals are more dependent upon us in these six months than they are the other half.

Yesterday morning I came to the coop to find my dear chicken friend, Spanky, cold and dead in a nest box. I knew she was unwell and that winter would be hard on her but I didn't expect the weather to be so hard so soon on the animals. I would have kept her inside Saturday night.

We have done our winter due diligence with water heaters and insulation and plastic on the barn windows and a loft of hay and a half a loft of bedding straw and an old milk bulk tank filled with chicken feed. But dear Lord, the stress of the winter will just rest upon me until April when we begin to see the snow receding and the light returning and the grass growing.
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