It’s here, April. It was my least-favorite month of the year, back when I saw the world a lot differently. I always had discomfort with spring, especially when I was a kid. Memories of late winters through Easter at funerals or churches, gagged by the stench of day lilies; a smell to this day that still makes me want to run outside screaming. Once, as a teenage alter server in my hometown church, I passed out in front of the whole congregation from the dozens of day lilies all around me. I associated those flowers and spring with death. The the barren trees, windy brisk weather, and cold nights all feel like a broken autumn. If October is home, April is the farthest distance from it, and that used to fuel a low-key dread.
Now, I look at spring with hope, even April. Last summer I turned 40 and age does change you if you let it. After months of being cold and overwhelmed, I’m on the last pieces of firewood on the farm, which is a small miracle what I have lasted as long as it did.
It was a mild winter, but it holds on. This morning was 20 degrees, and hopefully the last frost of the season. The rest of the week brings rain, but more importantly, warmth. Soon I will be able to start the day with open screen doors and windows and not fumbling with sore muscles and tight hands to light matches in the dark.
In a few weeks I hope to start preparing for lambs I am buying in to raise for customers, piglets too. Last fall I had the opportunity in the fall to borrow a friend’s ram, but he wasn’t shorn at the time and didn’t mind fences that weren’t solid and strong. Jenna from just a few years ago would figure it out, spend her time chasing escaped sheep in the name of spring lambing on the farm. Now it felt like a headache and anxiety, to have an animal that would escape and show the rest of my flock how (my electric netting isn’t very good at holding a charge and my three ewes and goat mind it, somehow from memories of being lambs and kids when the fence was strong enough for them) and taking on a zesty ram that could show them how a quick leap or wool-armor could let them leave whenever they want, no thanks. I politely declined and decided to buy in weaned lambs. I am glad I made the choice, because even if it means spending a couple hundred dollars in May it doesn’t mean spending a couple thousand buying and setting up all new fencing for two acres. Live and learn, right?
The geese are laying eggs. I set them aside for my friend Patty who wants to hatch some for her grandchildren. The chicken flock is halved from last year’s weasel and fox attacks. Everyone around here had a rough year with predators after a year before without a single loss. Everything is a cycle, but I am going to avoid buying in chicks or setting up a brooder this year and hope the girls hatch a few home-brew clutches of Antlerborns to add to the egg production.
The farrier is coming by this morning to do the horses feet. Merlin is such an old man now, basically retired and skinner, grayer, and less muscled than in his youth. He got through winter okay, that mildness a gift for him too. Mabel is fat and sassy. I hope to get more riding in this year but a broken ankle makes that tricky. Or, perhaps a trail horse will be how I get to be outdoors again, since hiking is off the menu until this aching break mends.
I have big plans for this farm. I want to fix up the yard more. I want flowers, new stone walls I am building one rock a time from the big ones out in the horse pasture. I carry one or two a day during feedings and by June I think I’ll have some new stone walls around the deck. If this is my workspace, my vacation, my home, my gym, my everything - I might as well make it nice. Carrying stones is free. Some wildflower and sunflower seed packets bought every time as an add-on when I go to the hardware store - they will add up.
If I sound despondent, I am more thoughtful than depressed. I got through that last month, but just barely. The butcher’s bill and late-February mortgage payment (along with usual bills) was a struggle to make and I’m in this weird place of being relieved that I’m only 30 days behind on the mortgage and not 60 or 90. Knowing I just worked the longest and hardest I ever had this past winter, saving as much money as possible, and never leaving home - it feels like I need to sign up for another month of isolation and pantry meals to still remain behind. I need to not give up, as I never have. I need to keep promoting soap and art sales, pork and lamb. If I can make the March payment soon, then maybe I can make April too? And if April ends with me being caught up on the mortgage, sunlight, spring planting of kale and peas, and mornings without fire chores and frozen toes - that in itself is encouraging. That would feel like winning the lottery!
I’m not sure if I should keep updating the blog. I am not sure if anyone even still reads this? All those original posts about falling in love with farming, being a brand new clueless beginner - that is how I grew an audience. Now I have been doing this 15 years and on this farm for 13 and mistakes are less common and the animals, gardens, house... has never been better. There's still books in me. There's still summer hope. And today my goal is to make $150 to cover the farrier and put $30 towards savings and keep staying put and saving money while the last pieces of oak turn to embers in the wood stove. I can only look as far ahead as my tired little heart can handle, which is tomorrow. But I remain optimistic that this blog's tone and my life will both improve with sunshine, flowers, luck, and maybe even a campfire.