Updated: Feb 7
I know I should be enjoying this time of year more, settling in with it, finding the joy in the crispness of the air. I'm sure that I have at some point.
But it's cold. We've had some really cold days for Maryland here on the farm, and everyone is feeling it (including my electric bill). I guess that's what you get with this 'Maryland weather' where you can have a few days of 60 degrees in December, and then weeks where my backyard remains a sheet of ice. It's a good thing no one can see me slipping down the stairs, across the yard out back in my bathrobe, a throw blanket, and slippers with the soles run smooth from use, as I attempt to place my feet in spots of grass or footprints from warmer days. Except for the chickens, dogs, and cats who are all waiting for their turn to be fed, no one gets to watch this humorous display of slipping and screeches.
As I write this it is Imbolc: half way between winter solstice and spring equinox. Some would say this is the first day of spring, and although I am enjoying this balmy 37 degree sunny day, I'm not seeing any signs of spring today.
I have a lot of plans for the spring and summer growing season, which is usually how I get through the cold dark winters. However, I think I'm getting a little more (sadly) realistic in my almost 40 years. Although my herbal practice is getting much more traction now than when I started, it's not going to generate enough income to allow for the massive 'farm plans' in my head. Friends, the fact is, I have been reading too much. I equate this sensation to the same feeling I used to experience when I watched HGTV: getting all excited (perhaps even manic) about a weekend push to redo a room in the house, repaint, re-something. And then, right as I am preparing and purchasing what I need, realizing this is ridiculous and I cannot/ will not actually repaint, redo, re-something anything in 48 hours. Womp.
I want raised beds. Lots of them. I don't have much flat area left. Let's create a terrace! Let's charge up that tractor! Let's grow MASSIVE amounts of medicinal herbs! We need to make a new vineyard spot! But I also want a traditional English garden... Let's get more BEES!!!! But wait- we need that space for the GOATS!!!
A friend of mine mentioned once that this time of year is nice because you don't have to work outside as much as you do when things are growing. This is a time of rest that I won't get in the summer, if I do my job right. And yet, all I tend to do is lust over the summer planting and harvesting and hiking plans. Besides, who am I kidding? The only garden things I've accomplished thus far are ordering seeds and adopting a rooster (what does that have to do with a veggie garden?). I don't even have my veggie garden mapped out yet! Gasp! But, did I mention the rooster? Marcel? He's great. I love him. He's not so sure what to do with the ladies yet, but it's cute watching him awkwardly flirt. They are not very amused.
Speaking of chickens, we have a few appropriate-for-us updates. RIP to our trans rooster, whom Heidi named and which I can never remember. Think it was Sunny Mamma Dessert Baby or some such ridiculousness. This is our 2nd trans rooster, and I've noticed they never really live very long after their transition to a roo. Now we're down to 3 hens. And, Karen, (God love her...) allowed me to experience our first egg-bound chicken, so that was neat. If you're not familiar, it's what it sounds like. Karen had an egg stuck in her. Luckily, because I didn't know what was wrong I ended up trying my go-to broken chicken method of turning them face down and shaking them, which somehow got her to lay the egg. I've found turning chickens upside down and shaking them equates to hitting a broken tv or computer (90s edition). It just kinda works. Karen entered the 'death crate,' and was the first to emerge alive. So there's that. Yay Karen. Live to complain another day!
Lastly, let's chat about bees, shall we? This tiresome, stressful expedition down a path where I now realize- I have no place to bee (ha- see what I did there? still got it.). Well, as I've mentioned before, last year was our first year as beekeepers and our girls (2 hives) didn't live past fall. So this is our first winter doing bees, and it has been freaking me out. Everywhere you turn the advice is different, so I really don't see how to succeed except for learning through error.
I've been trying to check on them periodically when we've had warmer days, and the last time I did a cursory check there were a TON of dead bees on the bottom of my hive, and a bunch outside on their 'porch.' I had one strong hive and a weaker one going into the winter, and sadly, my big hive looks baaaaaad. So bad, that as I was adding a sugar board to feed them in case the honey stores were out, that I began to dismantle it to bring it inside. There was still so much honey, as if they didn't even live long enough to eat any if it. And yet...after I took off the top box of honey frames, a little bee head popped out like, "what the hell are you doing!?" I assume if one bee is able to survive the colds we've been having, it's only because there are more of them nestled in there among the THRONGS of dead ones. So I put her home back together and giddily scurried back to the house to document in my bee journal They're not all dead!!!! Now, I doubt I'll have 2 hives when spring really hits. In fact, I feel pretty dismal about the whole thing, and my gut tells me both hives won't make it, again. How many times does a person try before taking nature's hint, that maybe you DO suck at this?
Maybe I should just hang up my bee suit and pressure JP into building me a sweat lodge instead. But damn, that honey was good.
Here's to spring, animals that are alive, and sunnier days.