Monday, March 23, 2015

The Gift of Good Time

We have suffered through worse winters over the years with more snow and fewer degrees, but this one has been severe enough.  Frequent sub-zero spells kept gloves near at hand (so to speak) and layers of clothing mummifying our bodies.  We have gotten our fill of snow shovels, snow blowers and roller coaster roads.  The furnace has been kept busy, and chairs near the fireplace have been at a premium.  The heater in the barn even got a workout trying to keep the water pipes from freezing and the tractor diesel liquid enough to move through the engine.  Little wonder that when the propane truck arrived last week to top off our tank the driver found it 93% empty.  Our whole house was running on fumes. 

And so it is that we have treasured the gift of time these past several days that Iowans have no right to count on – mild, sunny days in the 60’s, 70’s and even one day in the 80’s.  Our own little climatological version of “March Madness”.  It's not unprecedented, but then neither are April snows.  The chickens have enjoyed their wider range beyond the tight little courtyard I had cleared of snow and covered with straw, and have pecked and scratched their way around the perimeter of the fence to excavate anything of interest the melting snow may have left behind.   

We, too, have worked to put these gift days to good advantage.

The seeds happily sprouting in the greenhouse, we have turned our attention to the acres beyond.  The new hand saw and tree loppers we brought home from a winter conference exhibitor have had their shine worn off, and the brush mower has run through multiple tanks of gas.   

The dismantled snow fence has been repurposed as a chicken funnel, guiding the girls from their primary enclosure over to the garden for a new field of endeavor while I get some garden work done of my own.  Unfortunately no Snow Elves found their way inside the garden fence over the winter.  Last season’s plant debris – left to languish in the trenches last fall as we hurried to harvest remnants before the descent of winter – has not gone anywhere in the ensuing months, and so our gloved hands have pursued the extraction with a vengeance.    

We had moved,the fencing this time last year to accommodate garden expansion, but had only pressed a portion of that new space into service.  Since I had rented a large tiller on Friday to prepare the space between the labyrinth and fire pit for additional wildflower seeding, I piggybacked it's time on our property with the development of ten new trenches in that expanded garden space.   

Meanwhile, a tree service came and removed four offending trees and trimmed up several others to the end that the whole front yard and the labyrinth to the side feel like they can breathe again. 

And, as a sunny punctuation point to the work we have had underway, our electric bill arrived – the first since the solar array was completed and fully operational – reporting a balance due of $8.50.  It is the first sign of a return on our electrical investment, but looking around us these early spring days we observe countless dividends.  

Daffodil stems knifing through the front bed’s soil.
An emerging prairie.
Happy, productive hens.
A greenhouse teeming with trays of sprouting seeds.
Budding fruit trees.
Piles of wood chips from trees trimmed.
Open spaces where thickets used to be.
A garden readying for new life.
And muscles sore, but satisfied.

Life, in other words, is pretty good here on the farm, in the midst of this gift of good time.