Thursday, April 21, 2011


By the time we Vermonters reach April, we’re usually pretty tired of the raw, cold Northeastern weather. Even more so because the weather tricks us with brilliant days of sunshine and temperatures in the 60s, only to fall back down into the freezing cold 20s and blustery winds that accompany. I always tell people that it snows on my birthday (the 12th). Today, it’s snowing, spitting, not quite sure it’s ready to give up the ghost of winter. A winter, which I might add, is one reminiscent of the ones that I remember when I was a child- snowy, cold and long.

The snowplow knocked the entire western part of our fence down, careening mounds of snow from Morse Road into the adjacent pasture. Kyle spent two hours digging and burying new corner posts, just one small step toward fixing the fence that keeps the animals from jaunting down to Route 14. Which is what the calves (I call them the three mooskateers) learned to do, ditching over the downed fence, and running head-long toward the busy road. The ground was frozen when they first learned this game, so they’ve spent the last three weeks tied up in the barn. More work for us, mucking out stanchions, and less sunlight for them. Yesterday, the ground was finally soft enough that I was able to put up portable fencing to make a temporary paddock (I don’t want them out on the fragile pasture just yet), and out they went this morning.

For those of you who’ve never seen a cow cavort, it’s highly unnatural. Cows don’t tend to run for fun; they run if they feel threatened. So they don’t kick up their heels naturally, like a colt or a lamb would, and they don’t know what to do with their tails. Whoever decided that a cow can’t express joy has never seen one who’s been let outside after three weeks of confinement. They bark low grunts and blow foam from their mouths and bend their backs while trying to keep their feet under them (but they can’t resist the urge to splay them this way or that). They hold their tails high up over their backs, wagging them madly back and forth, like some victory flag. The mooskateers play Daytona 500 around the round bale of hay, not interested in eating just yet.

I fully intend to see them blow through the temporary fencing, because the calves have not yet been trained to electric fence, and the moms, well, they’re too blissed out to care.

Most of the lambs went to the Easter market last Sunday. The barn is slowly returning to normal, without 35 lambs running up and down the aisles and the 300 pound barn-bound calves no longer knocking over buckets and shovels and pulling halters off the walls. By this time last year, we had crops in the ground: lettuce, spring onions, spinach, chard and kale. The animals were out on pasture. In 2009, I remember Shannon and Tyler house sat for us while we were in Maine, and the temperatures soared to the 80s. Good thing I’m not trying to grow stuff for market this year!

Instead, I’m spending my time foraging in the woods for fiddleheads and wild leeks. May flowers are out (round-lobed hepatica), and the trillium and jack-in-the-pulpit are peeking up through last year’s leaves. Make no doubt about it: mud season is still in full swing. But spring is trying, and when it finally gets here, I’ll probably kick up my heels and dance like a cow in the sunlight.

mud season

pot hole

wild leeks