Spring’s Lesson

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spring morningI push open the door to let a dog outside, and feel the cool humidity of a spring morning.  The sunny days of the previous week hinted that we were really heading out of winter, but it’s not until this moment when I inhale the smell of condensed snow, wet bark, and the remnants of yesterday’s rain that I realize the scent of spring has infused itself into the air.

Yesterday, a flock of birds lifted from a tree and burst through the air, dipping and rising and propelling themselves in an arc through the sky.  I stood still for a moment watching them before I got into my car to drive to work.  Only one more week before I leave my seasonal job and stay on the farm instead, though watching the birds I feel a tug of freedom and wildness and want nothing more than to follow them over the hillside.

This morning, before I got out of bed, still sleepy as Waylon crawled back and forth over my body, the cooing of a mourning dove drifted through the yurt walls and gently welcomed me to the day.  Now a dog barks and a crow caws and Waylon and Edge bumble out of the door to stoke the greenhouse fire.

All morning, I’ve stolen into seconds of silence: sipping tea in the rocking chair, standing at the open door and staring at the fog-covered mountains, sneaking up to the lofted bed while Waylon and Edge do dishes.  I don’t want to leave this foggy morning, though the twilight’s mist has already risen from the fields.  Isn’t that spring’s lesson though–that waking up ins’t always a matter of our mind’s readiness, that the day breaks open whenever it does, and we can break open, too.

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Birch Seeds and Birds

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Birch seeds cover the snow this morning, speckling the white ground like freckles on sun-kissed skin.

Birch Seeds, March 20

The seeds have little wings and tails, stretching out like birds flying across the snow.  As I stand looking down at the wash of seeds, a flock of birds lights in on the birch branches above.

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Their song reminds me of lace somehow, a high pitched chorus sifting through bare branches down to my ears, and suddenly it feels like spring is arriving.

How fitting to find these two, birch seeds and birds, scattering themselves out along the world on the first day of spring.

Happy Equinox!

Simple Yurt Luxuries

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Of all the sounds in the world, running water is one of my favorites.  In spring (or near spring, as we have seemed to drop back into winter for a few days here in Central Vermont), the sound and sight of flowing water means thaw.  It means birds returning and snow melting and damp pasture grasses revealing the gold bodies of their autumn blades.

Inside the yurt, though, the sight of flowing water brings me to my feet and has me whooping with excitement.

I came home last night to see Edge’s body half submerged in the hole under our sink, where a line connects a hand pump to our shallow-dug spring.  Last winter, the line froze, and in an attempt to thaw it with a torch, the line ended up with a hole in it.  Come summer, we always found ourselves too busy, with the water line at the bottom of our to-do list (and hauling water in the summer isn’t so hard).  Come winter, we figured it’d freeze again anyway.  When the March snows softened, hauling water suddenly became a drudge with east post-hole step uphill.

So it both excites me and relaxes me to say, our hand-pump is working.  It may not be the turn of a faucet, but that water sure does look like its running as it pours into the sink.

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Mud Season Transition

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“Part of being our best selves is having the guts to not avert our eyes, to look closely at what scares us, what disappoints us, what threatens us. By looking closely we have a chance to make change happen.” 

~Seth Godin

Baby Maple

It’s a messy transition between winter and spring.  The white canvas of snow that welcomed reflection melts into mud, ruts up the road, and floods the river.

When we are finally ready for long days and warm air and the time to put our dreams into motion, we get pulled into potholes and have to inch along when we are ready for speed.

It’s the moment just before the leap, the transition between planning and acting, that we must look at the things we hold and decide what to let go of, decide what will serve us and what needs to melt away with the last of winter’s snow.

It’s the transition that asks us to slow down and look into the mud.  It’s not always easy, but if we don’t slow down, the ruts and potholes will break us before we get anywhere.  Now is the time to look closely, to sink in, to plant a seed in the thawing earth.

Sometimes–often times–slowing down and letting go are the first steps in creating change.

How We Cease to be Alone

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I always feel the tug of spring when March begins.  We still have four feet of snow outside, and though we plunged below zero under the full moon last night, Wednesday’s above freezing temperatures melted the thick crust of ice and snow from the yurt roof.  The day’s thaw was enough to make everyone smile more, to go outside without a coat on, to remember the re-discovery of warmth that spring brings.

All seasons extend invitations for discovery in their own way, but spring’s invitation always sounds the loudest to me.  It comes in the calls and songs of birds returning: the honk of Canadian geese, the caroling robin, the high whistle of red-winged blackbirds, the rhythmic drumming of yellow-bellied sapsuckers.  Spring, more than any other season, announces itself in song.

I can’t get ahead of myself, though.  The mornings here are still quiet and cold, and when the sunrise hits the Worcester Range across the valley, rather than waking us up into a new season, the light seems to amplify the mountains’ stillness.

We’re in the edges of the seasons now, between stillness and growth, and I take this time to read more, to set conscious rhythms for my days, to stop and breathe in gratitude every so often and ground myself.  Soon, the greenhouse will be heated, seeding will be in full swing, the snow will melt, and the pace of the farm will go from a stroll to a sprint.

These are my experiences, though, my small discoveries.  I love sharing them with you in hopes that you will share yours as well, and perhaps to encourage you to go outside and discover more.  As Wendell Berry says, “Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone.”

What are you discovering these days between winter and spring?  How is the world waking up to you?  How are you waking up to the world?Sunrise

My first yurt home

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“I want to live in a yurt,” a co-worker said when she learned today that I do live in a yurt.

