If the posse of young layers and roosters had planned to overwinter somewhere warm like Phoenix or Naples, the travel agent must have missed their message.
Bitter and jilted by their snowbound bondage, they clustered together around their mobile chicken coop like tourists around a broken down bus inside of the lion exhibit. Many a chicken eye leered.
But these beauties will soon find that they too will fold in to winter just like the pigs, cows, sheep and farmers must do as well.
Before the ground freezes and the ice encapsulates the soil, the sows are making their home in the garden. The weeds need weeding, the squash need squashing and the pigs need feeding. The only thing that makes weeding and feeding laborious is interjecting ourselves in the middle of it. Step back. Let the marriage of garden and hog ring with glory. As with many things on the farm and in this world, a little bit of management goes a long way. In this case, the human farmer stands on the sidelines watching the intersection of space and time (garden being the space and post-harvest being the time).
Long Lost Friends
North of the house and windbreak-woods is the farm’s hay field. Ten acres of convalescent grass plants that haven’t seen a cow hoof in probably many decades. A stretch of rusted barb wire and fossilized, broken oak fence posts separate it from the pasture. For years the hay has been baled and then moved with a tractor to feed the cows on the other side of this aging fence.
Like the pigs and their residency in the garden, the same marriage possibility exists between the pasture and hay field as well. The hay field calls for a return of its lost nutrients and minerals, in the form of manure and urine, and the cows call out for a meal, happy to oblige with 50lbs of fertility out their back end every day.
Some fiberglass step-in fence posts and electrified rope are technology that allow us to manage time and space and to play our role as officiant in the union of bovine and neglected hay field.
The grass may not be long or sweet, but the cows are happy to eat through the snow. And instead of moving the bales with the tractor, two men can unroll them by hand and let the cows turn the dry grass in to fertility for next year.