March 29, 2011

spring tease

Spring is taking its sweet time getting here, that's for sure. But Toby and I went for a ramble this afternoon in the 38-degree-air, and it's getting ever closer to the messy, muddy stage before full-on spring.

I have a good feeling that this will be our last snow (please, PLEASE let it be our last snow) so we enjoyed it. Snowballs are good for throwing (me) and snatching out of the air to eat (Toby).

And if I can't wear my Wellies to the community garden just yet, at least they are getting broken in beforehand.

Hurry yourself up, spring. We're ready for you.

March 22, 2011

so, you want to be a farmer

I have a small, nagging problem and it's all the internet's fault. All of it. Between reading bits of Wendell Berry and "The Omnivore's Dilemma" (fine, only 63 pages in, even worse!) and growing weary of winter and feeling the dim confines of our basement apartment... okay, the internet isn't responsible for all of it. But I have gotten sucked into a couple of pockets of the world that are so fascinating to me: young blogging homesteaders and farmers (that phrase could not have been possible even 20 years ago, eh?).

This young couple, along with their children, are very intentionally pursuing a lifestyle outside of the grasp of the mighty supermarket. It sounds impossible, but between growing and making their own food, as well as buying meat, dairy, and other supplies from locally owned and operated businesses... they are on their way to pulling it off. I love the idea of knowing exactly where your food comes from, how it was produced, and just how far it traveled to get to you, not to mention getting to know the people producing it.

Side note: I don't know what it is about the Hamilton area, but I'm so intrigued that such a relatively urban population (500,000 in 88 square miles) is also within such close reach to farms, orchards, butchers, dairies, flour mills, wineries... must be a fortunate combination of location and climate and history.

Another deadly trap has been the discovery of this blog, and while I can't say I have an acute case of Barnheart just yet, I can feel small twitches that threaten to grow. She makes me want to find a chunk of land, buy some sheep and a truck, and start selling and spinning some wool. I'm not kidding. Throw in some chickens too, and some beehives so I can give honey and beeswax lip balm away as gifts.

I'm idealizing this in so many ways. I loved "All Creatures Great and Small" by James Herriot, a veterinarian in rural Yorkshire. I would have "Charlotte's Web" on the brain and make the huge mistake of naming every last one of my animals, and it would break my heart to watch them get sick or, as is the nature of farms, finally slaughtered for food. I love hard, tangible, rewarding work, but I don't know what it is to be tied to the land and unable to travel on a whim when there is work to be done. I can't even haul my ass out of bed at the first (or second, or ninth) moment the alarm goes off. I have no idea what it is to be a farmer.

But when I read blogs like these, I yearn for woodburning stoves and the hum of contented creatures nearby and growing fresh food outside my back door and the dead-tired satisfaction of a full day of labor and having friends over for feasts. Simple, honest, pleasurable things. They aren't so unrealistic, in some small measure, right?

March 9, 2011

it begins in ashes

There is something so gritty and tangible about the season of Lent, I am figuring out. The grey smudges on Ash Wednesday and the dim purples attributed to this time really reflect what's outside my window (although it is snowing thickly right now, but that's bound to turn to rain in the next 24 hours) and most of my surroundings as I move through my day. This time of year is tough; March is in like the crankiest of lions. Winter has worn me down and run its course, turned grey and dingy everywhere I look, but it's too soon for the earth to really come to life.

This moody, bleak setting is just about right for ideas like fasting and preparation and lament and 40 days in the wilderness. The sunlight and first day of spring and greens are on their way, and I have that to look forward to, but there's no shortcut through this season to get to the next, both spiritually and physically. So much of the Bible is about people waiting, preparing, anticipating. It's probably the kind of thing you could write a huge paper on (I am around my PhD student husband too much), all the ways and reasons and unbelievable lengths of time people hoped and prayed and waited. So much emphasis is on the preparation itself, sometimes more than the anticipated event, and that's something I haven't considered in past Lenten seasons. Like this time of year, I have passively watched the days slide by without participating or preparing.

So, I want to participate. The tangible side is straightforward; the tradition of sacrificing something or simplifying for the 40 days of Lent is familiar. In my case, it will be processed sugar, which my teeth will be happy about, but the rest of me, not so much. (This is scary for me to go ahead and write down, because I never do it here- I don't really talk about goals or challenges or commitments to whoever's listening, because then suddenly I'm ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEM. That is terrifying.) It's a comfort and a distraction, but not really healthy for the long term, and I think sugar could represent other parts of me that I use for comfort and distraction, but might be stunting my growth.

I had my last Shamrock Shake yesterday (now that they have shown up in Canada again!). How my heart and soul will participate is yet to be seen. I hope to be changed.