In the heat of summer, when just moving around sets the sweat dripping down your back, we are thinking about winter. From the first leaf of green peeking up through the mud and snow, to the last red and gold leaves that cover the ground with a luminous carpet, there is another colour that is always on our minds.
Everything we work on, every project, everything we build is centred around the coming season. From the seeds we plant to put food in the pantry for the colder days, to the wood we chop for the fire and furnace. Even the animals we raise are there to help see us, and other families, through the long cold months where the earth is buried under a blanket of snow. Well less of a blanket and more of a duvet 4 ft think. With a few inches of ice on it just for safe measure. So a very cold duvet.
We plan for it, we work at it, we build and chop and grow and never stop for months and months; but we are never, ever ready for it. This year in particular, our wedding took up the month of September and we’ve been trying to catch up on the work every since. Neither of us regret a moment of that joy, of course, some things are worth getting cold and snowy for.
Over the last few weeks we have finally started to feel that we are ready to head into winter mode. We’ve had a few trial runs of heavy frosts, cold nights and some snowfalls, but we are used to these slightly faltering starts to the season. We’ve started to view them as a chance to trouble shoot the farm for the several cold, cold months ahead. Are there things that aren’t working? Have the cows eaten through the pipe insulation again? Will that roof leak when rained on?
Stephen has worked tirelessly since October on the farm infrastructure, resetting power supplies, building new accommodations and setting up new areas for the animals to live in. We’ve learned to lay the foundations for next year in the fall of the previous year, allowing us to be up and running as soon as the weather allows.
This year we are carrying more animals than ever through the winter, meaning we needed more accommodations than ever before too. Stephen repurposed a summer chicken tractor as a cosy duck house for the winter, they are happily snuggled in there with easy access to the pond on unfrozen days. The cows have a new concrete platform for the wet and cold months making it safer for them and easier for us. The farrowing barn is full with two piglets for spring meat and our lovely Pip (seen above) who will be bred for the first time this winter.
And the piece de resistance is the hay bale pig house that Stephen built for Mrs B. and Arthur the boar. Using old bales that were no longer eating standard, he used the dance floor from our wedding as a roof and created the cosy hobbit house seen above. The bales keep it incredibly warm with plenty of room for snuggling, hanging out and grown up piggy time that happens when a Mummy pig and a Daddy pig love each other very much.
This year, though I welcome the quietening snow and the lighter schedule the winter months bring, I feel a sense of melancholy too. Perhaps it is that when I look at the tent frame or the wooden archway built for our wedding, I hear and feel the echoes of family and friends surrounding us. I remember the bonfires and laughter as we joined together to celebrate not just our relationship, but all the elements that make our life what it is. The farm, our family, our friends, our own children, it’s all part of a puzzle that makes us what we are.
But some of those pieces are far away, not near enough to snuggle or share a joke with. And I miss them so very deeply. As the snow falls in a deep, plump carpet over the farm I wish I could share it all with them. I suppose that is why I am writing this instead, to show them what today looks like, so different from only a short time ago.
But the beauty of this day wasn’t patient with my melancholy moment, it insisted I notice how the snow was so light and fluffy as it can only be in the early part of the season. It pointed out to me that the piles of flakes building up on branches and buildings were just so delightful, that to be gloomy would be churlish and bad tempered. As the soft icicles touched my face, one after the other, this day insisted that I notice the now. That I notice how much this day intends to snow all over us; that I go out and turn my face up to falling flakes and feel lucky as the tiny dabs of silence touch my eyelashes and my house warmed skin.
And so I did.