I used to be normal... You know, one of those people that get excited about spring... Not any more. For those of you who are thinking about starting a farm, let me break down spring for you: everyone around you is excited about spring, EVERY O N E! This means the piglets, the saws, the boar, the lambs, the sheep, the hens, the chickens, the mice, the flies, the ants, the coyotes, the bears ... and no one stays in its freaking place!!! During winter, containing animals is a trivial issue. You spend most of your swear words on frozen water, frozen pipes, the stove that does not start, and who forgot to call the fuel company to fill up the oil tank. Your animals are all nice and cozy in the barn and, for once, you live the illusion that you finally "got it," you have mastered the most important and challenging aspect of being a farmer: containing the animals. Then springs come and reality sinks in. You have lived in the frozen illusion of being "containing the animals." The reality is that chickens stayed in the barn because there is no freaking way they will consider walking in 2 feet of snow on a subzero day, no matter how enticing the sun may be. The sheep did not "finally learn to respect the boudaries." They just had agreed that having YOU bringing them the food rather was a lot better than having to go out themselves in the -20F climate. And the pigs!!! oh the pigs ... because you really thought that THIS TIME you built the pig-proof gate. Ah! That's funny ... it took them less than 30 minute to find a way out the instant the sun was out and no one was watching. The well known knock at the door from the neighbour was all you needed to snap back to reality. Well, at least pigs came when you call them so I just had to stand in the middle of the street calling "Heeeeeere piggggggie pigggggie pigggggie heeeeeeeere1" and watch for the amusement and then the fear in the neighbors' face when she saw a drove of 15 adult pigs running full speed down a pretty steep hill. I mean, even the geriatric blind saw managed to get out and go for a walk up the hill! She usually does not even want to get up to get scratched! But everyone has SPRING FEVER at the farm.
It is not only the "breaking free" that makes the whole spring a less than idyllic time at the farm, it is everything!
In the past, Spring meant changing the clothes from winter to spring in the wardrobe. Now it means: nothing, absolutely nothing can be warn to adjust to the ever changing temperature outside. You either are freezing at the beginning of chores or you are sweating beyond what any non-atomic deodorant can do.
Another horrible present that spring brings is what farmers call their brown gold ... to me it is S&#T. I used to complain about mud on my shoes (in Vermont spring IS mud season) ... now, I have other things to complain ... let me remind you of few physics laws that take over in the Winter/Spring season. When outside it is 20F below, things (all things) freeze quite quickly. Unless you are ready to pick up manure within a few hours from when it was dropped you can rest assured that that turd is now frozen solid ... till spring. I have to admit that my pigs are not trained to all deliver the manure at specific times when we are ready to scoop it up. Now, imagine you have about 80 pigs and although you are able to catch some of the manure when you clean the barn twice per day, just for a second imagine what you DO NOT catch. Once you have a bottom layer of that lovely brown gold, then the next layer is almost impossible to shovel out and so ... it accumulates until one day those nicely shaped, frozen and oderless morsels of brown gold become alive and fully fragrant almost as if they were just laid. All of them ... at the same time, after a few hrs of 40F.
Before I had a farm I used to look almost eagerly to the week-end we selected for our "spring cleaning." I would be getting the dusting pad with the long arm to reach the webs in the corners, the special sealer and cleaner for the wood furniture. I liked the smell lingering in the air. Now, spring cleaning usually requires a complete astronaut outfit, an industrial size power washer, and ... let's say that the odor lingering in the air is no longer something I look forward to.
All this extra work is accompanied by lambing and farrowing. All animals decide to go ahead and deliver their babies just around this time so you are working around the clock to keep the barns clean, help the moms and do the extra necessary spring cleaning.
"Well, at least you all know this so you are prepared" you are thinking. Can I please direct your attention to your calendar. We are in March. What is EVERYONE in Vermont doing in March, and most precisely, what are they doing on the first few weeks when the temperature raises and you are in your astronaut attire powerwashing the barn and delivering lambs? Oh my, of course, it is SUGARING season so no one, absolutely no one is around since everyone is cutting wood, tapping, boiling sap, checking for holes int he sap lines. And it makes sense because sugaring is such a neat tradition and it is so m,uch fun ... and that is what you think as you are removing the 16th wheal barrel of natural brown gold from the barn.
So ... spring is here. Great. I am glad it is here but just because it means that summer is not far.