Thursday, April 21, 2016

November Hill farm journal, 1

I'm reading a wonderful book right now, Henry Beston's Northern Farm: A Chronicle of Maine. Beston follows the seasons on his Chimney Farm in the 1930s and also offers thoughts on farm life versus urban life. His words ring true today and I'm finding myself wanting to share many of his passages as I read.

At the end of the first chapter he writes:

In a world so convenient and artificial that there is scarcely day or night, and one is bulwarked against the seasons and the year, time, so to speak, having no natural landmarks, tends to stand still. The consequence is that life and time and history become unnaturally a part of some endless and unnatural present, and violence becomes for some the only remedy. Here in the country, it all moves ahead again. Spring is not only a landmark, but it looks ahead to autumn, and winter forever looks forward to the spring.

Beston keeps a farm diary and after reading the first few chapters I'm going to do the same for November Hill. Many of the blog posts I've written over the years have been entries in an unofficial farm journal, but now I'm going to name them as such. Living on a patch of land and watching what happens as the days pass and months, and then seasons and years, is a gift. I feel it here every day and I'm happy to have Beston's book as a model to follow.

November Hill farm journal, 1:

It's the season of greening and growing things and what I'm watching this week is the grass grow. The back yard is a sea of knee-high grass that we let go because the cats so love hiding in it, and then the mower blade broke while mowing the way-back part of the farm, so we waited even longer for the new blade to be ordered and collected. We'll get to mowing this weekend but for now it's tall and lush and cats disappear completely in certain areas.

In years past I've let horses in to graze it down but this year we have the cat haven set up and until we change the gates to open inward, the wire is something one has to duck under to go in and out. Not an option for the horses, though if I opened the gate they'd try their best to come in.

I'm even more impressed by the overseeding I did of the bare area outside the barn doors. I spread stall waste in a fairly thick layer and let it compost for several weeks and then overseeded. Suddenly there is grass there again. Every day another bit fills in, all the more remarkable because it gets walked on every day by humans and horses. What was horse manure and fine pine shavings is now breaking down to earth. 

The parts of the paddock and fields that get muddy during rainy spells in the winter are the most miraculous of all. Every year I walk the mud and think, this is it, no grass will ever grow in this mess again, and every spring I marvel that suddenly those mud patches are green and beautiful. I don't know how it happens that earth so well-churned by hooves can turn to grass.

I alternate between focusing on the ground beneath my feet and the sky above - mainly the leafing out of the trees on the farm, oaks and tulip poplar, hickory and sweet gum. This week the wind blew soft, not the staccato sound of wind through dry brown leaves hanging on tight to otherwise bare branches, but the softness of air through new green leaves. I felt myself soften as I listened, the shift toward spring.

The water troughs take up time now. Pollen, now the oak tassels, shedding horse hair - these seem to collect on the water in the troughs and I spend more time cleaning and refilling than is ever needed in the winter months.

Tick count on horses is still under 10, which is a number I can live with. April is usually our worst tick month so I hope that holds true as we move toward May.

The vegetable garden is mostly in now and I'm harvesting all kinds of greens every day. The indoor plants are moving to the porch yesterday and today. I'm having to fit watering the garden into the routine. Thankfully the days are longer and there's more time in daylight to do these extra chores.

I've lost control of the flower beds yet again, though the work I did last year digging out the invasives has made a difference. The honeysuckle has become its own entity over the holly bushes in front of the porch. A project for next winter. For now I'm waiting for blossoms and the sweet perfume they offer.

One thing I know from years on November Hill - what I miss doing isn't much reason to fret. Another chance to take it on will come around again. Thank goodness.


Grey Horse Matters said...

I love this and think it's a great idea! I think at the end of all the seasons it would make a nice book to read.

billie said...

Arlene, you might enjoy Henry Beston's books - because of where his home was he writes a lot about the winter and the snow. It's beautiful writing and has an actual calming effect on me as I read it. Great idea about keeping the journal and then compiling it for a book. I saw an app a few days ago that takes blog posts and compiles them for you into book format - I was thinking what a great tool to take what we write in this format and compile it for family and other purposes as well.