"Winter seemed to last forever.

But one day a change came over the woods and the pond. Warm air, soft and kind, blew through the trees. The ice, which had softened during the night, began to melt. Patches of open water appeared. All the creatures that lived in the pond and in the woods were glad to feel warmth. They heard and felt the breath of spring, and they stirred with new life and hope. There was a good new smell in the air, a smell of earth waking after its long sleep."

__________________________________

We are on the loose, laying in soggy fields and kicking newly thawed Last Year's Shit like the two-legged manure spreaders we pride ourselves to be. Already Craig is saying, we've had so much spinach lately.. And the good wife I am responds, eat up eat up eat up.

Gus and I set eyes on our first skein of geese yesterday morning. The nettles I planted last year are up but our chives are dormant yet. Like a good little hermit, I set our unreliable incubator with goose eggs and self sabotaged our Vermont for Spring Break plans. At least for now, it seems. Only time and an egg candling or two will tell.

The sheep are in such a way that I wondered aloud to Craig, exactly how big can a vulva get before a lamb just falls out of the thing? And also, do sheep have hysterical pregnancies? They're either all bred, or all vulvically fat. Logic assumes the former but what little I know is summed up in a poem I penned a few weeks ago while thinking of Luella:

...

Everything I've Learned, Thus Far.

How I make sure the cow's bred?

Swear

she is not.

How I make sure she isn't?

Swear

she is.

...

While we're sharing poems (or are they just notes..?) of questionable quality..

...

To Whom It May Concern

Be advised that I have used one of the two blue sponges in the sink to remove a layer of chicken shit from the big, black enamel pot. It's sparkling, see? (The pot.)

Choose your scrubbing implement wisely

(What it's like to live with me.)

...

Tell me you'll buy my someday book.

...

In the evenings Gus and I are rereading The Trumpet of the Swan by natural light and he's telling me,

Mom, you don't have to talk like that.

Still unable to produce something like the simple and refined prose of E.B. White in my own writing, my best imitation of E.B.'s New Yorker cum Mainer accent is my chosen compromise. Being a Tennessean cum New Englander, it's as entrancing as cats in heat.

Eventually the child relents, as does my aural assault, as does the sun.

Day is done, spring is come. On and on and on.

__________________________________

"Sam sat on his log, hardly moving a muscle. He was spellbound at the sight of the swans. They were the biggest water birds he had ever seen. He had heard their trumpeting and had searched the woods and swamps until he had found the pond and located the nest. Sam knew enough about birds to know that these were Trumpeters. Sam always felt happy when he was in a wild place among wild creatures. Sitting on his log, watching the swans, he had the same good feeling some people get when they are sitting in church."

both excerpts by E.B. White from The Trumpet of the Swan



On Sunday the boys looted the barn for odds and ends that could be cobbled together to resemble something like a sugaring operation. A pipe, some old but not yet so brittle as to break wire, a dozen or so half-gallon jars. Then they tromped off into the woods to tap trees. It seemed such an improbable thing, to Just Sugar as one would Just Sweep, that I didn’t put much faith in it. But in the days since, I’ve carefully trod out to the back woods, over and around icy holdouts and the softened cow shits of 55 degree days, with a pressure canner-cum-sap vessel clanking at my hip. It is comically awkward in its handling and size on the return trips, brimming with sap, but Gus is somehow old enough to support the weight of one side and we make do. Though the careful attention we pay to where our feet land on the trip out is all but abandoned as our standards for success fall simply to getting back home without spilling the haul.

On Monday evening I dipped a wee Peter Rabbit mug into the sap for a petite quench shared between mother and son. Gus is an ardent sharer by nature but he drained the mug in full, leaving me a bit stunned and thrilled, also in need of a more fitting ritual for enthusiastic sugarers. So a wee mug of sap for all when it runs because what is a good life worth without it?

On Tuesday, while I was was carefully aligning a one inch bottle opening to a sap shunt in a maple’s side, I watched Gus plunge his cupped hands under the surface of the Just Collected, his untethered hair floating on the surface as he brought a small pool to his mouth. It was primal and beautiful to watch, but unquestionably marred by the memory of having lovingly buried our hands into the scruff of every animal we tend only 5 minutes earlier on our evening rounds. Indignant at my surprise, he informed me that this personal rite of collection had been established yesterday, Monday, and that it was fine. Well how-dee-do.

