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Monday, January 18, 2010

Mud farming philosophy

When I lived in Minnesota, or other eastern cities, January met your feet felt like stiff boards pounding into an equally stiff earth. I remember often feeling a desperation that things would never grow again. It just seemed so impossible. That's why spring in the Midwest or east has incredible power over people's heads and hearts, and bodies. Twitterpation does not just happen to fawns in the woods, trust me.

In Oregon, I never have that sense of desperation. After all, it's January and small buds are on the trees, the Muscari are popping up and just last week Martyn brought me a branch of Sarcococca. But I do sometimes have a feeling that the mud will never be covered with grass again. I slosh through the sheep path to bring in my flock, and find them standing in their usual slop spot by the gate.

"Can't you stand on the grass so you'll lesson your chances of bacterial toe fungus?" I ask them.

"Who, us?" they bleat. "Just get us to our dry stall with that nicely scented pine bedding you lay down for us, thank you very much."

To be in your third trimester and having to stand in downpours, let alone mud, without a complaint, now that's a working woman.

So the Dirt Farmer and I took a brief time out on Sunday to watch the second half of the Viking game, a real treat since we never get to watch football. It was absolutely pouring outside, without one break, and by the time the game was over at 1, we still had an afternoon of tree planting to do. We brought home some Leylandii to plant on one of our property lines. We did one property line in Western Reds when we first moved here, but we failed to irrigate the first two years since we didn't have our tank set up from the river. Dirt farming mistake 101. We lost 10 trees out of 30, and had poor root growth. But now they are set and doing well.

Planting trees makes me so flippin' happy. Besides baking pie, or pushing my nose into the neck of any equine, planting a tree just makes my head fill with thoughts- like, imagining how old the tree will live, or imagining walking out to the tree when I'm really old and remembering the day I planted it and then that makes me think how that whole time period between now and when I'm old will be filled with events and stories, unknown to me at this moment. It's like the beginning of a mystery - you sense it's going to be juicy, but you don't know what will happen.

So this weekend, two fifty somethings slopped around in the mud most of the day, and because of their efforts, another 10 trees will grace the earth after their human bones turn to ash. We still have so much to do, but it feels like each week we take leaps and bounds. And with each leap, new ideas come and the challenge of creating them into a reality begin, making every day full, and vital. Reshaping this small piece of earth, establishing it as a safe harbor for those that walk and sleep within it's boundaries, it's good work despite the non existent paycheck. Unlike many of my colleagues I left behind years ago, I am not wealthy in cash, or bonds. But I have a lot of mud providing shelter for the earthworms who give their protein to my hens. One thing I've learned here. You can plant a lot of trees in the time it takes to watch 2 quarters of football.

"There's a comet in the sky tonight
Makes me feel like I'm alright
I'm movin' pretty fast, for my size"
Neil Young