The Winter, It Will Pass

We’re only a calendar month into winter but already we’re enjoying hints of the coming spring. The first hint is that Runnings has their seed display up! There has been moisture in the air, bluebird skies, and the excitement of springtime approaching! It has been a whirlwind of sourdough baking and chickens, puppies and our first two calves, housework and laundry and getting ready to visit my sister in Illinois.

Calving has officially started for us with the excitement (and puzzlement) of our first two calves of the year, beautiful full-term babies in spite of being born a solid month sooner than expected. That’s called a bull with initiative. The first calf showed up on Sunday, and the second one was found Monday. Both pairs are safely settled into the nursery pen on our end of the ranch. What a beautiful sight! Gorgeous, lanky-legged, satin-sleek calves tripping along daintily behind their protective mamas.

Puppies are (literally) underfoot during most of chores and throughout the day, finding everything absolutely fascinating. They watch attentively while chickens get fed, torment the cats, and come running in a black and white wave when they’re called. It takes about ten times longer just to walk up the hill to the house, with half a dozen puppies chasing my feet and scheming to trip me. All our females are spoken for and we are looking for homes for our two boy pups, Max and Teddy. We’re excited to see how they all turn out. They are so smart, it’s a little scary!

The chickens are already going gangbusters (for a flock the size of mine), with fourteen eggs today and a dozen yesterday. They have come through their first cold snaps beautifully with only a couple mild incidents of frostbite on a couple larger-combed hens, have been healthy overall, and I’m excited to embark on my second year of chicken keeping. I have learned so much this year, dealing with coccidiosis in my chicks, bumblefoot in a few hens, a few unfortunate dog attacks and resulting chicken first aid, and dealing with a crossbeak chicken who, after today’s beak work, is able to eat again!I’m very thankful for the customers I have and am looking forward to being able to provide eggs for more people this year! It was satisfying to know that my family always had eggs, even when the stores didn’t! And they’re better eggs anyway.

I hauled a bunch of loose hay up from the stackyard this week to give the chickens something to scratch in when they’re locked up and to help with mud when we get snow. The run looks better and the chickens love it. I’m excited to work on making chicken farming more sustainable this year and to try growing some fodder crops specifically for feeding my flock.

So we are off to a running start this year, excited for calving, excited to get planning my garden, excited to grow my flock, excited for what this year will hold. Spring really is just around the corner. The winter, it will pass.

The Last of Winter, the First of Spring

According to the calendar, spring has arrived, but in western South Dakota, we know better than to put too much store in that! For us, winter lingers sometimes into June, but we’ve begun to taste the springtime and I’m itching for those warmer temperatures, those springtime tasks, mud instead of ice, warm dirt, growing things, and baby animals!

Our relatively mild winter was punctuated with days and weeks of unseasonable warmth, and then punctuated again with unseasonable, bitter cold. And, as always, it starts to feel like it has always been winter, sometime around the middle of February. Those little tastes of springtime that tantalize and taunt us every year, tease us with the warmth that is so close, so close. And we are so ready for springtime, and we’re praying for rain, or a good spring snowstorm to bring some much-needed moisture to the parched landscape.

Of all the seasonal changes, perhaps the most bewildering and wonderful is the change from winter to spring, from the time of slumber and death to a time of waking and birth, from a time of fading to a time of renewal, from surviving to thriving, a time of preparation and planning to a time of action and initiation.

Everything that is easy to accomplish in warm weather is a challenge in the winter, especially when the temperatures plummet and snow and ice freeze us in. A five-minute outdoor task takes fifteen minutes to prepare for inside, and twenty minutes to warm back up after coming inside again. A snowstorm wreaks havoc on travel when you live 30 miles outside of town, or your driveway is a mile long. The ground is frozen solid, everything seems poised to break, the cold creeps into the house until the best way to get some heat going is by turning on the oven and opening the door. An unfortunate calf born in the middle of a frigid cold snap is a struggle to keep alive.

And through the sleepiness and struggle of winter, we dream of spring. We dream of spring, and begin preparing. Gardens are planned, seeds are ordered, harvests are imagined, and a million other projects start forming in the mind, ready to send into action when the cold snap breaks, or when the snow is gone, or when the ground melts. Ranchers watch their cows get heavier and heavier, and pray for a good calving season.

And then at last, spring arrives. We see it on the calendar, and we see a 10 days at time of forecasts for temperatures in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. We see the first shoots of green grass. We feel the first raindrops. We feel the first truly warm breezes and smell the earth warming up. Rock-hard, icy ground turns into a mud slick, and how wonderful the mud smells! The multiple layers of jackets and sweaters diminish to the ease of a shirt and light jacket, stocking caps are replaced with ball caps, and I always cherish the first day I can wear a tank top and sandals!

The garden beds begin to soften under their preparatory layer of plastic. The first load of laundry is hung on the clothesline outside. The first meadowlarks appear. Seeds are started. Those calves that were unlucky enough to be born into the cold snap are now a month old, frisky, and thriving.

What a transformation!

In the winter, we are forced to slow down. It is a sabbath of seasons, in a sense. We are forced to slow down from the seemingly self-sufficient business of the rest of the year and only do those things that are necessary, limited by the cold, the frozen ground, the shorter days. It is an exercise in trusting God for the day-to-day necessities in the day-to-day struggles. And then in the springtime, God turns that trust into joyful action.

