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Posts Tagged ‘project 365’

Today’s forty-three degrees feels almost warm compared to yesterday’s high of twenty-six. Intense cold complicates even the most basic daily chores: yesterday Brad visited each of the waterers with a hammer to bust up the ice after the previous night’s low of twenty-one, and the fuel pump froze on the tractor bearing the hay bale spear, delaying feeding until afternoon when he thawed it with a torch. A driver moving one of the semis we borrowed to haul soybeans had to cut through the yard to get around the tractor, motionless in the cold sun in the driveway. Today we are grateful to be spending at least part of the day above freezing.

Still no calves, but the full moon is in a few days, perhaps that will bring a few on. Meanwhile the mundane tasks of living consume my minutes and hours, cooking, feeding children, cleaning, wash, rinse, repeat. The seed catalogs wait patiently for me to finally sit down at the kitchen table and begin this year’s plans for vegetables and flowers, fruits and herbs. For a couple of days now Brad has been picking the last of the soybeans planted along the Coosawattee River; today he shifts gears, taking a break from driving a combine to go to the Main Street Market in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This morning after checking the cows he finished milling stoneground grits and meal, his market staples. He’ll bag those up in one- and two-pound hand-stamped bags and head north. Tonight he’ll come home with freshly roasted coffee, honey, and raw milk he trades for from his fellow vendors, plus some surprises perhaps. I’m hoping for fresh mushrooms, but they may have all frozen in this last cold snap.

I look now at the foods we eat with a critical eye, weighing the path taken to get to us as heavy as price and nutritional content. We do eat most of our foods from local farms, both our own and those of our friends, but we still consume a fair amount of nonlocal edibles. The global market has spoiled us to year-round availability of all that should be seasonal; it’s a tough argument, giving up cheap and available produce in winter just because there’s no way we could have grown it here, now. As I make my first pass at this year’s garden planning, this is foremost in my mind. What’s missing here that we want to have on our table?

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Brad and his father moved the combines to Riverview yesterday, but a light drizzle this morning secured another day in the shed. By afternoon the next front cleared the skies with pressing winds and the kids spent a good part of the afternoon outside with their cousin. Bitter cold is expected tomorrow, and I’ll be grateful for today’s sixty-one degrees.

I think about traditions on days like today, what they mean, which ones to keep or to discard, which new ones to create. So many traditions revolve around food and family. For years I religiously consumed collards and black-eyed peas for wealth on the first day of the year; this time I’m looking a little deeper at this habit, speculating about its origins and what would be the most meaningful meal for me, for my family now. Security signals more about wealth to me these days than it did when I was younger, and supplying our own food is one of our greatest luxuries as a farming family. We pickled okra with peppers and garlic last summer, and froze Crowder peas; we have sweet potatoes and eggs, our pantry is always full of cornmeal and grits, and today we have smoked ham, sausage, and Kielbasa from family pigs in the refrigerator. I decided this was a day for using just what’s on hand, food grown by us and our family for our collective well-being. The kids enjoyed sweet potato fries with ham and corn fritters, and Brad and I had spicy sausage stir-fried with peas and okra. It didn’t look like much, to tell the truth, but it tasted amazing and I felt genuinely proud and blessed to serve it. Happy New Year to you and yours.

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The latest cold front pushed through a couple of days ago, sweeping the skies clear of clouds, making way for sun and wind to give earth some balance with all this standing water and mud. This morning the clouds returned, soft stratus from horizon to horizon. We’ve had hard freezes the last two mornings, and now those stratus clouds sink into drifts of fog, making the drying out slow going. It’s still far too wet for bean picking.

Brad trudged out to feed and check cows early this morning; no babies yet. I’m eager for them to start; I think Brad is too, only for him I suspect it’s tempered with a bit of dread, the kind that makes you set your jaw and heave a sigh as you head out to do a necessary but unpleasant task.

Already we have gained daylight, perhaps as much as an hour in a week’s time. The sleepy short days and ever longer nights crept toward the solstice, inching into that one longest night; it seems the growing sun now leaps into the lengthening of days, as if shaking off the residual drowsiness of an afternoon nap. The gap between sunrise and sunset widens, the arc heads northward again. We wait, for fields to dry out, for calving to begin, for winter to progress and eventually give way to spring…

The clouds now have folded themselves upward into puffs of cumulus, sunlight pushes its way through, and thousands of starlings just outside the house elicit an argument between the nine- and the four-year-old over the right way to frighten them into flight. No amount of explaining will soothe the wronged child. Brad’s return from milling signals the start of dinner preparation, and we wind down this day and head for the next.

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