I know Canada geese are not the usual harbingers of spring. That position is, of course, reserved for the famed robin. However, when the winter has been as long and cold as this one, you take what you can get. So I am henceforth officially declaring the beginning of spring with the arrival of geese in our pastures.
Spring is a wonderful time on the farm. It sounds cliche, but then, so many cliches do have their roots in truth. Although we have had our first litter of piglets already (only so the kids can take pigs to the fair) and our first goat kid (an accident), the truly busy time is planned for the more consistently warm weather - we hope - and the first flush of green grass.
It seems that to some degree, all of the seasons on the farm look to spring. Even in the coldest, darkest parts of winter, we are thinking of spring. This is the time for planning gardens, organizing paperwork, and ordering chicks, bees, seeds, and plants. There is no time for those sorts of activity when spring is actually upon us. We have made some progress in those areas during the winter, but never so much as we wish. I think that is the nature of a life which revolves around organic processes, not to mention homeschooling, building our own home, and trying to make a living in a profession in which it is infamously hard to do so. But spring is coming anyway.
So, we have already started some seeds. We decided to try artichokes. Why? I don’t know. Because we can, I suppose. Next week, the chicks arrive and another litter of piglets. They will be followed by lambs, then goat kids, then calves, and the arrival of our bee packages, then more piglets. We are hoping to have all the animals born and thriving by planting season.
We do learn some lessons, after all. Before we started gardens, berry patches, and orchards, we often had our animals born later in the spring. Not that it was necessarily important that they do so, it just didn’t matter too much in our planning. But now that we have green growing things, we learned that it is good to not have to be worrying about baby animals while trying to get gardens planted and trees pruned. And so we had to become a bit more deliberate in our planning. A bit more deliberation is beneficial in just about every area of life!
Then there are the sleepless nights during birthing season. I remember staying up once in college for 42 hours straight. (I am sure there were some important, mature and responsible reasons for it, but what I recall is the late movie and the party at a friend’s house. Anyway...) But as I get older, I do not look forward to the regular trips to the barnyard to check on expectant mommas and the hours up when they do give birth. In the interest of full disclosure, Chris does many of those middle-of-the-night checks. But as much as I do not look forward to the loss of sleep, like so many things, it is worse thinking about it than actually doing it.
There is something wonderful about sitting in a bed of straw next to a laboring animal. It forces us to slow down and wait patiently and quietly in their world. And then we live life in the world of the out-of-doors...the stars fill in between the timbers of a three-sided shed illuminated by the warm glow of heat lamps, or the sunbeams highlighting dust-specks, and listening to the snow, or wind, or rain outside, or even just the nocturnal sounds of the inhabitants of the farm. It is never really silent.
And animals are so much better at birthing than we are. Assuming a trouble-free birth, of course, they do not fret much. They are clearly uncomfortable, and working hard, but they don’t stress out. They instinctively follow what their bodies tell them. We help the babies out, dry them off with a towel, and give them to their mommas. We help them nurse if they need it. Not every birth is ideal or trouble-free, but most are. As I sit there watching the mom scour off the baby with her tongue, or listening to a mama pig’s happy grunts as her babies nurse, I think about the Nativity. I will grant the utter lowliness of Christ’s birth in a stable. And in our day and age, the lack of sterile conditions for a stable birth would be terrifying. But I suspect that the people who talk about the stinking, dirty stable have never actually been in a cared-for barn. The warm smell of straw and hay and animals is comforting. The sounds of contented animals induce peace. And I think Jesus chose a rich place to be born.
And so, despite the snow on the ground, I know spring is coming. It is hard, tiring, stressful, and wonderful. I can’t wait! Where are those darn robins anyway?