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Monday, September 10, 2012

Busy days, winter dreams

Summer in Vermont is short, sweet, and very busy. On our small farm, chores have to be done twice a day: feeding and watering the animals, moving animals to new pasture, checking fences and gardens and greenhouse. Of course there are housekeeping chores too: laundry, dishes, meals, cleaning. There are projects: building a new broiler shelter, finishing the porch, expanding the apiary. And the things that aren't project or chores, but need doing periodically: mowing, mulching, watering, weeding, stacking wood. And don't forget the emergencies: sheep limping, invasive plants found in pasture, bees swarming, hawk menacing chickens.

But summer should be more than work, even if the work is fun and fulfilling. This year, our family made a list of things we wanted to do. We've been on several hikes, played mini-golf, gone to an amusement park, attended concerts, seen museums, visited friends and family.

Now we're entering fall. The days are noticeably shorter, the sunlight more slanted, nights chillier. It is a very good thing that we already accomplished our summer fun to-do list, because now it's harvest time. And that means hard work, all day, every day. Time to preserve all that summer bounty with canning, drying, freezing, and soon, root-cellaring. Time for harvesting animals as well; this year we have 2 pigs, 4 sheep, and 150 chickens. We have chosen to do our own slaughtering and butchering, which is difficult, but feels right.

On the hardest days of fall, I close my eyes and dream of winter. A big, well-seasoned woodpile. Pantry and freezer and root cellar practically bursting with food. Animals snug in warm, well built shelters. "This work will pay off" I tell myself, and try to find the energy to finish just one more task before bedtime. Winter....