Diary of a Transplant: Winter Energy

  |  February 14, 2013

When I lived in the city, January and February were months to survive. They were cold and boring, and sometimes depressing. March finally came – and then I’d remember that March sucks, too. It was only in April that the world would once again expand past the confines of the front door.

One of the the surprises about farm life is how these months have changed for me. January and February, it turns out, are not dead times with no meaning.

Anything but. First of all, they offer a much-needed quiet time. There are projects to be done, and cozy nights watching movies, eating pie and knitting.

And there is excitement brimming just under the surface, steadily picking up speed and power. The solstice happened weeks and weeks ago. Light is on its way back, and showing itself in so many ways.

We are on the upswing around. There is more light every day, which means we spend more time outside every day. We do the chores later. No more rushing home at 4 pm to feed the animals before full darkness. Now we don’t do the evening chores until 5:30. And when the sun is shining, it’s bright and warm and full in a way that it wasn’t just a few ago.

The chickens have begun laying eggs again. Hens are sensitive to the light, and they stop laying in late fall. A week or so after the winter solstice, we start seeing eggs again. We are in full egg season these days, with quiche and scrambled eggs back on the menu.

At neighboring farms, baby goats are being born, and everyone is talking about what animals they’ll have this season. For us: turkeys, ducks and geese, and a bunch more chickens, some for meat, some for eggs. We have a bunch of eggs in the incubator, 25 New Hampshire Reds coming from Sandhill Seed Preservation, and we’ve placed an order with our friend Barbara at Wings of Change Poultry for ducklings and goslings.

Perhaps most exciting, it’s seed-ordering season. Surely this is a great pleasure in life – curling up by the wood stove with a blanket, a cup of coffee, and a stack of seed catalogs. You circle the glossy photos of the heirloom tomatoes and the unusual carrots and the beautiful lettuces. You plan the layout in your mind. You can’t sleep at night sometimes, planning the work you’ll do. You imagine the potlucks and the parties with this amazing abundance of food. You can’t believe it will once again be the world in which you walk in flip flops to the garden before each meal, and walk back up with an armload of food.

Everyone gets involved in the planning. “Don’t do celery. Use all the celery space for fennel.” “Can we have these round carrots?” “Can we do tons of pumpkins?” “Make sure you get yellow tomatoes.”  “Lots of cayenne peppers, right?” “Don’t do that weird basil again.” “Sunflowers. The goats love sunflowers.”

I have already started several trays of seeds – earlier than usual because we have a hoop house with beds than can be planted at least a month earlier than outside. I’ll also cover our outside beds with protective row covers, and try for some earlier outdoor plantings.

There is so much to be done, and time is speeding up. Is the brooder set up for the chicks? Have we figured out the fencing for the new garden? Have I ordered all the seeds we need? Have I started enough seedlings? Are we ready for the piglets that will be available next month?

Hurry! How could this ever have seemed like a slow dark time?

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