When I was a kid I hated getting up for the school bus. Especially in the winter. I would strategically set my alarm clock-radio ahead ten minutes, and allow for an excessive amount of snoozes. I’d begrudgingly get up at the last, possible moment when the red numbers began to climb to the end of the hour, precisely the time my bus would arrive.
As I whipped around my room, frantically searching for something to wear, trying to find my backpack, I’d pause to admire my kitty on the bed. Oh, to be a cat! He really had it all figured out, I thought. I would’ve traded places with him at that moment, or any other frigid morning for that matter.
Not much has changed since then. I mean, I haven’t been on a school bus in years, and I don’t wake up to an alarm clock anymore, but when I did, my morning ritual was pretty similar. Granted, as an adult, working full-time, my mornings were a lot less hectic, but getting out of bed at the last possible moment is just my thing, especially when it’s cold out. And, if offered, I would have given a reasonable amount of thought to being a cat instead of going to work.
Is it possible that because I spent most of my life wishing away the alarm clock, and my morning commitments that my wish came true? The funny thing about all this is that I generally get up earlier now than ever before; when I was a slave to the alarm clock.
The tune of my mornings has changed drastically. Shortly after arriving, we began the ritual of having tea and breakfast on the back deck while we planned the day’s tasks. Now that winter’s arrived my morning commute is across the snow-covered lawn to the chicken coop to say hello to the girls, get their eggs before they freeze, and of course, give everyone a treat.
In fact, my entire life has changed drastically. We’ve officially been in our new home for six months, it’s the darkest time of year, and there’s been plenty of opportunity for reflection. I did so much speculating about what our new life was going to be like when we got here, now that we’re all settled in, the journey we made sometimes feels surreal.
Daydreams of this life would come to me in flashes. When we started to make our musings a reality, I allowed those visions to cascade, and meander. During those stargazing moments I was engrossed in ordinary farm chores, and mulled over millions of details: Irrigation, garden planning, soil structure, farm equipment, plant spacing, marketing strategies… You get the idea of what was going on upstairs.
My dreams took place in May, June, July, August, September, and October. It’s not because I didn’t want to think about the winter, it’s just that I couldn’t help but focus on the growing season. I knew the seasons would change, and when they did I’d deal with it, and have more time to think about farming. Besides, I had so much to do, and so much to think about that I couldn’t allow myself to linger through the rest of the year.
When thoughts of winter did creep in, I became delighted for our first major snowfall, and inspired by the prospect of having the time to be creative; bake bread, sew, paint, plan my garden, and learn new things. I also thought about power outages, cabin fever, and the amount of time it takes for it to warm up in the spring, but I tried to keep those thoughts at bay.
These first few weeks of wintry days I’ve been making lists, pouring over seed catalogues, fussing over meals, a few loaves of bread, and squeezing in a creative project here or there. I’m encompassed by the beauty of the season, in awe of the stillness and silence. I’ve been going back to bed with my tea.
However, it doesn’t matter what you choose to do in life, there’s always going to be a downside. The trick is to find something that you love so much, that the downside is bearable. For instance, maybe you want to be a nurse, but the idea of working long hours, especially on weekends and holidays is problematic for you, or maybe you’d like to be in the circus, but you really hate travelling. Whoever you are, whatever you do there is a drawback that you have to deal with, but it’s up to you to weigh up the pile in front of you.
Mother nature is my boss, my co-worker, my workplace, and my product. Right now, she says it’s okay to stay in bed a little longer, but I better be prepared because in a few months I’ll be up before the sun, and have enough hard work to do for the entire year, in half the time. Early mornings, hauling rocks out of the field, and huge piles of manure are just a few of the things that await me. I may never have clean fingernails again. But, more importantly flowers, days spent outside, and being my own boss, kind of.
I am conscious of the fact that there are going to be failures. Not everything is going to grow, and no matter how hard I try, how many books I read, or amount of knowledge I gain, I’m still going to kill some plants and have short comings. Indeed, there are always lessons to learn. I’m hoping they are not too hard on me, and that I’m not too hard on me, so I’m getting inwardly prepared now, and when I do fail, I can honour the defeat, and move on.
I can’t help but feel like I should have accomplished so much more in the summer to be better prepared for this coming year. I could have got a head start on many bi-annuals, but for some reason I just couldn’t see past amending the soil, planting bulbs and root-stock. Certainly, there’s a myriad of other i’s I could have dotted, and t’s I could have crossed, but progress is still progress, even if it’s slower than I would like.
Likewise, I have to remind myself of all the small victories we have to celebrate. We’ve made our new home our own, and added plenty of improvements. We worked the soil, plotted several beds, and got a considerable amount of flowers and garlic in the ground, all this while up against some serious weeds, and rock challenges.
We’re homesteading! We canned through the fall, been making our own bread and soap, and our small flock of laying hens are providing our eggs. I dipped my toe into the realm of cold-climate gardening, and while our cold frame only provided a suitable environment until Christmas, it went really well. The plants I didn’t harvest are now inside, out-of-the-way on a couple of shelves, in front of a window, and thriving. I’m writing, painting, sewing, and creating; all those things I longed to do before I had the time.
So amidst the lists, our chores, and all the planning, Christmas came at the perfect time to take some time to unwind. We went to a small farm not far from here, and met the turkeys before we went back a few weeks later to collect one for our meal. Kenny made me sit on the stairwell while he smuggled my gifts into the house so he could wrap them (he was concerned I’d peek out the window if I went upstairs, and the five-year old in me just might have). I only had an opportunity to make his annual, homemade card when he nodded off on the couch on Christmas Eve. It’s really great spending so much time together, but sometimes we all need a little time!
We had a beautiful snowfall shortly before the holiday, then quite a bit of rain which washed it all away. On Christmas morning we woke up to a light dusting, by midday it delicately cloaked the trees. A few showers gave the freshly fallen snow a gleaming finish, and then the sun came out! It brought with it the most magnificent rainbow I have ever seen. It was so close I could see the trees through it, on the other side. I felt like I could reach out and touch it.
It was fleeting, but it sure did give us something to clink our glasses to! We really have so much to be grateful for, and this felt like Mother Nature saying, hey, you guys are alright, here you go.
It surely made our first Christmas here a memorable one. We had our obligatory champagne with breakfast, and as the day wore on I mixed up a handful of heavenly cocktails.
Pomegranate and Honey Gin Fizz with Rosemary
In your favourite tumbler muddle 2 tablespoons of pomegranate arils, 1 tablespoon of honey, juice from 1 lemon wedge, and a pinch of ground rosemary.
Fill glass with prefered amount of ice. Add desired amount of gin (I used 1.5 ounces), top with soda. Garnish with fresh lemon, and rosemary sprig. Stir and enjoy!
Pear and Ginger Gin and Tonic
Grate ginger, and slice pear lengthwise. I used a mandolin on the thinnest setting. Add 1/2 teaspoon of ginger, 1/4 of a pear, and juice from 1 lime wedge to each glass. Make sure you set aside a slice of pear per glass for the garnish.
Top up glass with ice, add gin, and tonic water. Stir the pears around to separate. Garnish with a fresh lime wedge, and reserved pear slice.
This crazy ride is only just beginning. Often I wonder what it would be like if I could go back in time and tap Kenny on the shoulder to tell him that one day we’ll be dancing in the kitchen of our old, Nova Scotia farmhouse. If I could tell myself to hurry-up, get out of bed, let that cat be a cat, and you be you because one day you’ll be so excited to get out of bed to go to work on your very own farm, and everything will always be okay. But, these things aren’t for us to know.