Now is the Winter of Our Discombobulation

We finally got the tree up and decorated, but Thomas is mostly oblivious to it. He did seriously maim the cow ornament, leaving the poor bovine with only one functional leg, but otherwise he’s paid little attention to the Christmas tree, or anything Christmas-related really. Christmas just isn’t special yet because, to him, the whole world is still special. Who needs Christmas gifts when you find gifts of great wonder everywhere? The Tupperware cabinet, alone, is like Aladdin’s Cave of Wonders. Add to that the contents of the pots and pan cabinet and Thomas is a toddler, content. 

Meanwhile, his parents are deep in a winter of discombobulation. For one, it’s hardly felt like winter. We’re in a severe drought, with temperatures more characteristic of a summer solstice than winter solstice (and it’s supposed to be in the seventies on Christmas day, ugh). During this drought outside, any semblance of routine has withered up and evaporated inside our house. Thomas has run the gauntlet of day-care germs (RSV, croup, stomach bug, ear infection, crud, ear infection, stomach bug), which has strangely left him more energetic than ever, but has completely exhausted his parents. 

The Tupperware Drawer

And it shows. Our pitiful little pencil tree is the only decoration up. There are no gifts around it, because, well, they still need to be wrapped. I didn’t put the big wreaths up outside because I was too busy scrambling to mend fences for goats. Natalie didn’t put out her Christmas village, and I didn’t even put out the nativity scene. It’s kind of sad, to be honest. I didn’t think I would miss the decorations, but now, in hindsight, I realize that Christmas decorations do serve a purpose, namely reminding me that it’s Christmas. I’ve probably thought about Christmas less this year than any since I was a blissfully unaware toddler like Thomas.  

I haven’t been blissfully unaware, but unaware nonetheless–too distracted by the burdens of modernity to stop and find gifts of great wonder anywhere, even in the Christmas story. That said, I’ve still got a few days left and it just rained, so maybe I should learn from my toddler and at least go rejoice in a mud puddle.  

Thomas playing in a mud puddle after rain.

A Prolonged Dream of Kokomo

It doesn’t snow here often, but when it does, you can rest safely knowing my wife’s grandpa Lowry is on patrol. When the Department of Transportation snow plows get to our community, the plow drivers can just stop awhile and go sledding or participate in a discussion on the merits of marshmallows in hot chocolate while warming themselves around a bonfire. Really, they can do whatever they want for 15 minutes because Lowry, with the use of a box blade and the tractor’s front-in-loader, has already plowed the roads and remains on patrol for further accumulation. The only road he spares is Clay Hill, a steep hill where local children can break their first bone in a safe environment with adult supervision. While huddled in a  shivering mass, many parents pay such close attention to their sledding children that they can be heard encouraging their offspring with shouts likes, “Great ride, Ricky, you got a lot of air!” as Ricky and his plastic trash can lid dangle from the top of a pine tree.

This past weekend, Thomas, my offspring, experienced snow for the first time. He inherited my general hatred for frozen precipitation, as evidenced by the picture above. Not that I want to teach Thomas to hate, but if he was going to hate somebody, I’d be ok with him hating snowmen. 

Bad things happen when it snows here. Take, for instance, the time I woke up to an explosion and a blinding glow in the window. My first thought was Kim Jong-un’s missile program had greatly progressed, though his targeting system needed some work because his warhead landed at the wrong white house. When I peeked through the blinds, I saw the true culprit was a snapped powerline laying across the driveway, spewing flames and sparks. We were without power for seven days–in an old farmhouse with defunct fireplaces and walls that lacked any insulation. Well, mostly without power–by day three, I got a great deal on a price-gouged generator. 

Then there was the time I raised a dozen day-old dairy bulls in an arctic freeze. The dairy farmer couldn’t find anyone else dumb enough to take the calves, and he told me he’d throw in two sickly ones for free. To be honest, I couldn’t tell which ones in particular were the sickly ones, as our barn soon became a triage unit for scouring pneumonic calves. Several scouring viruses, like rotavirus, can also infect humans, so by the end of the week, while trying to keep calves from keeling over in the barn, I  had to frequently race back to the bathroom in the house, all while trying to delicately balance speed and intestinal control. 

Then there was the other time when a pipe burst underneath the house and the other time a joy-riding truck  skidded off the road and demolished part of my newly-built fence and the other time my wife made me watch the movie Frozen and I had that stupid “do-you-want-to-build-a-snowman” song stuck in my head for three eternities. 

At this point, I realize this post has devolved into a continuation of last week’s post where I tried to cancel February. My petition didn’t make much headway with the calendar authorities, and to add insult to injury, our local meteorologists are now calling for freezing rain this weekend. So if you don’t hear from me next week, you’ll know I didn’t survive whatever bad thing blew in with the ice storm, or else I unlocked the secrets of human hibernation and you can expect another blog post whenever ambient outdoor temperatures rouse me from a prolonged dream of Kokomo.

