The sky is gray but snow-bergs Farmer pushed up north and south of the house continue to melt. A thirsty earth sucks the puddles dry.
I’ve been studying the possibilities for this year’s gardens, and surveying the spaces our chickens cleared last year.
Late last fall, winter took control, sending every perennial plant into dormancy. Like the hundred-year sleep, there was magic involved. Every year I doubt that magic until the buds and tendrils begin to unwind. I disconnect and just go to sleep.
My mother gifted me a beautiful calendar for Christmas last year. March’s feature, by James Hautman, is a blooming branch of apple tree with nine different species of birds perched in it. It’s a rainbow of colours, an absolute dream for us who haven’t yet seen a crocus or heard a meadowlark.
These calendar pages contrast my Battleford apple tree that bloomed for the last time last spring. I’d bandaged it years before against vole damage, and heaped compost around it. The tiny apples it produced last year were a brave gesture. They shriveled and fell to the ground, along with tiny leaves infected with small sucking flies.
I tore the bandage off to see the voles had chewed all the bark around the tree. Everything above that damage is dead. Surrender. Last year a friend of mine captured such a lovely picture of it in full bloom with chickens grazing underneath. That’s a dream now.
Here’s the reality: I returned from the chicken coop rather high on ammonia fumes. I scraped out several mineral tubs full of winter poop, dumped these into the wheelbarrow and then to various areas that could use such treatment.
Our hens, inspecting my work, were on high alert for scurrying mice popping out of hiding as the manure was shoveled. A high pitched squeak sounded, followed by several hens chasing the bird with the mouse in her beak.
These are excellent mousers – great reminders that using mouse poison in and around the chicken coop is no more appropriate than raking leaves in a forest, or setting up a wireless system anywhere bees desire to live.
With so much work to be done, it’s time for me to wake up, implement those necessary adjustments while holding close the dream. It’s time to help paint the pictures I want to see here on the farm.