Deep Winter Farming Blues

| 3/4/2014 12:40:00 PM

Tags: winter, farm school, Erik Jacobs, Dina Jacobs, Massachusetts,

Winter sceen through windshieldIt’s cold here. Sub-zero cold. The sun just rose somewhere behind the curtain of snow, but there’s nothing piercing or warm about its rays. Our herd of Red Devons appears to float, orbiting a bale of last September’s grass. I stand, transfixed by the whiteness of it all, but a blast of wind hurries me along toward the warm farmhouse and a pile of scrambled eggs.

Deep winter is finally upon us here at The Farm School.

Outside, life has retreated deep within the soil to await the springtime thaw. Inside, we cozy up with tea and seed catalogs to dream big about the coming spring. But that idyllic scene is tempered by reality. We’ve spent hours pleading with our fussy wood-fired boiler, which seems to produce more smoke than heat. And recently, we’ve ended day after day with lukewarm showers, which in a 50-degree farmhouse makes the depth of winter feel rather inescapable.

Wood Fired Burner SmokeAdd to this my genius idea of hauling a welding machine across the shop by myself, in the process spraining my back and transforming myself into a 90-year-old man. Now I’m left without my most important tool — my body — and instead, I’m humbled every time I try to put on socks.

With my back in knots, I’m left to meekly place twigs one at a time on a slash pile and watch as my fellow apprentices reduce trees to cordwood. They’re good-natured enough and alternate between kindly offering to tie my shoes and calling me “Old Man Jacobs” (an image I did nothing to deflect by bringing my own rocking chair to crop planning class). But the truth is, I’m feeling every one of my 35 years, and my confidence is shaken.

Though what I’m doing is “real” farming, I’m also operating under a bit of a false reality. There are 15 of us. If I’m sidelined by an injury, the animals still get fed, wood still gets chopped, and fires don’t go out. In a year, however, my wife, Dina, and I hope to do this solo with no sick days, plus an infant to care for.

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