Archive for April 21st, 2010

Independence Days Update: At Twilight

Sharon April 21st, 2010

During the day it can be very hard to pay attention.  There’s so much work to do, so much laundry to hang and food to cook and digging to do. We’re into the part of the year where the days stretch out into exhausting proportions, and while we’re outside, often I’m looking down or sweating as I haul something and trying not to trip over the goats.

And then there are the kids, who are wonderful, and engaged, and who are little question factories, demanding thought and attention.  Just as I enter the meditative mode, digging, I hear “Mom, who was President when Laura Ingalls was born?  What about when Ma was born?” from Isaiah, or from Simon “Did you know that there can be six different species of algae on a two-toed sloth?  Aren’t sloths cool?!”

From Eli there’s a request for an apple, from Asher for help with his bike or a push on the swing. Isaiah wants to know if he can help me, which entails finding a small shovel, and now Asher needs one too.  Simon brings a bug over for identification, and we all troop over to watch the green snake sunning herself.  There is a constant stream of observations and talk, but not much time for listening.  Then there’s schooling, which goes on while we dig, reciting multiplication tables and poems and discussing soil biology.

Which is why I find myself seeking excuses to go out at twilight, after the kids are settled in their rooms, after the chores are done.  Perhaps because the human life is quieter then, the creatures are less shy – or maybe they were there all along and I just wasn’t in a position to notice.  Last night I watched the lesser flycatchers chasing bugs.  The barn swallows haven’t returned yet, so they have the small side yard field to themselves.

The night before, I watched a lone Canada Goose land in the pond across the road and call for her companions.  They came down thunderously to spend the night, dismaying the beavers who were swimming the ponds.  With a slap of  flat tails the beavers retreated, probably cursing in beaver language.

There are the peepers of course, and the sight of new plants and blossoms each day.  I watch Culpeper trotting across a field, vole in mouth and hear the dogs speaking to other dogs miles away.  On the night of the first thunderstorm of the season (way early for us), we watched the dogs – we could detect the smell of a storm in the air, but they could hear the thunder long before we could, and tell us about it.

It is at twilight that I spot the yellow warbler’s nest – she always builds it in the lilac bush, but this year it was cannily concealed beneath a vine.  I can hear the cedar waxwings, although I can’t see them, and the wrens that nest on the porch are building, because I can see two twigs and a scrap of straw that weren’t there before.  In daylight, I’d never notice it.

At twilight, as we put them in, I notice one of the young ducks has shifted from his baby peep to an assertive quack.  At twilight along the creek, I know I will see the first firefly – not yet, but eventually.  At twilight all the change building around me becomes visible – not because it was not there, but because now I can see.

Daytimes, however, are for work.  The barn is finally almost clean – it was a tough chore this year – because of the heavy snows in early March, it was April before we could begin it, and an extra month of bedding represents many, many extra trips to the compost pile and garden, and pounds of manure and bedding.  We only have to clear out the stall where the rabbits wintered, since it will be our kidding pen.

The big excitement this week was the arrival of a gift from my husband – 500 lightly used cinder blocks, salvaged from an industrial building project.  I’ve replaced the sides of my raised beds too many times – time to build permanent ones.  They are heavy as hell, and we’re moving them by wheelbarrow, but boy will it be worth it.Eric and I also cleaned out the root cellar, which needed it.  We composted only a few veggies this year, and I’m pleased about that. 

We’re eating sorrel, dandelion, good king henry and chives and nettles and the first lettuces in abundance now.  Beet greens and spinach are nearly ready.  And the ramps and fiddleheads are producing now, so the first greens of the season are up.  I don’t think of our growing season as officially starting, however, until we get something red – it is the rhubarb that is the official first crop, the rest are thinnings and good fortune.  And that we’re still waiting for.

We have tons of milk and enough eggs to feed Canada these days, so that’s good – these are our primary crops right now.  As we build the new beds, the medicinals are waiting for their spots – some of them don’t need beds, since we’re focusing on producing wetland herbs, but most of them aren’t quite large enough not to get lost in the weeds!  So there’s a ton to do and not enough hours in the day – but it is so satisfying, and there’s always twilight for noticing.

Plant something: Lettuce, kale, broccoli, mache, chard, beets, carrots, peas, sweet peas, pansies, dianthus, fava beans, cilantro, dill, turnips, cabbage, probably some other stuff too ;-) .  Also marigolds and calendula in flats, chard, cabbage, brussels sprouts and late tomatoes in flats.

Harvest something: sorrel, dandelions, burdock root, marshmallow root, chives, lettuce thinnings, nettle shoots.  Also, milk, eggs and angora fiber.

Preserve something: Nah, too early to bother.

Waste Not: Reduced waste in rotting root cellar produce by better management or good luck (not sure which this year, let’s see if I can duplicate it), built raised beds with manures, used feed sacks for mulch, compsted and fed things to other things as usual, salvaged used cinder blocks for raised beds.

Want Not: Nothing this week, too busy.

Eat the food: Lots of salads and stir fried greens, nothing really fancy.

Build community food systems: Nothing, too tired.  Oh, wait, one radio show.

How about you?