November 2018, Wintertime
Here on the farm we are trying to fasten up and prepare for the winter that is already upon us.
In a certain sense the farm slows down in the winter. There is no hay to be mowed, tedded, raked and baled, and rather than bringing the cattle herd to the pastures, we bring hay to the herd. We move the hay instead of the fence. Hay feeding began last week, when the snow came and covered the pasture and made the white polywire fence difficult for the cattle to see. Further the southern hay fields where our herd was grazing are open and exposed, and when the weather turns, it is cold and windy. Through the winter the herd will stay near to the farmyard, where they will have shelter and windbreaks, and where we can easily attend to them. Our geothermal waterer is nearly installed and it will be a relief this winter to not have to worry about carrying water and frozen troughs. The pigs, during the winter, bring to life the true meaning of a pig pile, in which they stay cozy and warm in their pig hut. All winter they continue to dig up earth with their very strong snouts, breaking all the rules about the ability to excavate frozen ground.
Projects such as fencing and working the fields, get put on hold for the winter and are worked on only in the planning of how they are to be carried out in the spring. There is always planning to be done. For the days, weeks, seasons, and years ahead.
In another sense, the farm does not slow down at all. The chores and tasks that need to be done, take longer and are more difficult to do tromping through snow or ice, weighed down by layers of winter clothes. The woodstove must be loaded and tended to, and firewood gathered and split, both to keep the house warm as well as in preparation for the coming sap season.
As a farm that direct markets everything we produce, we continue attending farmers markets throughout the winter. The Ann Arbor Kerrytown Market on Saturdays, and the Webster Farmers Market on Sundays (except the 3rd). These two markets couldn’t be more different and we enjoy both for different reasons. The Kerrytown market is big and bustling, our weekly excursion into Ann Arbor, the only city I have ever felt some sense of belonging to and a place made by special by the people in it. The Webster market is small and intimate, a weekly excursion into the fabric of our neighborhood, woven over many generations, a place I have always belonged to. At times markets can feel like a lot of time spent off the farm when we really ought to be on the farm, farming, but mostly we enjoy them and they give back to us in many ways. Beyond income and catching up with fellow farmers, they also provide a space to talk to people who nourish themselves and their families with the food we produce. Farming is never without a sense of purpose; to care for the land and grow food to eat. Interacting weekly with people who understand and are thankful to be a part of this purpose, is a gratifying reciprocal appreciation; it reinforces our choice and responsibility to be farmers.