Biodynamic farmers like to talk about the earth as an organism, and more than once since I’ve been here, I have heard the metaphor of the cycle of the seasons as one cycle of breath, with summer being the exhalation and winter being the inhalation. Although winter may seem barren, this lack of life is only at surface level—underneath the ice and snow, the soil is teeming with life, with microorganisms hard at work decomposing the dead matter from the previous season. The soil is recovering, regaining its fertility so that it can again expend it by pushing forth life when the warmth and light return. I am so glad that I came here when I did, that I will get to experience a full cycle of breath on this farm, that I can understand what goes on here even when green things aren’t growing. That being said, it has gotten to that point in winter—the novelty of snow has diminished, I feel lucky to make it through a day without slipping on a patch of ice, the animals’ water buckets keep freezing, and we all long for the days when we no longer need to wear infinite layers of long underwear. Every time I walk out the door of the bunkhouse, I silently shout to winter, “Enough already!” I find myself drawn more and more to reading seed catalogues (copies of Johnny’s, High Mowing, and Turtle Tree are scattered about the house) rather than books—they are like porn for a farmer in the dead of winter. Looking at pictures of all these green things and reading about different varieties of vegetables gets me dreaming about what I would plant on my own farm, and about all the delicious things I will be eating in a few short months. I’m aching for new life, but I have to keep reminding myself that despite appearances, life continues in winter, only it’s below the surface. Sometimes there are even more obvious manifestations—on Tuesday, one of our sows, Betty, had a litter of piglets, and despite the brutal February cold and wind, they are ever so vital.
Quote of the day: “Farming cannot take place except in nature; therefore, if nature does not thrive, farming cannot thrive. But we know too that nature includes us. It is not a place into which we reach, from some safe standpoint outside it. We are in it and are a part of it while we use it. If it does not thrive, we cannot thrive. The appropriate measure of farming then is the world’s health and our health, and this is inescapably one measure.”–Wendell Berry in his 1989 essay, “Nature as Measure,” found in his collection, Bringing It To The Table: On Farming and Food