It's pitch dark out there, still, and outside the farm is quiet in this cold. Besides being outside a few moments to relieve the dogs and check the sheeps' water defroster—I have been doing indoor chores while waiting for sunrise.
In here the fires in both wood stove are lit. If I'm diligent I'm hoping by 9AM I'll have the house at a comfortable temperature, but on days where the high doesn't leave the single digits - comfortable is relative. Realistically, this house will probably just hit 60° in the coldest places sometime around noon and not get much warmer unless you're hanging in the vicinity of the woodstove - which I will be. I am right now.
I have a steaming cup of coffee beside me. I'm in a single sweater layer. The house isn't miserable at all, and it isn't super cold because on days like this I stay up with the fire until I can't anymore and get up after a few hours of sleep. It does run you ragged after a few days straight, but winter isn't forever. And I would do this ten weeks in a row if it gave me the same springs, summers, and Autumns in this magical place.
There's a lot to catch up on. I've been away from the blog because I've been working on this new book in earnest. I have a few chapters out to test readers, but this book jumps forward and backwards in time and it involves more planning than the usual essay style I usually follow. I've written over 50,000 words over the past 3 years trying to cobble together this new book but my life and circumstances keep changing the tone of it all - so right now I am trying to tell my story in a way that starts at Pennsylvania waterfalls and summer camps and ends here at the farm. There's so much between it all.
The farm is a lot quieter and calmer than it has been over the past few months. Easier this month the harvest team came and dispatched the hogs. It was the largest butcher bill I ever had, holy crow it was more than a mortgage payment! But I'd been saving for months, a little cash here and there and was able to pay half right there on the barrelhead. The rest was written as a check. With that done, the meat boxed and distributed to most of the share holders - I am not focused entirely on catching up with the December mortgage. It's all a day at a time. And for over a decade I have managed to keep this farm and keep myself motivated to stay here by making sure a day at a time is my measure of success.
Yesterday was the big pig day. After the pigs were dispatched, the guts and skins buried (not fun in January, but done) and the barn cleaned up - my job is to wait while the meat hangs, is cut, smoked, and packaged. I pick up the meats boxed and sealed and frozen - and yesterday morning I left the farmhouse around 8 to get to my butcher. I was expecting a couple boxes. The Mazda should be able to handle that, right? It has a hatchback and fold down back seats and while the truck would be ideal it ins't registered yet. So I took the car.
That car was loaded down with so much meat it felt harder to drive! The entire hatch, back seat, and passenger front seat was piled high with boxes! The weight was so heavy in the front that my car beeped angrily that the meat buckle its seatbelt!
When I got back to the farm I started carrying boxes in, some weighing as much as 80lbs (sausage boxes are the worst!) and the rest of the morning was sorting cuts, distributing, packing, and following up with customers who arranged their lives to pick up their shares on a frigid Monday.
Share pickup days are wonderful and exhausting. I'm reminded why I do this, and that is amazing! To see people load their coolers and cars with the meat I raised, here at the farm they helped support. To know hundreds of meals will come from the work of these pigs, all of it still warms my heart and pushes me to keep going.
By 6Pm the last of the share holders had their boxes and were heading home. Parents, writers, state representatives, college professors, business guys, farmers - a mix of different folks in and out the door. The farmhouse was ready to greet them - warm and welcoming. Everyone wore masks, indoors and out. Everyone was careful as they could be, as hospital numbers around this area are surging with new cases. My last test was a week ago, and negative, but I am worried about getting sick. If I get really knocked down by Covid during winter's bottom alone on the farm... bad news. So I am basically a hermit until temps rise.
Which suits me just fine. A friend recently mailed me a care package and in it is a new book of Chinese folk tales I have been devouring and a hand-knit hat. To get a borrowed book and something handmade in the middle of winter for no reason but to make you happy?! Magic.
I'm spending this cold snap working on writing, logos, and restarting my soap making endeavors after a two-week break post-holidays. I'll need the sales of new pork shares and soaps to help cover December and catch up to January. I have my to-do list and goals written daily, my sacred texts. And I feel really optimistic about 2022.
I have a safe vehicle I can drive anywhere I want for the first time since I worked a full-time job. I have a truck again! I have health insurance and dental insurance. I have a part-time job I've held since September and continue to grow and learn from. It doesn't pay much but it covers what my ex used to kick in towards the mortgage so that in itself is a blessing. I have meat in customers' freezers and new plans for turkeys and chickens for more customers this summer. There's new gardening plans, more repairs and work on the farm's fences and outbuildings, so much to do - but it is getting done.
And now that the sun is starting to rise I know a pair of horses will be walking closer to the house to beg for their breakfast and the sheep will be trotting down the hill for their rations, too. The birds will want to be freed from their closed coops and hopefully the sun will find a way to shed some light on this hollow.
But if it remains a cold, dark, day - that is just fine. I have my fires and words and a book of stories and plenty to keep me busy. And how much more will I savor spring thanks to days like these? A lot.
I hope you're all staying safe and warm. I hope you have plenty of firewood and oil in your tanks and stay healthy during the pandemic. If you were here yesterday to pick up pork know you have my deepest thanks and I hope that every meal you share with your family or friends is touched by the stories and work of this farm and its history.
And now, to start the day.