blizzard

winter storm stella is winding down as i write. we have about two feet of new snow: nice, light, fluffy powder, but blown into every crack and crevice it can blow into by a swirling northeast wind.

the horses look like snow monsters, like candy-colored tanks with long, jagged, ivory icicles hanging from their manes, jowls, and flanks.their blankets crackle when they move as the  ice cracks and shifts. morgan, the dunderheaded bay gelding, has snow matted into his long, wavy mane. his normally dainty neck is massive under a heavy layer of hair and snow. the two appaloosas have short, silky manes and look more normal, but they’re probably colder for it.

i clambered up over the fence panel to shovel the goats out of their hut. they don’t like wading through the deep snow, especially jenny, whose legs are shorter than the snow is deep. i made a trail from the door of their den to the water bucket and the hay net. edward “helped”, by which i mean he bit my butt, scratched his head on my elbows, and wrapped his jaws around the metal handle of the snow shovel. i was half sorry he didn’t stick, the rotten stinker. i climbed back out and threw some grain down their gullets, then bunged some grain into the horses, too. the wind was spooking them and blowing in their faces. i watched them play musical dishes while i sat shivering in the shed, the snow blowing in my face, too. the cobwebs on the ceiling were hanging low with snow and even buckets and junk at the very back of the shed, 14 feet from open air, were covered with a thin dusting of rod-shaped snowflakes.

the nags finally finished eating and i dragged their dishes into the shed so they wouldn’t get buried in snow overnight, but i had to drag myself back outside before bedtime to chuck some more hay at the horses. there was another foot of snow. the goats were tucked into their house, butts to the doorway. the ponies were even more outlandishly misshapen with their loads of snow. i fed them up, shoveled until i thought i would drop, and collapsed into the house.

i will sleep soundly tonight. i hope the weather evens out so my outdoor pals can do the same soon.

freeze/thaw/freeze

it’s early march, so the cold, bony death’s-hand fingers of winter are rightly squeezed inexorably around us. this is usual stuff. but for two weeks, we had spring. i mean, 70ºF spring. snowdrops spring. mud season spring. that’s serious stuff. one day, the grackles were back. a couple of days later, a bemused red-winged blackbird was haunting the feeders. horses were un-blanketed, water tanks were unplugged, and the thermostat was adjusted and doors thrown open.

this is end of april weather, not end of february weather. february in vermont is full-on winter, the worst of it. the shortest month, but the one that feels the longest. day after grueling sub-zero day for what feels like years. this year, we had spring instead.

and we were all uneasy.

everyone i met looked a little bit hunted, unsure in their shirt sleeves, casting furtive glances around like they were waiting for the other shoe to drop. smiles were forced. this early spring weather brought out shiftiness. in true yankee fashion, we caught ourselves enjoying the sun and mild breeze and scolded ourselves back into dourness. because this windfall of weather is wholly undeserved. we know that we pay for our incomparable summers with brutal winters. having a mild, short, or easy winter is a cheat and probably consigns us all straight to hell.

as i write this, it is 1ºF. the wind is blowing, so there’s a significant windchill. the trees are cracking and popping, their frozen, brittle, sap-full branches threatening to snap in this sudden cold. the deck, the ground, the forest: everything is moaning its complaint. everything squeaks and creaks and makes a big fuss.

except the people. the people are kind of quiet because the forecast for next week is for more spring and it’s only march. do we embrace the spring? do we worry that we should’ve started our tomatoes indoors in mid-february instead of on town meeting day (the first tuesday in march), which is the traditional date for getting out the seed flats and filling them up with garden hopes? do we get out the rakes and wheelbarrows and start putting things back together after a foreshortened winter? will we get two feet of snow as soon as we do? and what about next year? and the year after? is this our new normal?

 

victory garden

it has been many years since i planned and planted a vegetable garden. we have always had something in the way of a garden, even if it was just small one. a few years ago, we had a wet, rainy summer that rotted almost everything. mildews and invertebrates and plain old standing water put the kibosh on the whole thing. that was after several summers of putting up increasingly vicious fences to keep the hens from poking holes in the tomatoes and gutting the eggplants. at the beginning of july, which is the height of the growing season, only a few weedy stragglers remained and we called the garden a wash (no pun intended). without constant weeding and tending, the nasty things took over and went wild. crabgrass, horse thistle, smartweed, pigweed, and any other ghastly garden invader you can imagine threw a big party in my carefully amended garden soil. by fall, there was sod. in the spring, i went out and looked at the garden plot with its thick, meaty sod and just threw in the towel. since then, it has only gotten worse. there is milkweed in there now. comfrey. so many things that will not go quietly into that good night. a season under black plastic is the only hope for reclamation.

but this year? i am determined. i am happily perusing the seed catalogs. i will have fresh green beans, bush and pole! i will know the joy of fresh zucchini! only death will keep me from the hedonistic pleasure of a fresh tomato, still warm from the sun! if i have to plant the perennial beds full of veg, i will overcome. and in between weeding and tending those, i will finally put down that black plastic i bought in 2015, because a life without a vegetable garden just isn’t one that i’m interested in living.

haiku 1.16.17

battalions of twigs
standing stalwart, wreath’d in frost
like smoke in sunlight.