Nine months out of the year, farm life can be intensely busy. Especially a rather new farm. The fencing alone creates hours of pounding steel fence posts into the ground, stringing wires and keeping the wires weed free. Although anyone that has seem my weeds, know that this is not something I spend a lot of time doing. Instead, I keep my bottom wire off the electric circuit and only electrify the top two. Several times throughout the year, I need to uproot my fencing and move it to an area where I would like to control the grasses a bit more (cows are natural lawn mowers). Fencing is expensive, my labor is not. So right now, moving it is my only option.
My neighbor has hay equipment. In exchange for helping him load and stack his bales, he cuts mine for me (I really get the better end of the deal on this one). There is somewhat of a science in good haying. Creating the right type of pasture, supplementing with seeds to gain more protein and nutrition and knowing when to cut the hay (cutting three times a year is common) are all lessons I am still learning. After the hay has been baled, we ride around in the pick up truck with a flatbed trailer on it and load the bales, stack them as high as we can before they look like they might not stack any higher. Each bale weighs between 50 and 75 pounds, which provides a workout that would give any exercise program a run for it's money.
The daily mucking of the barn, composting the manure, feeding the chickens, building the pens in the barn, milking the cows (if the season is right), feeding the pigs (when we have them), and keeping the animals watered are everyday chores that get us up and out of the house early...this is not a easy life...but, then again, that is not what I signed up for.
There are no farmer's markets to go to, no prepping for holiday fairs for our farmstore goodies we sell, no continued label making, packaging, or potion making. Life just organically slows down during these winter months.
And this is what I look forward to...every year.
The snow is falling, the fences are done, the hay is stacked in the barn, there are no cows needing milking, the pigs have been butchered and are in the freezer, along with the chickens. The root cellar is full of squashes, cabbages, potatoes and carrots from our garden. Cans of tomatoes, green beans, homemade jam and broth line the shelves. The wood for the winter has been chopped and is stacked outside our door. The hard work of the previous months allows us to be a little more present with one another. These days, I have a stack of books that I want to catch up on, puzzles the kids want to put together and new board games we received as gifts we want to play. By the end of winter, uncolored coloring books will be filled, stories will be told over and over again, and our connection , as a family will have become stronger. Visits with neighbors are more frequent, mornings over breakfast are stretched out, chicken and beef stocks are simmering and breads are rising on the warming shelf of the cookstove. These slower times are what I cherish... it feeds my soul. The busyness of the previous months fade away when I see the homemade noodles drying on the rack or the pies resting on the window ledge. The knitting projects get finished, clothes get mended and we all breathe just a little deeper in appreciation of this slowed down version of our life.