damp winter are all around us here in North Georgia. The green flush of grass on the pastures and lengthening of the days are telling us that we must be prepared for all that spring will have in store for us. In many ways, I have never been as ready for spring as I have been this year. Growing up in Savannah, spring was always my favorite season because it was the time when soccer started at school, when you could start to wear shorts and go to the beach, but you weren't overwhelmed with humidity and relentless sunshine of the summer.
Now that I have spent a winter on a farm, spring means so much more to me. In many ways the weather this winter in Georgia was "abnormal," though the more you farm, the more you question the idea of "normal" weather. Regardless, we had a lot of cold spells and precipitation in many forms - cold rain, the "icy mix", sleet, and even a day of 4" snowfall. While I am aware that this is a pretty mild winter for most parts of the country, it was still daunting to endure some of those days when it's 34 degrees and rainy, but the pigs have to be moved or you have to take hay to the cows. In addition to the weather being harsher, one of the hardest parts of winter is the lack of vegetation. This is a battle that all of God's creatures have to face and we get our free pass at the grocery store, but I for one missed the fresh greens and vegetables that we had for most of the fall. Though Liz did her best to try to keep the garden alive and growing, there were just too many forces battling against the garden. All those things being the case I can't say that I have ever been happier to see spring taking over the land.
Seeing these signs of spring around, we have spent the last week and a half making an effort to start transitioning ourselves in our economic and domestic life on the farm. Last week I helped Liz till up the cover crops that we planted for winter and the rows that we had dedicated to a winter garden. She and Amanda worked hard preparing the soil and planting potatoes and I helped her one day planting transplants of broccoli, lettuce, and cabbage. In addition to the garden, we also hatched out our first batch of chickens for the meat birds. Our ambitious plan for the pastured poultry operation this year is to collect, incubate, and hatch almost all of the meat birds that we will raise on pasture.
Perhaps the most exciting part of the oncoming spring is that we are rotationally grazing again. All winter, we struggled to manage our animals who were suffering because of the parasites that wreak havoc in wet conditions. Though we would like to move them frequently when the conditions are like this, the damage that they would do to the pasture would prevent it from recovering as quickly in the spring. So we waited patiently for the grass to start growing again and this past week, Tim gave us the green light. While it is a lot more work added to our day to move two sets of cows and two eggmobiles full of chickens, no part of the farm gives me as much satisfaction as seeing the cows and sheep happily grazing new grass and the chickens behind them doing all the clean-up.
In honor of the changing seasons, I threw a party of one for the winter and ate the last harvest of young winter lettuce, frozen black-eyed peas from the garden, and a delicious pork tenderloin wrapped in bacon and drenched in a brown sugar-apple cider glaze. This was complemented with a glass of hard cider that I made in late fall. Don't worry, I didn't eat all of that tenderloin in one sitting.
I also wanted to share a poem that I wrote about all of the rain that we got during this winter.
The Lover of Soil
for Tim Young
The sower of seeds,
the grower of trees,
the lover of soil.
To him it is a fine, fair maiden.
When no one is looking,
he will bend
He will whisper to it a love song.
“You, the bearer of fruit,
you , the source of life new,
hear my humble pledge
to sow for you
if you grow for me,
to nourish you
when you nourish me.”
When the rain falls hard
and the cow’s footfall is harder,
in his sleep,
he rises early to survey his fields,
the dawn-bright warmth not yet on his land,
and hopes for the sun to hurry in its course
to revive his drunken ground.