Yesterday, Max, my now 9 month old puppy, and I went on a 3 mile walkabout. I know that might not seem like a long distance to a lot of people, but consider this: you're wearing coveralls, heavy jacket and rubber boots. You're walking in 2-6" of black central Alberta mud. Elevation change of about 100'. Over fences. Over running water. Through sloughs.
Needless to say, it was quite a workout, and Max loved it, as you can see by the fact that all of his white fur is slightly muddy. Every so often I find it important to get my boots on and go for a walk. It allows me to get a different perspective of the land than what you get from a truck or tractor seat. At this time of year, the air is still, because there are no leaves on the trees. When you stop walking, all you hear is the silence. This quiet isn't the same as that that appears in the fall. Fall is a silence that is almost oppressive, it weighs on your shoulders, and you can feel it in your breastbone. It is full of the promise of winter storms to come, and long dark nights full of hot cocoa and reading. Spring's silence is full of a completely different promise. It's broken every so often by the chirping of a bird that's just returned from it's winter time holiday, or an abrupt gust of wind that rustles the dried brome grass. It doesn't weigh as heavy, because it is full of anticipation of the summer to come, the vegetables and field crops to get planted and harvested, the cattle to sell, the flowers yet to bloom and the friends to go and visit.
Part of the reason for this walk was to help me clear my mind and think about what story I want to tell for an upcoming project. People often ask me what I do in the winter when I'm not growing and delivering vegetables. My answer is the same as many other farmers, I just switch focus to other ventures. I help with the family feedlot for one, or do some repairs and maintenance on equipment and buildings. I also focus on the next growing season and outline plans, maps, seed orders and list what other input items are needed. I've also started building herb planters and bird houses to help pass the time. Winter is also a time for a lot of farmers to focus on their community and volunteer work. I've been a part of the local land conservation society for three years now, and find being a volunteer to be quite rewarding and, in the case of this story project, a bit of a challenge. When challenged to think of something, going for a walk, or working with plants always helps me work through it, and since yesterday was a glorious day for a walk... a walking I did go.
I'm glad for spring, but a bit worried as well. The runoff hasn't been that big, which usually foretells a dry season to follow. For all the water I crossed, and the sloughs I found, the volume of water is no where near what it has been in the past few years. Many sloughs are empty, and most of the running water is just a trickle. However, our land is seed ready, so all we'll have to do, is put the seeds in the ground and pray for rain. I always find it easier to deal with too much water, than not enough, but I'm learning to not get stressed out over things I can't control!
My internal clock is still not on this daylights savings time schedule, but the wall clock is telling me it's time to go make some lunch. I hope you all find time to go on a walk and find the promising silence of spring.