Monday, August 4, 2008
Oh winter, where art thou?
When we lived in the city, the seasons meant little more than whether we'd be comfortable or not. In Phoenix, the answer was usually a resounding "No!" but for those few short winter months when you might need a jacket. But even in places that had 4 seasons, for city slickers, they didn't really affect us much.
Here? Everything lives and dies by the seasons. And it's not just seasons. It's wind direction and speed, temperature, rainfall, humidity, angle of the sun, and barometric pressure. All of it plays a part in life in the country and on any given day, I can tell you what those measurements are and what we're expecting the next few days.
All of it plays a part in the care and health of the animals, the crops, and the land.
Can I work the bees today? Look to the skies and check for clouds and then see if the barometric pressure is rising or falling. It really does matter if you want to avoid angry bees.
Should I water the garden? Better know the forecast. What about planting? Can I get the crop in before the next rain? Will my tender transplants need to be covered tonight? When will the last frost be? And then the first frost? Are signs pointing to an early winter? A dry summer? A wet spring?
Do the animals need extra water today? Well, how hot will it be? What about shade? Will they need protection from a storm?
When shall I get the animals bred? When will that have them calving, kidding, or kindling? What will the weather be like then? Will the newborns need anything extra because of the weather? For some, the questions also involve knowing when they will reach butchering weight. Do we want to be butchering during that time?
Even can I hang the laundry out today? Will it dry by nightfall in this humidity? Is the humidity low enough that I can maybe get 2 loads out? What about wind? Will I need some extra clothespins to keep things from flying away?
For the last several days, it has been near 100 degrees and everyone is taking a beating. The chickens and rabbits just sit in the shaded part of their tractors all day and pant. You won't see much of the cows and goats either as they will likely be hiding in the barn to escape the blazing sun. But, the forecast calls for a cold front to come in tonight and mercifully cool things off significantly. That will likely be the end of the dog days of summer and we'll start heading into fall. Oh, thank heaven.
But, more than anything, I am looking forward to winter for one major reason. Sleep.
When the sun does not go down until 9pm, the animals do not think that they need to be put up for the night until around 8:30. They do not know clocks. They only know the sun and the seasons. And shorter nights do not bother them.
For us, though, that means that we cannot start our evening chores until 8pm. Starting with the animals that just need to have food, water, and their tractors moved, and ending with the ones who have to voluntarily retreat to their homes to be locked in, it takes nearly an hour to complete. By the time our kids have put on pajamas, brushed teeth, gone to the bathroom, and said prayers with Daddy, it is easily 9:30. And then Abby must be fed. And if Don and I want to spend any time alone, it can turn into 10 or even 11 before we climb into bed.
When that alarm goes off a 5am, it is painful. But Annabelle will be bellowing for her milking by 5:30, and both Don and Abby must be fed before I can go out to do that.
But, oh, the winter. When the sun is down by 5:30pm, I can get to bed as early as 8:30 if I want. And it is not just me. The kids are only able to sleep from 9:30 to 6:30 when their alarms go off to begin their part of our morning animal chores. They simply need more sleep than that. I figure that they will both experience a major growth spurt come winter.
And so I wait. I try to be patient. In the meantime, I take a nap when I can to help me get through the day. And sometimes, I fall asleep when I don't intend to. I try to make sure that is not while I am driving, which sometimes means I have to shake my head and slap myself.
I look forward to the slower pace of winter. To a time to recuperate, to plan for the coming year, to sleep!, to cook and bake without fear of the added heat to the house, and to get some of those "indoor" things done like sewing, reading, and all the other little projects I've been piling up. Soon enough. In the meantime, there is lots to do and of course, lots of daylight hours to do it in. It's a good thing too. My to-do list is 4 pages long.