Thanksgiving Week on the Farm

Outside the kitchen window at Goose Hill is a blur of whites and grays, ending on the far side of the pond in near-black due to the shade of the pine trees reflected in already dark water. The first morning, looking out at the snowy hill down to the pond, we drank apple cider from the apple trees that grow in the fields closest to the house. Tomorrow morning, we will use the farm’s applies to bake a Thanksgiving pie.

We trudged through the snowy woods to investigate the year-old maple project, lines of light blue tubing crossing down the hill connecting the maples that we helped mark and count while the decision to launch this new business was being considered. The beech trees have been felled since we were here last, opening the path to the sky, the trunks and logs on the forest floor setting the agenda for next summer’s trip here.

We toured the maple shack where it gets processed and bought a case of real maple syrup made from the farm’s own trees. Good Christmas gifts for our friends and teachers back home who will nevermore be content with Aunt Jemima.

Yesterday, we moved a pile of rocks dumped at the edge of the road to build a Cotswald-ish wall along the shed, where tractors and ATVs sleep. Then together, the seven of us gathered – and counted – more than 5,000 black walnuts scattered across the path between the house and the barn. Grandpa promised 5 cents for every 20 walnuts, and a quick online search informed us that 100 pounds of hulled walnuts get you $15, maybe enough to pay the gas to the hulling station. So, the kids made trips back and forth in the ATV to dump them in the ravine, where they will fatten happy squirrels.

The boys have gone sledding, played football in the snow, used trees and the big red barn’s roof as targets for their snowballs.

And yet, the week feels sleepy. Nourishing in some way even before we carve the Thanksgiving bird, knowing that the comical turkeys peering in the window while we feasted last year have gone wild in the woods.

A Mother’s Springtime Prayer

It’s the era of three-sport seasons, tournaments that take up entire weekends, late night games on school nights.

So, we check the weather.

It’s Spring with its unpredictable weather. Snow flurries on cherry blossoms. Cold breezes that chill the air over open fields as soon as the sun sets.

So, we check the weather. Again.

It’s racing across town to pick up one child at soccer. Did you finish your homework?! Another at lacrosse. You volunteered enchiladas for your Spanish fiesta?!

It’s Chick-fil-A in the car before the next event. Then, one last time, we check the weather…

…and pray for rain…

… or a flash of lightening guaranteed to keep us home.

A Summertime Social Studies Review

It is ninety degrees. When the ATVs are at rest, you can hear a hawk overhead, a deer or raccoon or fox rustling in the brush, the hum of western New York’s seasonal flies. At the top of the hill sits a white farmhouse next to an old red barn and a new shed that houses tractors, mowers and ATVs. The apple trees are failing to put forth last year’s abundance, but the blueberry bushes are showing off plump purple splendor in preparation for U Pick Free days. The hay is being harvested for the second time this year, and it is only July, promising a third cutting. And the smell of a burn pile tended by Grandpa drifts across the new north field, mingling with the scent of freshly mowed grass.

Next to the barn is a coop for the chickens, and a fleet of baby turkeys being raised to replace their wild cousins who mysteriously disappeared over the winter. They share the coop with seven motherless ducklings, who need to be coaxed to the pond at the bottom of the hill, where they merely dip their webbed feet before high-tailing it back to the safety of their coop, stumbling over eachother’s bodies in the short race uphill.

Three boys cool off in the pond. They play a war game with the goal of knocking each brother off his raft. The middle brother – inventor of games and pied-piper of fun – stands precariously rocking on a hot pink raft and yells, “This is Athens!” before collapsing off the side.

His brothers laugh, but they are not yet drawn in. He clambers back to his standing position. “This is Corinth!” Again, he splashes to his presumed death laughing in the face of a soldier’s fate.

Then again, “This is Thermopylae! We are the Greek city-states!”

His older brother, lying lazily in a tube, thoroughly un-warlike until now, raises his fist in a call to arms, “We are the Mycenaeans!”

And the little guy, not to be bested, thrashing arms and legs in a rapid paddle toward his brothers, yells, “This is Olympus! The immortal gods will destroy you all!”

Ancient battles reenacted in a pond. The birds and flies – even the breeze whispering through the maples – fall silent awaiting war’s end.

Tell Me a Story

“Do you have any stories?”

I was already dozing off when my guys piled onto the bed for back scratches.

“You mean once upon a time stories?”

“Or about you as a kid. Like what you did in the summer.”

We woke up early every morning and walked the half-block to swim practice. Sometimes a big group of us – age eight to eighteen, boys and girls – headed together to Montgomery Donuts after practice. Then back to the pool. We raced home for a quick lunch or the older kids would do a McDonalds run, and the clubhouse porch smelled of French fries for the rest of the day.

When it rained we stayed on the porch, counting the seconds between lightning and thunder, and played ping-pong and Uno. Sometimes the coaches caught us still there and dragged us into afternoon practice at 4:00. Then after dinner, back to the pool until after the lights came on under water. Or our friends gathered outside our house and play kick-the-can or capture-the-flag or ball tag.

We didn’t do camps. Every day was the same. Except for Tuesdays and Thursdays. Those were swim meets. They were at night, and all of our friends and their families went to get pizza together after – win or lose.

And every Sunday, our families met at the pool for dinner with big coolers of drinks and potato salad, hot dogs and burgers. And occasionally, if we were lucky, the Dads belly-flopped into the pool and threw their children in big, wiggling, screaming splashes.

My sisters and I did everything together.

“…like you guys.”

“That sounds awesome, mom.”

Winter Blues

There are ski people and snow shovelers.

Ski people are not necessarily skiers. They are merely people who get giddy over snow. They love unpacking their winter gear and pulling on a big, comfy sweater. Their skin still glows despite the dry air that leaves snow shovelers looking twice their age. They celebrate snow days with a big sledding adventure and steaming mugs of hot cocoa. And in Colorado, they are on the slopes for the first run of the day – whooping it up and smiling ear to ear.

I am a snow shoveler. Snow means only that I have to wake up early to dig us out. My mood plummets the day the pool closes from the mere anticipation of the coming cold. Wool makes me itch. My skin cracks. Long walks move from sunny trails to the basement treadmill. The kids get stir crazy. The dog’s wet paws track prints all over our wood floors. And smiling freezes my front teeth.

I wish I could be a ski person. I am surrounded by them. You would hope that their enthusiasm and rosy-cheeked celebration of winter would rub off. But every morning, the snow shoveler in me wakes up wishing it were 80 degrees and I were cheering on the kids at a swim meet, golf tournament or baseball game.

…and it’s only December.