Collecting eggs from cold, mushy straw or muddy spots.
Feeding the birds, which means hauling a five-gallon-bucket-worth of hen-scratch from the big barn fifty feet away and dumping into the metal feeders. (I think we’re also feeding a significant number of neighborhood birds.)
Refreshing animals’ water, wondering what insanity is this, filling buckets with cold water when it’s so cold out.
Even the dogs require more work—cleaning their feet when they come in, both to warm them and so the floors don’t resemble old-timey dirt ones; and keeping an eye out for the smaller dog so he doesn’t get stuck in snow higher than he is tall. We also walk them every night, with leashes. Sounds odd for fenced-in acreage, but we know they overestimate their skill at tangling with wildlife. (Just remembered another plus about winter: Skunks hibernate.)
I usually find peace in simple labor. It’s such pure work, with no use for meanings, nuances, and workplace politics. But the added difficulty winter brings to chores nearly sinks me. When I hear people say winter is such a peaceful time, inwardly I shake my head and realize they don’t have to work outside.
Winter cares not. Nor does Nature. So, until we manage to get a winter home in a warm climate and hearty farm caretakers, all I can do is keep a warm fire going and search out the beauty. As difficult as this winter was, its beauty was equally awe-inspiring.
It has been less than a year since we sold the farm. Bodies age and needs change, and my heart breaks when I acknowledge that that active time is over for us. The land is now in other, good hands.
I think of it every day, of the soil, trees, plants, mountains, vast sky, Milky Way, and moon-filled nights. And the animals, horses' velvet noses and chickens and ducks running free. What a privilege it was to live among it all.
Now life is about convenience, a one-story home in town, with roses and a raised-bed garden to tend. This is how we lived before the farm, and I am remembering how to be around neighbors and how easy it is to have stores and restaurants less than ten minutes away.
When I remember living in the womb of nature and its wild beauty, yes, my heart breaks at not being there, but I remember the sweet gifts of experience and learning we were given and carry forward with gratitude.
This is home. Really. I was standing on our patio when I took this picture. Lucky us! It is also the view out my office window.
Sometimes I miss living near conveniences like a grocery stores and gas stations, entertainment like movie theaters, plays, and dancing. But living here is, truly, a dream come true, a sanctuary.
Just below that big oak tree is our neighbor's bison ranch. Between here and there, we see deer, foxes, coyotes. In the air vultures hunt from early spring to early autumn, crows, robins, blue jays, humming birds, and swifts (I think) fly around. We even have an owl family living in the barn.
Husband Steve does the planning, planting, harvesting, and managing each year's farm helpers as they all nurture organic veggies, herbs, seeds.
Our three horses, two dogs, and forty chickens and ducks wander the land.
Life is good, and I get to sit and look out this window as I indulge my passion for words, take breaks to tend and watch the animals.
But it's not all sweetness and light.
Five young chickens lie dead,
innocent flesh ripped apart.
Torn chicken wire.
I curse nature’s savage edges.
Smoke from forest fires conceals the mountains,
crawls along my skin,
warns me to stay vigilant.
horses switch tails, turn long necks to snap at flies,
dogs pant in the shade and listen
for the screech of squirrels stealing hen scratch.
Tomatoes and peppers to be harvested.
Garlic to be cleaned.
Melons developing tell-tale-ripe veins.
Squash—blooms gone—show their type.
Weary workers drag from task to task,
wipe sticky plant residue from their hands,
wonder if endings ever come
in this endless heat.
A soft breeze stirs.
Sky glows gold in the forest-fire sunset.
In the east, lightning flashes,
a beauty that will demand payment
in more fire.
yesterday piercingly bright in the short night,
now smudged, fuzzy, orange.
Even star-fire is snuffed out.
I trust they are there.
I trust the bold fighters will rein in the fires.
I trust the heat will break
and coolness will come
and, with it, rest, and a deep breath.
by Patricia Florin, August 2017