Cindy started elbowing me awake around 5 a.m. Then she began wallowing onto my side of the bed. Then she stood up in the bed (That was weird). I stuck out my hand behind me to check on her. At which point she began enthusiastically licking my hand. It was at this juncture that a new reality became apparent: our 85-pound dog, Max, had jumped up in the bed to join us.
After dragging him off, I swung my feet from under the covers and into my slippers, and headed downstairs to make coffee. Cup in hand, I settled into a chair on the porch to think about the day before me.
The previous afternoon I had tilled among the grapevines and hazelnuts, then broadcast a crop of buckwheat. The twin goals of providing nectar and pollen for the bees and green manure for the soil accomplished, all the seed needed now was a soaking rain to bring it to life.
By now, my second cup in hand, the sky had lightened enough for me to see the chicken run and my notebook. Spring has begun making its entrance in fits and starts. One warm and sunny week and the grass pushes up as if on steroids; the next, with winter’s return, it reverts to dormancy.
Beyond the chicken run is the old orchard of cider and eating apples, pears, cherries, and plums. In another week, we’ll begin raising out a hatch of Saxony ducks there for eggs to sell and as roasting birds. In preparation, we’ll first need to make it predator-proof with a strip of chicken wire around the base.
Around 8:30, The Kid arrived and was dispatched to clear the orchard’s edge. Ten minutes later he was back, rubbing his shoulder. While mowing, he had bumped against the electric fencing wire. At 9 joules, the current put him on the ground. I chuckled (which I don’t think he appreciated), then he and I headed off to revisit the crime scene. Locating where he made first contact, I pointed out the wire to avoid. Farms can be a dangerous place for the uninitiated and inattentive.
Cindy and I spent the second half of the morning inspecting the beehives for honey stores, new brood, and evidence of imminent swarming. All were in good shape, healthy and active, although none showed much evidence yet of early-season honey production. Late morning, the weather began to turn; it became cloudy and windy, and the bees started to get agitated. Intent on finishing our task, we didn’t notice The Kid … until he was standing directly in front of a hive entrance flailing his ball cap.
Come noon, the welt of the bee sting subsiding, we paid him and watched him ride off on his bicycle, handlebars bedecked with a large black rat snake he had accidentally killed in the woods. A gift for a family member, he said with an impish grin. A nasty shock, a bee sting, a dead snake — farm life sure does have its compensations (all depending on your vantage point, of course).
Much later, having finished another full and productive day, we enjoyed a satisfying meal and turned into bed. By mutual agreement, we shut the bedroom door, leaving Max to go find his own place of rest. Window open, we drifted off as a steady, soaking rain began to fall.
Reading this weekend: Fruitful Labor: the ecology, economy, and practice of a family farm, Mike Madison. A new Chelsea Green title that launches their New Farmer Library series.