Happy springtime, friends! And pray for rain!

Just a Reminder…

Just a reminder that spring IS on its way, for everyone despairing that we’ll ever see warm weather or the sun again.
IMG_8378eThese pasques were found in the rain on Resurrection Sunday, on the very back part of our property that somehow I’d never hiked to before! Pasques do well in areas that were recently disturbed, such as land that has been burned or logged, and these were true to form.

What a spring we’ve had!

 

Sunburn and Bliss

Although I kept a great habit of hiking this winter, and getting outdoors quite a bit regardless of the temp, something magical happens when the warmth arrives. The line between inside and outside becomes deliciously blurred. I can eat outside, sleep outside, and stay outside as long as I wish to. The wind no longer bites, the cold no longer burns, and the sun no longer sets at 4pm. There is a gentleness in the wind, even when it is blowing mightily. The sun-warmed, pine-covered slopes are sweet with their resiny perfume, in a way that evokes memories and impressions of my childhood.

The frogs are singing in the dam, we’ve enjoyed our first thunderstorm, and I’ve fallen asleep to the sound of rain on our roof. I’ve woken up with sore muscles from strenuous hikes, sore shoulders that got a little too much sun, and taped blisters on my feet. I’ve hung clothes on the line to dry, and hammocked under the stars. Spring is finally here.2019-04-23_06-41-05After wintertime and never venturing out with fewer than what seems like a hundred layers, it is delicious to wear a tanktop and feel the breeze and sun on my arms, and get a little sunkissed, or even a little toasted. The days are longer, the nights are warmer, and it becomes more of a struggle to stay indoors.

But summer is almost here! And what means work at the greenhouse will start, teaching will be done for the season, and my life will be lived more and more outside. Which is what I love.

So I nurse my sunburns and sore muscles and wind burnt face as glorious symptoms of bliss.

Parable in a Pasque Flower

Pasque flowers appear after the bitterness of winter, often before winter has fully wasted itself out in storms and cold and darkness. They are a sign, a beacon of hope. Asleep in the ground for the months of winter’s cold, at the appropriate time they fight their way to life, seemingly delicate and vulnerable. But what strength is seen in the first of spring’s flowers! Tiny things that should be crushed under what remains of winter, they prevail. Against all odds, they spring up here and there, bathing hillsides in the glory of springtime. They are the first glimmer of hope that winter won’t last forever, and that spring will truly come. There is life in the dead ground. There is warmth, and light, and growth.
IMG_8239eFirst there is one, then a couple, then dozens, then they’re everywhere. Spring has come. Winter is defeated.

How appropriate that they bloom at Easter time, hence the name “pasque,” having to do with the time of Passover, the time of deliverance. The “paschal lamb” was the sacrificial lamb of Passover, ultimately fulfilled in Christ, our once-for-all-time Paschal Lamb.

At Easter, we celebrate hope, the hope and certainty that our Salvation, our deliverance, is secure, through the paschal sacrifice of our Lamb of God, to redeem His people from their sins. The hope began with one man, amidst a storm of controversy and opposition, against which a mere man never could have prevailed. But the God-Man could. His ministry turned into a couple, then a dozen, then hundreds, confounding the religious elite of the day who did everything they could to crush His ministry. It seemed as if they’d succeeded, that gruesome day when they nailed Christ to the cross of crucifixion, a horrific instrument of torture. Christ, the God of the Universe, was slaughtered, brutally, willingly, voluntarily, in order to satisfy the Plan of eternity to save, to give hope, to change hearts, to reconcile sinners to God.

“There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain.”
IMG_8386eFor two dark days, His broken body was dead, buried, but on the morning of the third day, Christ defeated death. Against all human odds or laws of science, Christ broke the chains of death and returned in a glorified human body. Death was defeated.

“Then bursting forth in glorious day
Up from the grave He rose again!”

What began with one man has blossomed into millions, millions of tiny beacons of hope that light the darkness of this world, that give us hope that the darkness won’t last forever, that the winter of our souls can become springtime, that death can give way to life, that goodness can come from decay. No other religion or person or movement has ever rocked world history like Christianity, and no other worldview can boast the lives radically changed for the better, hatreds healed, hearts transformed. In spite of all opposition, Christianity has flourished for over two millennia. And where it is hardest pressed, there it blossoms the most gloriously. Each life changed by Christ is a testament to the truth of the Gospel, the hope that we have to be reconciled to our Heavenly Father, to have our sins forgiven, to have our hearts radically changed. We aren’t doomed to ourselves and our sins forever. There is hope.
IMG_8255eRemember that, when you see these first flowers of spring. They are a mini parable of how God works and has worked to bring about Salvation, to defeat death, to bring life and hope and peace and reconciliation.

 

Spring Again

Another spring is here – for real, this time. We may get some more snow (likely, actually), but when the pasques are out, spring is really, really here.
IMG_8177eI found these on a little trail in Rapid City just before a piano lesson last week. What a lovely find! There are a few other wildflowers I really get excited about, but pasques are particularly special. They mark the end of a long winter, and the beginning of beautiful weather and the promise of more living, blooming things, and of vivid, rambunctious color coming back to the landscape!