November 6, 2011

The Race Against Winter

This weekend, we got our first snow. And then, we turned back the clocks.

Our race against winter has ended.

I'm not sure we lost, but it certainly doesn't feel like we won, either. I'm guessing it never does.

The last two months have been an impossible scramble to put up as much food as possible, glean as much as we can, harvest, market, disk, plow, pull and prep and then just the frost imps -- as my little Goddaughter calls them -- to do their work.

We harvested our last crops last week and then we *took off,* on a big trip to see Jacob's brother get hitched. As we drove away from the farm -- the first time since February we'd left it for more than a weekend -- the transition was palpable.

Because so much of what we do is determined by season, by sun and snow and frost and daylight we are forced to completely re-think our daily lives each time we turn from summer to fall, from fall to winter, winter to spring and spring to summer.

This particular transition, from busy summer to busy fall to slow, cold winter can be excruciating.

It happens so gradually, and yet so suddenly.

The last deliveries are made, the last harvest is in, the last jar of tomatoes is on the pantry shelf and even the last of the frosty beets are dug.

The farm drifts to sleep, leaving us to wonder now what should we do?

Then, we spend then next two weeks trying to shake the feeling that we forgot something. Jacob paces around the house and I try to assuage his concerns, all the while know that we're both dealing with a constant ringing in our heads of: There must be something that needs to be done right *now.*

But there isn't.

I'm so glad we spent that first week of transition traveling. We had a lot of time to talk about the season -- what we did right and what we did wrong, and we had time to reconnect -- even *gasp* talk about topics other than the farm.

And, we also got our hearts totally warmed, twice, by two spectacular accolades this last week -- accolades that make us feel inspired, humbled and honored.

First was the Sustainable Agriculture Award from AERO - the Alternative Energy Resources Organization. It's hard to describe what AERO is sometimes. It's not hard to describe what the organization does.You see their work all over, whether you know it or not, from community-based weatherization projects to the Abundant Montana local food directory, to farm and energy tours to specialized training for farmers and ranchers. But, what AERO is is harder to describe.

Both Jacob and I have served on the board. I'm on the board now, as a matter of fact, and I joined purely because I wanted to have these people in my life and in my work. I wrote and recorded a commentary on just this subject for Montana Public Radio (read the piece here.)

It's an organization that flies under the radar a little bit, which I really like. It's not flashy and press-conferency (and I saw a lot of those in my days as a journalist) and it's not combative or negative. It's all about positivity and solutions and support for good work. And, because of that, it attracts a unique membership. The group is intimate and yet welcoming and made up of passionate, selfless, caring, creative and truly, some of the most courageous and innovative people in the state.

That's a long way of saying, we were so, incredibly honored to get that award, and presented by two of our best friends no less. We drove away from the annual meeting with our framed award and it took both of us at least 50 miles to stop talking about how we felt we didn't deserve it. But goodness, the fact that those people in that room, people we respect so much, thought we did deserve it, will keep us inspired and working for years.

Thank you.

Then, we were featured by Farm Aid, another great organization working on behalf of family farmers, as "Farmer Heros" -- along side some pretty amazing people (Will Allen, MacArthur genius). You can read the profile here.

Talk about putting a (turkey) feather in your hat.

Meanwhile, from the adventures of Willa the farm kid, here's a Public Service Announcement on being bear aware this fall.

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