Friday, August 10, 2012

Listen closely

I woke suddenly this morning. The birds were already heralding the dawn. Don groaned briefly, and bolted out of bed. It was already after 5:00. That in itself was unusual, as was the short conversation that followed; options for getting rid of some of the abundance of cherry tomatoes left over from yesterdays market.  As he softly tread downstairs, I rolled over, and wondered what had woke me. And it hit me again - the breeze from the open north window beside me. I was COLD!  It was refreshing, to be sure, but I pulled up the blanket anyway, enjoying its comfort at long last. Oh blanket, how I have missed you.

It didn't last long. Not able to sleep any longer, I got up. The coolness had stirred brain cells gone dormant with the heat. While the coffee brewed, I flung open the windows. My cup was especially good this morning, with feet carefully tucked behind the couch cushion, with the only breaking of silence bird song. I love September mornings........  brrrrrrrrrpt. - wait a minute.... but its still early August! 

I've always been a believer that animals talk to us. Nonverbal language perhaps, but effective enough communication for a few wise enough to take time and care enough to listen. My favorite book from early childhood? "Charlotte's Web", but of course.

Many I've talked with recently have noticed the signs. The 'old wives tales' and Indian lore that supposedly fortels the coming seasons. I first noticed the morning fogs of May. Others have heard them too. The cicadas too early in June. Both indications of frost, and coinciding in early or mid September.

Still in the midst of unusual heat and drought of the summer, its hard to grasp. Until you look at the crops. And hear the talk of silage and early harvest. And there was the brome that headed out in early June, as if it knew the rains would soon cease. Maybe the earth has been whispering all the while.

"Hind sight is always 2020" the  old saying goes. But also "Mother Nature  always knows". Most had poor lamb crops this spring, the Ewes and Us included. The mild winter was blamed. Or did the flock know the grass would be short by the time the lambs were grown; that this was not a year more mouths would be as welcome.

I made good progress in the coolness this morning. Out door to-do's finally got done. And the forecast is even encouraging.  Maybe. Lows tomorrow in the 50's! More September mornings. Hmmm.

Outside chore list nearing the end, I finally went to tackle the kitchen. While washing the pile of pans from yesterdays baking, I noticed it. Back again. The pesky spiders have invaded. The webs brushed aside are replaced in hours.  They do this every fall. ....... it's as if it were September.  Charlotte speaks to us in a webby whisper....

Is anybody out there listening?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Promises, promises

The forecasters are trying to be hopeful. They try to make rain chances of 20 and 30% sound good. But I'm good enough at math to understand that even a 30% chance of rain - showers rather- means its a 70% chance of nothing. Still, when the sky appears like this, you have to hold out hope.

Pretty huh.   Makes me remember things.

The last couple of weeks have been full of remembering. 

Shortly after my last post, (and possibly partly because of it) I had a visit from Grant, from NPR. They are doing a series on 'My Farming Roots' in conjuncture with Harvest Public Media, and wanted an interview. Of course I said yes. As it often turns out, I was the party that benefited the most.

Grant was a likeable young man, and asked the appropriate questions. Of them, for me at least, the most thought provoking was a simple one.  "Do you ever think of them - your great and grandmothers - while you are going about your everyday work?" he asked.  Pause.  "Well, yeah, I guess I do."

But it was later that it hit me. I began connecting with my roots much more in the last few years. The stories of my Great-great grandmother amazed me. I remember a bit about my Great grandmother. But suddenly, I got it.  Maybe its the atmosphere. The effects of the deepening drought and my awareness of it has provided the perfect setups.

As we stood discussing the fate of the new seeded grass, and the decision to be made - to hay, to graze, or do nothing as a least harm effect - I thought of my Great-great grandmother Sarah, a widow homesteader with 15 children. I could almost feel her standing there behind me in the tall grass.

The other evening when the shadows covered the garden, I went to pick the tomatoes. At least something in the garden is doing well. I filled the first bucket, moped the sweat from my eyes, and went into the vines again. And again. And the sight of the row of 5 gallon buckets heaped with large red rounds made me remember the photo of my great grandmother seated among the heaping bushel baskets so long ago.

Last week, the buzz in the news became the drought. Record number of cattle being sold.  Record corn prices. Hay shortages. Yesterday, the neighbor came to mow the hay. You do what you think is best. Or what you have to do. This morning I walked a letter to the mailbox, and got a closer look at the sparse dry grass lying dusty and gray on the stubble along the road ditch. And I remembered the stories my Mother told of herding the family milk cows along the dusty roadsides in the 30's, because it was the only feed they had. And how one day the government came, and 'bought' the cows, including Rosie, her favorite, and took them out to the edge of a large pit they had dug, and shot them. And with them died the small cream check, their only dependable income. And I got it.  I think I finally understand why my mother never milked a cow again, and why she secretly hated being a farmers wife.

I realize now that my roots go way deeper than I ever imagined. Thanks to Peggy and HPM, and Grant and NPR. I know that even the new seeded grass holds onto the promise. On the surface, we are all dry and brown and gray. Some won't make it. We may have to re-seed come spring. We will if we have to. But some roots run deep, and they'll make it through. Its a promise.