Falling into Winter: A Farm's Change

by Emma Parish November 17, 2017


Frost coats everything from the windshield on the trucks to the low grass in the chicken pastures. A chilly breeze blows fitfully out of the North West, and the trees have all but lost their leaves that have been so colorful this fall. This, is the changing of seasons I had to see. The turkeys who I first met as little cotton balls with toothpick legs, are fully feathered and have graduated from brooder to pasture. Our last shipment of chicks came in two months ago, we’ve sold the last of many bulk orders, and Vince and Elizabeth’s son Emmett has begun to hum Christmas carols under his breath, in the quietly hopeful tone of a boy who just can’t possibly wait the next few months for Christmas. 

The season’s subtle changing has affected everyone. Emmett sings, playing with his transformer toy in the barn loft, Maria and Sally—two Portuguese women over sixty-five, adoringly called ‘The Ladies’ by everyone—bring more and more food to share on slaughter days, as though working up to the great Thanksgiving feast I’ve heard rumors of.

Vince and Elizabeth stride purposefully around the farm, working furiously to keep up with market orders, and repair broken feeders, and drop off and pick up Emmett from school, and take pigs to slaughter, and prepare to finish out the season.

 Chris keeps a careful eye out for geese, and talks feverishly about our next opportunity for duck hunting.

 I’ve been wearing a hoodie (or even something heavier) since it was in the mid sixties, which is made fun of constantly. ‘The humidity, which I am definitely not accustomed to, makes it feel ten times colder!’ I defend.

 Emily strategizes with Vince over which cut of hay he should buy, and how much he’ll need to feed the sheep through the winter.

 Matt delivers more and more orders, and gears up excitedly for the last hurrah of the year.

Jose alternately grumbles about the stormy weather since it prevents him from riding his motorcycle to work, and talks animatedly of what he plans to do during the off season, and how he’ll enjoy those very stormy days that he so despises.  

Gretchen comes to the farm on her market days in high spirits, and equally vibrant and comfortable-looking flannels that have the rest of us feeling distinctly out of style.

The winding down of the farming season, which I had associated with a slowing down and smoothing out of the general mayhem I’d first seen upon arrival, is nothing of the sort. If anything, the mayhem picks up, and the mischief certainly does the same. It’s inevitable, I suppose, surrounded by tired, frazzled people with a good sense of humor, and endless sources of jokes.  

It’s interesting though, to see that even though we are all more tired than we could’ve imagined, we all seem to have more energy than we did in the beginning. It has to do, I think, with an eagerness to see the culmination of a job well done. To stand at our figurative finish line—with bulk orders sold, farmers markets ended, and the remaining animals on the farm fortified for winter—and say to ourselves, look there; the products of another season well done.

The ending of the farm season also represents in my mind, a time for self-reflection. Just like finals week at the end of each semester, it isn’t always the happiest of times, but it does give us time to think back on what we accomplished, what we could’ve done better, and how we want to change. It’s like beginning again with a mental blank slate, and that is a cycle in life I think most of us find very appealing, if not necessary.

I feel so incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to be a part of a lifestyle that is so linked to the seasons changes, that with the ending of each one, I am forced to pause, readjust, reevaluate, and begin anew. In doing so, I am not only better able to meet whatever challenges might come, but also to appreciate the wonderful things about each moment in my life.

Emma Parish
Emma Parish


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