Today I wake to the sounds of cows mooing for their calves. It is 6:00 am, and soon the heifers will be brought in from the field to be milked and reunited with their babies. I’m not on for chores this morning, so I’ve slept in a bit. Edge left a fresh pot of coffee on the stove and took our dog Nobee for a walk.
Yesterday the sky stayed clear and heat settled in, but now thunder is banging overhead again and rain is falling. The sky looks light, though, and I’m hoping it will pass quickly. In the past week we’ve had longer, harder storms than I’ve ever seen. The rivers swell and rise, flooding more towns. Last Wednesday the wind started swirling as I was bringing the cows in for evening milking. I looked to see the northwest sky darken and send down bolts of lighting. Within minutes it was upon us, and just as the cows turned the corner around the barn, the wind whipped dirt into the air and our eyes. Edge, who had been doing skid-steer work near the barn, parked next to the tie-stalls and we ran in to take cover. We spent the next thirty minutes in the milk house waiting for a break in the weather so we could run back to the yurt. The wind kept up, the rain dumped like a waterfall, and the thunder and lightening struck so close together it was as if they had become one entity.
But the break came, and we sprinted back home.
The next morning brought more rain and news of floods and evacuations in near-by towns. A few panels had ripped off the barn roof, a chicken house was blown over, and the hay wagons were on their sides in the road, but all the animals were okay. The rain continued off and on, and until yesterday it felt like it might not let go.
There have been reprieves, though. Through it all calves have been born, chickens have laid eggs, and grass has grown. I’ve stumbled into moments of contentment and delight despite the persistent storms:
Pigs sucking up milk, munching food, and letting me scratch their backs;
Calves running up the sawdust pile and looking up with a sawdust mask on their faces;
A bobolink singing in the field while I moved fences;
Barn swallows flying in and out of the llama paddocks to their nest, which I found tucked in a corner beam inside the barn;
Walking out to the fields and seeing mist rising up to a clear sky;
Baking brownies in the yurt while rain sounded on the roof.
Through it all, our soils have drained well, so we have not been flooded here. I wonder how much more will come, how often we will see the extreme, or if we have even seen the extreme yet. Vermont feels more secure than other parts of the country right now, but still there are farmers who have not been able to plant because of floods, and others who cannot sell produce for 90 days after a flood because of the debris left on fields from the river.
I have thought before how animals seem to spend each day only working to find food and eat. I have thought how repetitious that seems, but as a farmer I am reminded that it’s what we all do. Whether we raise animals, grow vegetables, or work in an office, we eat. We must eat, and we must work for our food. The weather, be it rain, drought, tornado or sun, affects us all because it affects our food. What can we do to work with the weather? For so long we have fought against the environment, molding it into roads and buildings, asking it to support the luxuries of the western world.
I have changed my ideas of luxury.
Now convenience is going to the garden, not the grocery store. It is working with the soil and feeling the grit rub into my skin. It is drinking raw milk from the cows I help tend. It is paying for food in sweat and understanding the worth of money in this way. These luxuries may not seem to make life easier to some, but they do make life more meaningful. When the rain stops, as it just did, I notice the luxuries of beauty and peace that the world offers up for free.