“I want to live in a house,” I said in jest, “and to have windows and better insulation.”  I laughed, then conceded that, “it is really nice to live in a round space.”

It’s our fifth winter in a 20-foot yurt, and after so many years, the fact that our home is more of a glorified tent doesn’t phase me much.  It’s what we’ve built our life in, where our dreams have germinated, where our family grows.

We are both feeling ready to create more space, at least by next winter, and to move into a building with thick walls and windows that beg for house plants to sit on the sill.  Sometimes, though, it’s worth looking back and seeing what brought me here.

My first yurt home was situated under hemlocks on an Adirondack lake.  To reach the little yurt village where I spent a semester with 13 other students, we hiked a mile in through the woods, then canoed three-quarters of a mile across the lake.

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Canoe commute

It was the most relaxing commute I’ve ever had (though we didn’t commute very often)–more relaxing even than the 300 foot walk from my front door to the garden here at the farm–and surely the most inspiring commute, too.  There is something about the smooth strokes of a canoe paddle that bring the body into presence.

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My first yurt home

I was 19 and learning that wildness could be part of my life everyday.  I was learning that living close to nature didn’t have to be relegated to yearly camping trips.  I was learning that the pulse I felt when I sat beneath a red pine could be the rhythm I set my days to.

After that semester ended, it would be five years before I’d live in a yurt again.

photo by Katie Spring

My second yurt home

Where I live now is my third yurt home–the second still stands at Applecheek Farm, where we apprenticed before finding our own land.  Edge built this one from saplings that dotted an old sugaring road in the Applecheek woods.  He sawed and hauled and split and assembled each piece with his own hands, his own muscle, and now it encircles us and holds us through these cold winter days.

Though we talk more of a house these days, it’s the yurt that has brought us to where we are.  It’s a yurt that became my home during my first earnest search for wildness, and a yurt that is my home still, as we cultivate our own wild hearts and grow our roots deep into this land.

My yurt home now

My yurt home now

What’s to come

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cilantro seedlings

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I shouldn’t do this, but after reading John’s post, I couldn’t help myself–I had to take out the spring and summer photos and remember the heat and taste of what feels to still be a distant season.

We made it through last night’s cold, and the car engine managed to turn over this morning, despite it being -23.  If I sit close to the wood stove and stare into the photos enough, I can almost imagine that we’re tumbling amid all that food right now.  Soon.  Soon.

For now, I’m thankful for the heat of the stove, for bacon from our friends at Humble Rain Farm, and for the photos that remind me of what’s to come.

The Seeds We Sow

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I wish that living in a yurt on a Vermont hillside farm could make me immune to the annoyances of broken computers, and the odd frustration that comes when said computer is at the shop getting fixed and I am here with an old iPad that works well enough for emails, but not much more.  We finally got a loaner computer, and so I’m back to the blog after a few weeks of sporadic posts.

Truthfully, though, I’ve felt quiet.  Perhaps it’s not just the computer issues that have kept my posts minimal and short.  It goes like that sometimes, a wave of production followed by a quiet recession back into the deep, like the tide that swells and retreats.

The farm is covered with snow, the garden under perhaps 4 feet of it, and tonight the cold seeps in from under the clear night sky.  It’s a night to pack the fire box and keep the dials on the wood stove turned open a bit more than usual.

We’ve been in the throws of spring planning: greenhouse repairs, seeding charts, cash-flow charts, marketing, perennial design, and lists of infrastructure improvements.  It feels both exciting and daunting, and we oscillate between dreamy imaginings of all the good changes to come and business crunching, detached from emotion.

The work of a farmer begins long before the greenhouse is fired up and soil is spread out in trays.  The seeds we are sowing now are sketches on paper, numbers and images and words.  Though it seems like the summer is still far away, this work is important.  Before we can manifest something into being, we must first know what it is we want to create.

In all the planning and prep work, in all the manifestations we are setting out into the world, I took out this poem again, just to remind myself that sometimes, it is okay to be demanding as we manifest our dreams:

Throw away all your begging bowls at

God’s door,

for I have heard the Beloved prefers

sweet, threatening shouts, something

on the order of, “Hey, Beloved, my soul

is a raging volcano of love for you!

You better start kissing me–or else!”

~Hafiz

Grasp Your One Necessity

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“I think it would be well, and proper, and pure, to grasp your one necessity and not let it go, to dangle from it limp wherever it takes you.”

~Annie Dillard

Hunger Mountain Summit, October 2014

Hunger Mountain Summit, October 2014

Happy

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snow-hat

It’s been snowing for days, flakes sifting down from the sky.  The shoveled pathway to the yurt has become a chute with snow-walls up past my knees, and yesterday as I hauled two buckets of water up in the sled, one foot left the narrow packed-down trail and I sunk in to my thigh.

It piles up around our little round home, and as the wood stove warms the snow on the roof, it slides and slumps off, growing the pile half-way up the outer walls, and we are thankful for the extra insulation it provides on all the cold nights that dip down below 0–all this snow makes it a cozy winter for yurt-dwellers.

fence line in snow

At this time last year I was stir-crazy, ready for a reprieve along the New Jersey shoreline, but now, I’m happy for the cold and snow.  Happy to stand in the forest and hear the swoosh of snow as hemlock boughs loosen their load.  Happy to look up just at that moment and see the flakes sifting to the ground.  Happy for the split second of weightlessness with each step before my snowshoes compress the lofty top layer of snow.

Happy, too, for the breaks of sun that open up the landscape, warming our faces as our breath puffs out into the cold air.

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