A Petition to Cancel February, Permanently

February, ugh–a month so bad it’s reduced to 28 days. It’s also anchored by the holiday with the worst candy. How many teeth have cracked on those little hearts that say “Be mine”? Beware is more like it. 

The worst thing about February is that it’s cold and bleak and generally unconducive to peeing outside. I know bathroom humor isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but the fact of the matter is that February is the last month you’d want to relieve yourself on the roadside in an emergency situation. And yet the irony is that nature calls more frequently in cold weather, which is another reason to hate February. Apparently, because humans sweat less when cold, the human body has to route more fluids through the bladder. But the bladder has already contracted its capacity to hold liquid because, well, the heater in the truck has quit working and it’s cold and many things contract when cold, including the bladder. Thus, the bladder is now, at best, the size of a large walnut and completely incapable of storing the two gallons of coffee imbibed to stay warm. All these factors, added to the fact that there’s no gas station bathroom within miles to patronize, mean that bladder has now commandeered control of the truck, engaged the emergency flashers, and brought the truck to a screeching halt on the roadside beside a patch of woods. 

Furthermore, we ought to know something is wrong with February when we start the month by relying on groundhogs to forecast our weather. It’s a pretty good indicator that we, as humanity, have given up when we transfer meteorological decision-making to the rodent that lives in the road pipe. My wife’s poppaw, who is eighty-five years old, can remember a better age when groundhogs had yet to inhabit every culvert in the countryside. He said he never used to see groundhogs growing up, and then, all the sudden, they were everywhere, poking their heads up along the roadside. Don’t get me wrong, groundhogs aren’t dumb animals, as anyone who has had to battle one in a garden can attest, but only in February would southerners in the greater Charlotte viewing area get so sick and tired of Larry Sprinkle’s dreary forecasts that we’d put our hope in a rodent from above the Mason-Dixon line. 

Yes, our weatherman’s name is really Larry Sprinkle.

Thus, February is so bad that humanity unites in general dislike of the month, if for no other reason than the “r” in the middle of February is a completely superfluous letter whose sole purpose is to make us feel like idiots and second guess the spelling of a word we learned in first grade. 

Anyway, you can probably tell I don’t like February, and I’m sorry if you were one of the people who lost the calendrical lottery and were born during the month. But, let’s face it, you would benefit most from canceling February because, with it wiped from existence, you’d never grow older. So if you’d like to make the world a better place, please sign the petition by leaving your name (or favorite fake name, I’m not picky) in the comments and then distribute this petition far and wide, so we can rid the calendar from the scourge of February. Even if we can’t get February omitted entirely, maybe we can negotiate and at least get the “r” omitted from the middle, which would be a big win for the universe if you ask me. 

Old Man Winter is Here

A New Year is here, and it has finally turned winter. With lows in the upper teens, some collards couldn’t hold out and got zapped. It’s a shame because we finally had a buyer lined up who wanted to buy in bulk. One thing I’ve read in countless farming magazines and books is to always have a market lined up before you put the first seed in the ground. I guess that’s good advice, but I’ve never been confident enough yet in my growing skills to try to pre-sell produce. This year I planted 1,000 collards, hoping that I’d be able to find a market if, and when, the time came. Well, the time came and went for some plants.

I was able to sell a good number of collard bunches at the farmer’s market and a few by word of mouth. I had planned to set up a roadside stand, like we do for our tomatoes, but the endless rain didn’t allow for it. I scrambled to try to find a wholesale buyer. One lady who owns a produce stand said she could remember selling hundreds of collards for New Year’s. But she said now people just don’t cook anymore, and young people, if they like collards at all, like them pre-chopped in a bag from the grocery store.

After striking out there, I then called a chef who works in the café of a factory that employs 400 people. To my surprise, he wanted collards. I took him 30 lbs, which is a lot of greens, on Monday. It was a surreal delivery. To walk the boxes of collards through the plant to the cafe, I had to have my photo taken, after which I had to don a freshly-printed nametag with my photo on it, an orange safety vest, safety glasses, and ear plugs. This was a very modern facility, with people manning robotic-type gizmos and tools. The café in the facility would put many restaurants to shame, and the chef was trying to buy as much local food as he could reasonably afford.

He said he would go through those collards in no time, and, in fact, the next day he called wanting more. Unfortunately, the cold snap came through that night, so future delivers might not be as much as I would have liked.

As much as I’m disappointed I lost some collards, the contact I made might be even more valuable, as the chef said he would be very interested in buying tomatoes and strawberries this spring and summer. And that’s how things seem to go with farming. One thing leads to another. From roadside stand to farmers’ market to chef, from chickens to bees to pigs, from tomatoes to strawberries to collards, each is a little gateway drug to the next.

At some point, and maybe I’m beginning to reach that point, I think I’ll begin to “just say no” to new farming ideas. Still, it’s kind of hard with farming to know what works and what doesn’t and what’s worth doing and what isn’t until you try it.