the hunger moon

IMG_6349Today, when Opal asked what was for lunch, my reply was met with a big sigh. “Scrambled eggs again? We always have scrambled eggs. I’m tired of scrambled eggs. I’m hungry for something else…”

I have been thinking of re-reading The Long Winter aloud to the children again, just as a little reminder of how easy we have it. In this story, the Ingalls family survived intense blizzard after blizzard, mercury actually freezing in the thermometer (I think that was when it was colder than -40 F. How exactly does that happen?), and existing the cruel conditions on nothing but coarsely ground wheat made into hard loaves of dense bread. No butter. Their days were filled with nothing more than grinding the wheat in a coffee grinder and twisting tight bundles of hay to use as fuel in the stove for warmth. And listening to the howl of the wind. Yep, we’ve got it very, very easy.IMG_6351Around here, we are not hungry in the sense of not having any food. We still have bushels of potatoes and sweet potatoes, countless butternut squash, a few carrots, canned tomatoes, jars and jars of kimchi, and lots of eggs. We’ve got milk and butter in the fridge (from a neighbor), pork in the freezer (from a friend), and plenty of sheep in the pasture if the hankering for lamb meat suddenly struck. We could even raid the corn and wheat in the chicken’s feeder if necessary, and that ton of grain would keep us going for quite awhile. We have the additional luxury of making a monthly co-op order for staple foods that we don’t grow ourselves like oats, buckwheat flour, coconut oil (coffee, ahem). No, we are not at all hungry and have absolutely no right to even hint towards complaining. But…

 

But there is an underlying hunger surfacing in my house as of late. We are hungry in a spoiled, longing-for-something-(anything-)else sort of way. Hungry in a way that only grazing in the garden on nothing but fresh fare will satiate. Like a full quart of strawberries straight from the plants. Doesn’t that sound divine? Or a juicy spear of asparagus. Mmmmmm. Or my weakness, a sweet red pepper (or ten). My mouth is actually watering right now just thinking about it all. The hunger for greens, particularly salad, is acute in my household. My stubborn self will admit to giving in (more than once) to spring lettuce mix from the grocery store. The whole family greedily devoured it with a passion. (Eeegads… makes me think of the cobbler’s kids having no shoes. In this case, the farmer’s kids have no salads!)

but look! those salads are getting closer and closer!

but look! those salads are getting closer and closer!

The wild creatures that we share this farm with, however, are truly hungry. It’s the time of late winter’s hunger moon. The time when the pickin’s are pretty slim out there. Just this morning, while sitting in my snug house with a warm cup of coffee in hand (see, absolutely no right to complain) and watching the grey sky start to spit snow, I saw a very large coyote chase my wool sheep down the hill. Right here by the house! The coyotes are likely feeding young right now. They are hungry and prone to being bold. No harm came to any of my sheep, thankfully, and I got a swift kick in the pants to get them off of their ranging habit and back into paddocks protected by a hot fence. I’ve been watching the classifieds for another livestock guardian dog (we keep one with our chickens and she is awesome) to keep near our homestead to protect my sheep and all of Ira’s various poultry. (Our little chihuahua is basically worthless at protecting anything except his own bowl of food and would much prefer to be buried under a pile of blankets than to guard the fort.)IMG_6360Just a few nights ago, as I was settling into bed for the night, Ira’s ducks started making a wild raucous. I hopped up, grabbed a flashlight, slipped on some boots and trotted over to his coop. The door was ajar, and most of the ducks had fled to the safety of the water in the branch (stream) by the house. A few ducks remained in the coop. I went in and had a look, didn’t see anything and shut the door behind me. I didn’t realize an opossum had squeezed into a cranny of the coop out of my sight. I pity the poor ducks that had to spend the entire night in that coop with a hungry opossum. Fortunately, only one duck became that opossum’s dinner. Ira discovered both duck and opossum in the morning when he did his chores. He witnessed hunger first hand. And if I had truly been hungry myself, that fat opossum would probably have been a welcome treat. But like I said, I’m spoiled. We did not have opossum stew for lunch. Maybe if I would have told Opal that’s what was on the menu for lunch, she might have been happy to have those scrambled eggs.IMG_6350

