It’s been raining all day today and it’s wonderful. I can’t even believe I am saying that, but it’s funny how weather excesses or extremes, especially out of season excesses, can make you long for the opposite, and even make you anxious.
For us here in the PNW, rain in November is relentless and pummels the house and the property. It’s often a little frightening at times for this Chicken Little, as the water sluices down the hillside, the ground turns to muck, and the river in the valley nearby overflows its banks (making the commute home from work worrisome). As I listened to the music of the rain on the roof this morning I was reflecting at how in November, December, or January, I actually get a little scared when it rains this hard and steadily for hours. It’s not sweet music then, but an ominous wintertime soundtrack. Today it was calming and comforting.
If you’ve followed my blog for long, you know that I adore the sun and blue sky. I realize more and more that I want to see more sky, more openness. I love the trees, but it gets so claustrophobic sometimes, and especially at this time of year (I’ve spoken of this before), when the jungle-like growth begins to feel like it’s closing in. And all winter long the constant rain and dark, cloudy skies, combined with the short daylight hours, feels oppressive and beyond dismal, day after day. The weather almost becomes the enemy, something to be fought and/or feared.
Now we’ve had a spring unlike any I can remember, with drought-like conditions and record-breaking heat (90+ degrees in April – where the hell am I, anyway?). This after a previous year of record-breaking weather patterns (2015’s dry spring and summer and record-breaking summer temps, followed by the wettest winter on record) and again I get anxious. What does this mean for me, my animals, my bees, my planet? So you can see why the rain and cool temps—typical weather for a northwest May (and something to grumble about in a normal year)—was soothing today.
The rain slowed later in the day and I let the sheep out to graze. I assured them the rain was a good thing for the grass and browse they love, but still they wanted out. Noisy C-Kerry led the chorus of: “We don’t care if we get wet, we’re sheep! Just let us out!” The trees and under story are heavy with the rain, and branches are low to the ground with the weight of water. There was even a downed maple branch over the lower fence. They are enjoying the heck out of it all, pruning and munching on the delicious green growth they love.
I watch them and am reminded how much I love them. Well, maybe not so much when they’re gobbling up my hops vines, comfrey, or horseradish plants, or the beautiful woodland ferns and other plants (my wonderful Devil’s club!) out back, or peeling the bark off my fruit trees. I’ve learned to monitor them better, but still like to let them out to keep the grass mowed around the house, stretch the feed bill, and ease the pressure on their pasture. And I reflected on them and my relationship to them—to all my animals—and not only what they mean to me, but what do I mean to them? How do they see me? (A few of the flock must see me with a scythe and hooded robe, judging by how they react to me every. single. time. they see me. Maybe there are hallucinogens in the hay I feed?)
I am reflecting on all of this after reading a blog post by a fellow blogger, also a woman, also a farmer (though she, lucky girl, is able to do it full time). Like many bloggers (can you believe I’ve been blogging for over 7 years now?) I like to follow other bloggers, especially those who are doing things similar to me: solo homesteaders like Belle Manor Farms and Morris Brook Farm, sheep raisers like Canfield Farm, just a few miles away, beekeepers, nature lovers and wildlife advocates. I’ve been following Celi and her Kitchens Garden blog for at least 4 years now, maybe longer, and I find it a delightful day-to-day account of what she’s doing. Sometimes the animals take center stage, sometimes the hard work of farming, sometimes the garden harvest and cooking of same, and sometimes we go on vacation with her (there are over 5,000 people who follow her blog – !!) – all this with great photos of her farm (by “Camera House” – even her camera has a name and entity – I love this woman!), her animals (spring babies!) and scenery on her travels. She posts every single day, for which I am very envious, and she has copious numbers of commenters (the Fellowship), which she calls the Lounge of Commenters. Isn’t that delightful?
At any rate, Celi had a wonderful post the other day. Sometimes she just riffs on a thought and it can be profound, with observations as keen and insightful as any philosopher’s, as this one was. It was called A Chair of My Own.
Many of the comments added to the conversation and further enlightenment, as they often do. And I reflected on my own situation, with my own self-imposed cage(s), and then on to my own animals and their habits. How DO the sheep see me? Little Trixie and her brother Mungo seem to love me, with Mungo especially coming at a run and staying with me for as long as I’ll scratch his chin, even when the rest of the flock has run off to the ecstasy of release to fresh grass. It warms my heart that the two of them, and their mother sometimes, would rather be with me than with the other sheep. Is it intentional? Do they know that this will keep them from the freezer permanently? Those feral ones who behave as if I’m coming with a noose when I’m just bringing them dinner…well, they are creating their own reality, as I will be reviewing this year’s shearing and making some decisions based on their fleeces (my freezer is almost empty and I’m beginning to really enjoy mutton). And just that has me reeling with recognition. I struggle with my own choices in life (mostly related to job/income) and how my perception of things colors my reality: the fear/s that keep me where I am, instead of where I want to go, who I want to be and what I want to accomplish before this gig is up.
And what do the dogs think of me, and our life here? Or of the dog park of their life on the farm, but confining in its own way as well. I think they know the oasis they provide for me (I tell them, and thank them, often), and hopefully know how profoundly grateful I am to them for keeping me afloat emotionally, mentally, and every other way there is. I cannot repay them for all they give me, which is why I am so “lenient” on them with regards to making them behave. I sing to them as I make them dinner, or when I come home to their unbridled joy at seeing me (and me them!). I make up the songs as I go, usually sung to an old, well-known tune, and I know it makes them happy when I sing (because they know I sing when I’m happy). I also know they love it when I laugh, and I see how hard they work to keep me happy and laughing. I joke that they have me very well trained (when I buy 10 boxes of biscuits at a time the clerks always ask me about it; we go through at least 3 (1-pound) boxes a week here). But who am I to these creatures that mean so much to me? Is it as profound to them as it is to me? I think of each of them and how they came to me, the obstacles they overcame to reach me, or for me to find them. Is it just me, or is this as profound for everyone here? I think of finding my first sheep, the serendipity around all of it…though I think it’s more than just chance, or coincidence. Do they think that too? How about you, and the animals in your life?