A great big long sigh of relief was audible over mid-Maine yesterday evening as we finally got through the last of the chores and the immediate unpacking from our annual pilgrimage to the Shenandoah Valley to see Aimee's family. Thirteen hours in a car, even when spread over two days, is a long time. Maybe one year soon we could afford to fly and rent a car to get around when down there.
But if we could afford that we could also afford to go to the Valleys west of Cardiff to see my folks, Christmas in Wales.
All was well back at the ranch when we arrived home, Spfc. Jennifer, our soldier/farm-sitter having proven herself quite competent, with the assistance, as always, of our helpful neighbors who keep an eye on things too. The heavy snowfall that hindered our journey south a week or so ago is still on the ground, albeit much diminished. Neighbor Hamilton plowed Jen out early last week, and so I have only a little snow to move today, just enough for the sturdy northern work-out I need after Christmas excesses in the bloated south.
The next storm is forecast for Friday, and I'm looking forward to it. I could use a real northeaster, a two-three-four foot rip-roaring 48-72 hour blizzard, with all the trimmings, just to make sure I don't need to go any where for several days!
(Be careful what you wish for. This very sad blog post depicts what happened to some Oregon farmers whose superb blog I read regularly. Not a great Christmas present. But we get two-three foot snowstorms most every year in Maine, and are built for it. Perhaps if I wish for a snowstorm here in Maine where it belongs, it won't fall in Oregon or some other place where it doesn't.)
What next in the Womerlippi seasonal round? Not much, thankfully. I could use some old fashioned winter down time.
There are a few things to do. School starts early this year, in the second week of January. Spring semester is usually a slow start, but I do have to be ready for one new class I've never taught before. Plant start time is still a ways off here in Maine, at least the way we do things, but the greenhouse I built Aimee for Christmas must be finished soon so it will be ready when needed. If I save that job for the sunniest days, it will be a pleasure. Most of what is left to do can be done from the warn inside of the new greenhouse. Seed catalogs will come soon, and Aimee will perform the vital yearly ritual of checking over last year's leftover seeds and ordering this year's new seeds. What she orders in January is pretty much what I eat for vegetables from the following September for a whole year. The first plant starts combine with Six Nations Rugby to make for an interesting February and March. Another ritual. We cheer on England, Wales, and the baby Black Krim Tomatoes.
Then there will be lambs. Lambs are bliss, especially when playing lamb-tag with each other on patches of hay-strewn ground between snowbanks on a bright sunny cold afternoon in late March. This year we should have lots of lambs because we have seven ewes that are likely bred.
Ten is a nice round number.
In the meantime, nothing much will happen around here except for the steady movement of firewood from woodstack to stove to chimney to atmosphere, and the steady movement of hay bales from barn attic to hay crib to sheep belly to sheep poop to compost-pile.
The Carbon Cycle, up close and personal.
One way or another, it's the breaking of hydrogen bonds in the cellulose and sugar of hay, oats, corn, and firewood that keeps the entire farmstead and its residents warm.
We can measure the progress from midwinter to spring and lambs by the steady diminishing of hay and firewood stacks, by the onset of Six Nations, and by the tentative growth of tiny green plants in newspaper pots.
In the Bleak Midwinter
Text: Christina G. Rossetti, 1830-1894
Music: Gustav Holst, 1874-1934
Tune: CRANHAM, Meter: Irr.
1. In the bleak midwinter, frost wind made moan,
earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
in the bleak midwinter, long ago.
2. Our God, heaven cannot hold him, nor earth sustain;
heaven and earth shall flee away when he comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
the Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.
3. Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
but his mother only, in her maiden bliss,
worshiped the beloved with a kiss.
4. What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
yet what I can I give him: give my heart.