December Here At Fernwood

Wouldn’t you think by now, after a long and busy growing season, that we’d simply be sitting fireside whittling wooden spoons and rubbing the dog’s belly? That would be nice, for us and our pups, it surely would. However, though the activity may be different than it is during those time-sensitive days of summer, our days are full. The work here is seasonal, a constant flow from one end of the calendar to the next. A rhythm of life that can be measured and accounted for. Right now, as we slide into the colder days of the year, the days are measured in firewood and hay and jars of canned tomatoes. We are not moving the sheep fence for rotational grazing, but we are making trips out to thaw frozen water buckets and cleaning stalls. We’re not dragging hoses and setting up the commercial sprinklers, but we are (already!) dropping trees for next year’s winter supply. We are not collecting seed and dividing plants, but we are going over our plant lists, scheduling talks for the 2019 season, and making room for new cultivars that we’ll be offering.
Yesterday went like this: Up at 5:00 to make coffee and stoke the fires… we heat the house using only wood and have at least two stoves going at all times ( there are three in the house not including the studio, which we also keep heated). Next, animal chores. Hay and grain and water the sheep, the chickens, and Hunny Bunny( Sally’s angora rabbit who winters here) and clean stalls. Back indoors to bake off eight loaves of sourdough bread, roast a chicken from the freezer, cook off a shepherd’s pie using ground venison, and bake an applesauce cake. Back outdoors to cut and split wood (next years), gather greens for wreath making, and then bring a load of firewood to a neighbor’s house who is already running a bit low. Indoors by mid-afternoon for some lunch and a cup of tea and a few rows of knitting (Noah’s Christmas socks). Late afternoon, back out to haul in firewood, sort through this past springs fleeces to try and send off for washing before the end of the month, then sand all the footpaths and driveways that are becoming quite slippery. Before dark, it’s animal chores again, being sure to tuck everyone in safe and sound and well fed. Dinner (with a glass of wine, yes, please!), some reading ( right now, Farley Mowat’s book, The Siberians), and a few more rows of sock knitting. Bedtime…8:30 ish, not kidding.
There you have it, a sample day during Fernwood’s winter. Oh, there’s also the vacuuming and the odd projects that we have a list for and the dishes and the rubbing of dog’s bellies. All that too, for sure. This is a good life. A busy, day to day, cycle. It often feels like the days are too short, regardless of the season, but I think most everyone would agree to that. We do the best we can with the daylight hours we have, we save the nighttime for activity that can be done without light, we are happy when our heads hit the pillow. I think my point in writing about our days this morning is to acknowledge how surprised I am, year after year, knowing full well the busyness of each and every season, that the winter months are not as sedentary as one would think. No, they are not. Is the pace different? Yes. Life does go round and round here, we visit the same needs and chores and expectations, month after month, year after year, over and over again. We know it and we know it well. Yet still, I ‘summer-dream’ of winter days spent fireside reaching for my brewing cup of tea and casually flipping the pages of a good book…and, of course, reaching out with my foot with a relaxed bit of effort to rub the dog’s belly. There are a few days in the throes of winter that will indeed center on the indulgent gift of warmth and hot tea and the captivating words of a good story. I’ll savor these, be glad for them, and they will help make the firewood slinging days more pleasurable. Of course, once those bitter days of February arrive, thoughts of green grass and swelling buds and tender shoots will creep into my mind. I don’t consider myself fickle, I am not a person who wishes time away or one who struggles with routine. Perhaps my mind is joyfully entangled and intertwined with the flow of this life, I know what’s coming and I know what’s been done. Most days, I try and just be in it. Inserted. A cog in the wheel. Hopefully, an integral part of the pattern. And that makes me happy and helps to bring reason to this life I’ve chosen.
Enough said, happy December to you all, I must go, there are things to do and dog bellies to rub!

8 comments on “December Here At Fernwood

  1. A lovely post. it reminds me of a quotation by Verlyn Klinkenburg when he wrote about Gilbert White, an English naturalist in the 18th century: “He recorded what he noticed, and in the the pattern of noticing lies the art.”

  2. Wonderful post! Yes, as we work hard all summer, enjoying the light and warmth we dream of winters spent before the fire (tended by?) soaking in the warmth, cuddling a cat, patting a dog while we knit or spin. Maybe someday! But not while we can still move, right? And certainly not if one has farm animals! The work never ends! But if you can do all that before dark, I give you loads of credit, the days are so short now.

  3. The life of a farmer is different than that of others. It’s a good life with a purpose. Those animals depend upon you, and there is a satisfaction that comes from giving them a good life. Then there is the subject of physical work which appeals to certain people like you and me. I find great satisfaction in ‘work.’ I don’t know what that says about me, but, hey, it is who I am. You enjoy the warmth from the stove, the delicious meals from the oven, and the opportunity to be outside and then to warm up inside. Sounds like a perfect life to me. 🙂

  4. I was thinking exactly what Judy wrote–the life of farmer is so different from any other life. I saw it as a child–the adults could never take a day off, could never just turn over and go back to sleep, could never not do the chores, because the chores were what allowed the family to eat and have a warm house and new winter coats. You describe it so well, in a breathless fashion, that conveys what the day must feel like, moving forward quickly, to get everything done. I suspect you appreciate the

  5. Oh, I know how that goes. There are some sorts of work that slow down in winter, but others that start up! We can not keep the drains clear when the rain starts! Rhody did happen to get some good rubbing today though.

  6. This post really captures both the work and the pleasure of rural Maine life in winter. I don’t have animals to tend or a nursery to run, and I order my firewood already cut and split, but I always say “Who needs a gym when there is wood to be hauled around and snow to be shoveled all winter long?” Enjoy the special beauties of winter and happy holidays.

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