Being back on the farm after our first vacation away has been mostly comforting. It’s reassuring to feel good about being back. To feel my body welcoming the rituals of hen care, the motions of homesteading. To feel competent in the day to day work of caring for little people, this place and its smaller livestock.
The jolt of « oh yeah, this place » came when I received news, via text message, from my mother who had so kindly agreed to spend the day with our eldest so that we could get to appointments in the city, that cattle were out and that a neighbour had been contacted to get them back in a fenced area.
« This. » I thought. The near-constant anxiety that things can go wrong and that I don’t feel terribly well equipped to right the bulk of those wrongs. (And I know that getting cattle to return to a specific pasture isn’t rocket science, but it does take time and it does take a certain stoic confidence that I’ve yet to hone.) And in those moments, malgré moi, the equanimity that I aspire to turns into angry mutterings about « this wouldn’t happen if we had a radish farm! »
Luckily, in winter, tracks are give aways and escape routes are easier to identify.
With the cold and the winds, the cattle have been appreciating the wind breaks out in the pastures. The 135 cattle on the farm right now are currently separated into four herds : 1. the bulls, 2. the heifers, 3. the cow-calf pairs, and 4. the dairy pair (Ursula and Bossie) + a runt heifer. The first three groups spend all of their time, year round, in the pastures. These windbreaks are key for them. The herds are moved to new pastures regularly year round, and in the winter, they bale graze. By the end of winter, the pastures are polka-dotted with remnants of hay bales, which, from the tops of the hills, looks pretty whimsical and puzzling.
This year, the hens are free ranging year round. The coop is in the open portion of the barn, so there’s a fair amount of covered outdoor space for them to roam and explore. When the sun is out and the weather warms a bit, they venture onto the snow. We’re caring for nine extra hens this winter, which is making me want to grow our own flock a bit.
When I was little, we lived on a cul-de-sac and the end of it always had a great snow mountain which was great for climbing and sledding with the neighbourhood kids. We have two such monster piles to ourselves here. It feels surreal and is another reminder about how the scale of both things and of living is just so different (for an urban-raised person) on the farm.
Despite the scale, the anxiety, and the drudgery that will surely soon set in, there’s a sweetness that I can appreciate. The rickety outbuildings that are bursting with both old nails and potential. The pieces of old road signs, prised building material, that can be found all over this place. The nap-strolls through fields of snow, under blue skies with my baby.
The days are already getting longer. We’re catching up on computer work and non-pressing projects. We’ve started making lists and booking meetings with each other and expert friends to plan for the year ahead.
This is the season where (especially on these crisp clear days) everything seems possible.