On Wednesday, we made a pilgrimage from school to co-op for coffee (though as seems inevitable we found other cow’s-dry-didn’t-plant-enough-or-raise-pigs-this-year winter homestead essentials along the way: kefir, apples, bananas, salami, carrots, peanut butter, onions, cookies, chocolate, almond and cow milk) and settled for a quiet evening of smoothies and Stuart Little as read by mama.

On Wednesday evening, Gus left his bed and caught me with the aforementioned box of cookies, saying through a mouth thick with sleep he had gotten up to talk about something. We never sorted out what, and instead decided a trip to the bathroom with a fresh tuck-in was a respectable alternative. Hugs and kisses shared, I padded back down the stairs, absent no more than 30 seconds, to the dog having abandoned her warm and equally cushioned spot for my own. As good a time as any to put on a kettle and check water and snack for barn beasts. The golden locked and the feathered, the wool-ed and the hide-ed. The deeply loved and bed-ed. All marked as Well.

Orange + Cardamom Oatmeal Dark Chocolate Raisin Cookies

These cookies are an earnest act of resistance on the battlefield of February Blues. Toasty, warm winter flavors and just the right amount of sweet and whole wheat to make you certain a third cookie can't be that indulgent. If you're in Maine, hunt down some local oats and wheat- it's easy enough to do and will make your cookies all the more righteous. And if you find yourself nearly out of whole wheat flour but with some einkorn on hand as I did, splitting the flour load between the two is a first-rate solution.

6 tablespoons butter, softened

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed

1 1/2 cups oats

1/2 cup whole wheat flour (or flour of your choice)

1/4 cup raisins

1/4 cup dark chocolate, roughly chopped

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon cardamom

pinch of kosher salt

1 egg, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

zest of 1 orange, about 1 tablespoon

Preheat oven to 350 and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, combine butter and sugar to cream. Beat until fluffy and sugar is fully incorporated.

While butter and sugar are creaming, combine all of your dry ingredients (from oats to salt in the above list). Stir to evenly incorporate. Set aside.

When butter and sugar are creamed, set mixer to low and add egg, scraping sides as necessary. When the egg is fully incorporated, add vanilla and orange zest. Mix to combine.

Add dry ingredients with mixer still set to low, mix until combined.

Using a tablespoon measurer, scoop cookie dough onto cookie sheets. Bake for 14-16 minutes, or until edges have browned slightly. Allow to cool on cooking sheet for 5 minutes. Makes approximately 2 dozen cookies.

Enjoy! (With fresh milk or coffee- that's nonnegotiable.)

#RECIPES #FOLKSTEAD


A warm January, indeed, but didn't February make sure we remembered? Feet of winter coming all in a day's time. Drifts settled high on the cold side of the pane, casting out the best of our sun. We crept in and out of doorways, our hunched frames braced for What Must Come Down. We raked! We did. But those godforsaken ice dams are keen to thrive, thick and heavy at the front door, drip drip dripping at the back. I took to borrowing Craig's overalls, finding myself in them backwards but already booted and too exhausted by the snow I hadn't yet waded through to even considering righting them. Near thirty inches found it's way to our ground and as it came I spoke to friends who had yet to fully dig out to their animals by midday. Ooo hasn't it felt foolish at times to have tethered ourselves to this old I'm-returning-to-the-earth-and-you're-coming-with-me house? If it ever comes up again, let us say we threw it all down for wicked, wicked days like these and the promise of winter chores in slippered feet laid up as offering from that bless-ed attached barn.

In between storms and early, early in the morning, our postman called - head on in, chicks are here. Chicks in February! Certainly the move of a woman Warm Enough in a thawed out sort of January (or, to be fair, the move of a woman wanting eggs Before Fall). But now I look at that deep, deep snow and those tiny, tiny but growing, growing chicks, both thinking they need this hill of earth to survive. We all know who'll cry uncle and recede, but don't I wonder at what point that'll be.

#FOLKSTEAD

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