I was lamenting with some other farming friends recently the sight of our respective homes these days, feeling a little self-conscious about the state of things when I take a step back and look around here. A beautiful, idyllic and picturesque homestead, it is not right now. The melting snow, and puddles of mud bring a raw realness to the doorstep that is only found this time of year. Literally to the doorstep, as one is lucky to make it from car to stoop without getting stuck and losing a boot in the gloriously deep and slippery swirl that is the combination of turkey poo and mud that make up the dooryard landscape right now. The snow has dwindled just enough so that we can see all those farm and house projects we had to abandon in the fall due to lack of time and priority and forgetfulness, but it has not dwindled or thawed enough so that we can really do anything about those things. The rusted out lawnmower, that should have been retired long before it even began its life with us, but most certainly will not make it another year - sits beside the woodshed with flattened tires deep in the mud. It became a roosting spot for one lone chicken this winter, and well, appears as such. At each feeding spot in our pastures, we find grain buckets that for one reason or another, one day or another, one child or another, were not brought back into the barn and therefore spent a winter under the snow. The tall piles of snow created by our plow to keep the drive clear are beginning to break down to just the pile of gravel that we'll need to rake out of the grass. The hammock I forgot to bring in still rests on its stand, probably a little worse for the wear for having spent a winter in the elements. Outside my garden shed, a few forgotten pots have been carried around and broken by the pigs, and lie mixed in with the citrus rinds they ignore in their slop bucket. These things, this time of year, we can see, but not do much about quite yet. "Beauty" on the farm, is a subjective word these days. "Pretty" is nowhere to be found.
And yet. And yet, there's a blessed flip side to all of that. All of that rawness and all of that waiting that this time of year forces us to endure. Because in that waiting, is all the hope in the world about what comes next. Sure, we'll get out there and clean all of that up - just as soon as we can. That sap is runing and by the time we're done syruping, the snow will be nearly gone. And then the seeds will go in the ground, and the sheep will be sheared, and I'll plant that row of elderberries and winterberries, more apple trees will be added to the orchard, and that treehouse will get its walls and a roof, and maybe this year the yurt will go up and the cow shed will happen? Well, why not think so - in the bleak, cold, muddy, messy days of late winter, looking at the open hopeful seasons ahead of us, there is all the reason to dream, plan and believe that all of those things will happen. That anything can happen.
It might not be immediately apparent when you're slogging through the mud and everything is caked in ice, but without a doubt there's beauty to be found here now too.