“Winter is icumen in, Lhude sing Goddamm, Raineth drop and staineth slop, And how the wind doth ramm! Sing: Goddamm.”
Rejoice, sun-lovers! (And forgive me if my quote offends; I have a lot of Appalachian roots; this really spoke to me.)
Today is the shortest day of the year. From this point on we will have more and more sun until the height of summer when, blast it all, we’ll have so much sun it will leave our poor vegetable plants flopped lethargically across the bleached soil. Nearly all of my students, family and friends have been pining for a white Christmas (or Hanukkah) and here in Michigan there is just no way it’s going to happen. The fields are a deep brown, the sky is a broken grey and the thermometer is just gracing freezing over night where it ought to be dipping into at most the twenties.
Unfortunately for us snow lovers, this winter is supposed to be one of the warmest we have had in many years. I’d like to say I’m prepared, but living a life of Michiganian farmdom means I am more comfortable trudging through feet of snow than I am through slops of mud. The horses are already knee deep in mud when they pass through their pasture gates. The sheep all have brown knees from bedding out in the orchard (though some days they decide they prefer the dry of the barn to the convenience of the orchard). The chickens are scratching away what little grass is left in the barnyard and the ducks?
Oh, the ducks. Who knew they could destroy so much sound earth in such little time? All it takes is an adorable dabble here… and adorable dabble there… and behind them they leave a slick, muddy path of destruction, and never where I’d prefer. They pick the delicate garden beds and the important elements in the yard to dabble on, leaving the more hardy earth to it’s own devices. (You might say they avoid dabbling in normal… bwahaha. Sorry.)
Still, when snugged by the fire this morning, half of me is dreaming of longer days and sunnier afternoons, and the other half is left to imagine the winter as I would like it. In this morning’s case, I imagine it full of fluffy white snowflakes and afternoons exploring. I like to think about the way our dogs spring through the new snow out into the orchard and then freeze perfectly still, having detected something beneath the white crusts. Moments later they might launch into the air, pounce into a snowbank and produce (or not) a very surprised wriggling mouse. (Connor, our German Shepherd, has never quite mastered winter mousing. Basil, however, is a professional.)
Of course there are sobering events this morning, such as the muddy dog prints trailing through the house that indicates somehow I forgot (again) to tell the dogs to stay on the porch when we came in from doing chores. There is also the distant splat splitter splat of ducks destroying my shade garden just outside the kitchen window, and don’t think I could ever forget the thick, brown crusts of clay mud that stealthily crept up and over my short boots and onto my socks while I wasn’t looking (not to mention the now-crusted dots of mud that fleck my pants from where the new ram splashed me while scrambling to his hay pile this morning).
Ah well. I guess I’m not sure what to look forward to more, with this being the first day of winter: the freezing of the earth or the thawing of the earth, however I’m definitely looking forward to more sun in my days!
How does your winter look to be shaping up for you? Muddy? Snowy? and what do you prefer?
Want to read more from Tanglewood Farm? Check out Emily’s blog over at A Pinch of Something Nice where she writes about her experiences with her gardens and her livestock, her quest to become a cottage foods bakery and her adventures in leasing a small 19th century cottage and orchard in SE Michigan.