Kidding is stretching out longer this year than it has in previous years. We’re into week three now, with 47 kids on the ground, and at least eight more does to kid. Spring itself seems to be stretching itself out as well, giving us a tiny gift each day. This morning, I heard the first peeper! On Sunday, the bees were swarming in the newly blooming crocus, and the chives are peeking out. The snow has receded gradually over the last week, with only isolated pockets left here and there. The snow and hay pack which has been burying the hay feeders has shrunk enough that the goats can stand and eat their hay again, instead of kneel. And the best part so far this spring is welcoming apprentices Jamien and Jeff. Welcome all!
To paraphrase T. S. Elliot, March is the cruelest month. Just when the sure signs of spring are starting to appear — sap buckets, frost heaves, skunks — the snow keeps on coming, and they take away an hour of daylight in the morning. Don’t they know that the darkness is the worst part of a northern winter? Our house is dark, I get up in the dark to do chores, I spend the day at work in a windowless room, I come home at dusk. Day after day is gray and overcast. Everything outside is monochrome and colorless.
This is one reason why I go a little nuts with the Christmas lights, hanging them everywhere, and leaving them up until Easter (as long as Easter is in April, that is). At least I can take a small bit of cheer from the colorful dots of lights everywhere. Until the snow is so deep, that all the outside lights are buried. And they are making them so cheaply that they do not last more than a season, and after three months of being on continuously, mine are all dying out. So, not only do I still have to get up in the dark, but my lights are going out.
I remember flying kites in March, in bare fields. I remember walking the goats with their spring kids in March in bare fields. I remember St. Patrick’s Day when there was green grass and daffodils. What is happening here? Winter lasts at least a month longer than it did when I was growing up, and I live less than 200 miles from there, and closer to the ocean. It’s so difficult to stay optimistic, when March just sucker punches again.
Yesterday, in the height of the storm, there was a flock of little chirping birds in the crab apple tree, eating dried fruit. At first I thought they were robins, because I saw a flash of orange. But they were smaller, and had a tuft on their head, small beaks, and a little yellow stripe on the end of their tail. I looked up every bird I could think of, but nothing matched. Not titmouse, siskin, grosbeak, waxwing, towhee, nuthatch, redpoll, bunting or finch. This is when I miss my mother. She would have known.
I love seeing the Robins hanging around this winter, but what are they eating? Clearly, there are no worms available right now. The ones I’ve seen have been roosting in the crab apple, so I suspect that’s one thing they eat. There was also a bumper crop of pinecones this year, so maybe they can eat those. I don’t dare start feeding them, because if I forget to — and I will — it’s the kiss of death for them. But it’s so wrong to see the messengers of spring in a snow-covered tree! I can only have faith that they know things we don’t, and not only are they finding food, but spring is just around the corner.
Out with the dog at 4 a.m., that zone between night and morning. Peepers peeping, owl hooting. Birds waking up, loon calls from across the lake. Goats stirring in the barn, muffled sound of goat bells. Bats returning to their roosts, wild turkeys leaving theirs.
Close my eyes and breathe in the smell of the lilacs beginning to bloom, and a light east wind brings the scent of the sea.
… to paraphrase Lewis Carroll, we have slain the Jabberwocky of winter.
To paraphrase Martin Luther King, spring at last, spring at last, thank god almighty, spring at last…
I heard the wood frogs last night! Welcome back!
Next come the peepers. Soon, the night will throb with their songs.
March did not depart gracefully. We shipped off the first batch of kids to their new home on the last day of March, and then it started to snow again. This endless winter just doesn’t want to let go. More snow predicted for Friday. Such an April Fool.
The first kid of the season was born on March 19. We’re now up to 46 kids, with just five does left to give birth. We’ve gone from not milking to milking almost 30 twice a day, from no kids to feeding them all. We’ve already shipped off 24 to their new homes, so the kid peak has passed. In the meantime, the girls in the barn get their spring beauty parlor treatments: hooves trimmed, udders clipped. They have to re-learn milking parlor etiquette: no crowding please! no bullying! please use the In Door! And I have to remember how to make cheese again after a long winter’s hibernation.