After a lifetime in Alaska enduring REAL winters, I’m surprised to find myself suffering an intense case of spring fever while living in the south. It didn’t even get “cold” until December, snow is rare (and it melts within a few days), and it’s warm enough to work outside year round. Yet, the trees are naked, the flowers vanished and the fields monochrome brown, frozen in time. I’m anxious for color, growth and birdsong. While traveling familiar backroads, my heart deflates to see how ugly and dead the land appears- not a leaf or flower in sight.
I’ve never considered the purpose of winter; it was just an evil to endure in order to get back to summer. I assumed winter was part of the punishment handed down from the curse on Adam and Eve (as my version of Paradise doesn’t include frozen fingers and toes.) Now that I’m dabbling at farming, I’m coming to appreciate this once dreaded season; critical processes happen during the deceptive barrenness of winter. Free from the burden of feeding leaves and fruit, plants are able to efficiently soak up nutrients and water, building up a healthy root system capable of supporting repeated seasons of production. Without this muted interval of time there would not be the necessary reserve to support the next crop. The cold also dwindles the pest population- I’m quite willing to shiver a while if it means a reprieve from decimating squash bugs and Japanese beetles.
I’ve learned that winter is a critical time for farmers- while the land is resting it must be protected, fed, pruned and watered. At Thirsty Goose Farm we have been busy with all these tasks- layering dozens of truckloads of compost and mulch, pruning trees, bushes and vines and tracking rainfall. We’re also enjoying the excitement of planning for spring planting (and bought too many seeds, again) and creating some new experimental vegetable beds. Today we direct seeded the cold spring vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, peas, spinach, arugula, cauliflower) and winter sowed tomatoes, peppers and some perennial flowers. Next week will be time to plant one last (fifth) round of grass seed and plant the seventy bare root trees I ordered last summer to provide food and shade for the birds, bees and animals who reside on our eight acres of potential. There’s much to do before the sap starts flowing and flowers begin popping out of the dirt!
As we busy ourselves with winter chores, I realize it’s a life of faith. Our trees and vines appear dead, but with faith I follow the advice of seasoned farmers and prune in preparation for a harvest. Dried up seeds are carefully buried and we joyfully anticipate their resurrection from the ground. Compost is spread to nourish plants that don’t yet exist, fences built to support vines that aren’t even planted. We are trusting in God’s nature and design as we engage in developing this land and raising animals. My Father has used every natural lesson on this little farm to lead me towards spiritual truth. As I look at the ugly, lifeless land, barely able to recall the beauty of summer, I hear Him whisper, “Daughter, trust my ways. There is purpose in this solitude. It’s not as barren as it appears. Sorrow may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” With shears in my hands and tears in my eyes, I cut away fruitless growth and sing back to Him, “I will trust in You, even in the winter of my soul.”