 

right now :: hello & goodbye

IMG_6341 IMG_6342 IMG_6343 IMG_6344I guess it wouldn’t be spring without saying hello to some newly hatched chicks. This very determined (albeit very small) broody hen sat for a whopping 48 days (at least) before achieving the satisfaction of successfully hatching her peeps. She sat for one full incubation period (and then some) for a hatch of zero. Poor thing. Then Ira relocated her from where she had been sitting (up at Jesse and Hannah’s) to a little cage and stuck some fresh eggs under her. Well, that broody little hen sat and sat and do you know what? She proudly hatched all six of her eggs. 100% for mama hen! Hello sweet chicks!

Later in the day, we said a somewhat sad goodbye to our bull, Reuben. With so many of his offspring grazing the pastures now, it was time he became sire of a new herd. It was pretty hard to see him loaded in a trailer and headed away from the farm, though. He was kind of like the centerpiece of the livestock scene. And a table can look so boring without a good centerpiece, if you know what I mean. What a grand chap he was. Goodbye, old buddy…IMG_6346 IMG_6347 IMG_6348

can do

since last we met in this space there has been a lovely series of sunny days. the return of the sun has helped me settle in to my spring groove.  spring holds with it a plethora of necessary tasks which can easily overwhelm. i chose to focus on what i can do: greenhouse work.

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here on the farm we have one 22′ x 45′ heated greenhouse. once we began using season extension in our high tunnels (we now have 2 of them, each 30′ x 96′), the support of a heated greenhouse became a critical component of the mix. generating plants the year round helped us utilize the tunnels more effectively. while far from perfection, these spaces are a true balm for the early and late season angst! not to mention it houses my son’s small but delightful citrus project.

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i am not sure if any of you have been so lucky to inhale the sweet fragrance of meyer lemon flowers. intoxicating and lovely, their scent surrounds me as i generate plants. the warmth of the greenhouse, the scent of citrus blossoms, the flats of newly emerging green. yep, i have found my spot.

this photo is actually from last year, i am still without camera

this photo is actually from last year, i am still without camera

our ground remains fairly soggy, field work now would be a mistake, one we have made many times over in the past and one we keep promising we won’t make again. working the fields too early leaves the soil structure cloddy for the entire season ahead, it seems only another deep frost and thaw cycle can mend those errors. so, with intention, and sometimes a bit of difficulty as i opt not to do many other tasks, i plant myself firmly at my post in the greenhouse. i sort through the seed packets, i make soil mix, i slow down and breathe deeply and head to my spot. with the sweet smell of citrus beside me, i sow seed after seed, filling flat after flat. i inhale and keep my daily watch as the seeds sprout, the first true leaves appear, the amazement of the promise that lies ahead.

and then there is paul. he too suffers the pressures of the emerging season, perhaps more so than me as he really plans the field work and executes the growing season here. luckily, while i focus on the greenhouse work,  he too has found the perfect place for his restless hands: he is framing the roof supports for the top of our nearly complete root cellar.

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in the windows of  opportunity that presented themselves during the past winter, we completed the foundation and laid the block for our cellar. now,  these have been lovely days for construction, sunny and mild, he can focus and execute a perfectly timed project

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we need this space complete.  during the hot summer months the earth will cool the area to house our harvests. as the season progresses, we can fill her to the brim with winter squash and potatoes and many other storage crops. you see now, before our daylight hours are consumed entirely in the gardens,  is the perfect time to finish this project.

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it can be all too easy to move through life clinging to the reminders of things not done, lamenting on tasks not complete. i am trying now to live daily life reminding myself of all that i have done, all that is complete. all that is possible. with each aspect of life, why not focus on the positive. the benefits are undeniable.  friends, join me, it’s fun!