Cold rain gets inside you. Like a virus or an incorrectly fitted thong - it’s going in. Unlike snow, wind, or that lovely petrichor-inducing warm rain - cold rain is a soul sucker. You can have a $500 parka on (I don’t) and a state-of-the-art-heated pickup truck (I don’t) and you’ll still get dragged into the bone chill. That was today in a nutshell - cold rain.
I was running on zero sleep. Sleep has been hard to come by for over a week. It didn’t help that it’s nonstop since Monday morning. Yesterday included herding, catching, and wrestling two sheep into the back of pickup truck for a farmer who was buying some stock from me. It involved much falling down in the mud and we were both out of breath. Getting sheep to walk into a stock trailer isn’t hard. With a dog and some grain, it’s effortless. But this guy had a wooden transport box on the back of a Toyota Tundra - and these sheep were not going to leap up into a mutton coffin of their own free will. So as a team we carried them to the truck and loaded them. You know that scene in Jurassic Park where they are holding the door shut as the raptors slam into it? That was us.
I am purchasing a dairy buck from a neighbor and friend who is moving. He and his wife don’t feel safe here anymore with Trump in office so they are selling stock and leaving the country. We met through this farm and have bartered and work together for years. Being transgendered in rural America doesn’t feel welcome, even in a blue state. We didn’t talk about that. Instead we talked sale details, pickup times, etc and while the conversation was quick and the deal struck easily - it was way more draining than holding back sheep who are trying to escape from plywood.
Feeling low, I took Aya Cash up the mountain for a hike and hunt. I hike, she hunts. But today instead of releasing her right away I sat with her. I found a downed tree overlooking a ravine and I just sat with him. This is another way to hunt together. Sit and watch the forest and wait. I don’t have a cell phone. I didn’t bring my iPod. All I had was her and the cool air and some sunshine. I breathed deeply and took a minute to salve up this week’s burns. She enjoyed the wind in her feathers and a fat mouse saw his end. After an hour I called her back with the lure with a chunk of lamb on it. Getting her back on the glove involved a swipe of talons on my right hand but only drew a little blood. I slid the hood over her head and we walked down the mountain home. A small sacrifice for solace.
Last night the moon was so bright the farm glowed as if it was snowing. Maybe it was the moon that kept me up? It’s been a week of sleeping less then 3 hours a night so I doubt it. Instead of feeling exhausted I just lay there anxious. There is so much going on with winter, the election, family, my work, this farm…
Around 3AM my Kindle beeped to let me know an audiobook I had preordered months ago was available. I lay up listening under the moon. Then moonlight faded into gray and rain. Chores were dealt with earlier than usual, at first light. I listened to the author as I carried hog feed and hay bales. I still had that rush of nervous adrenaline from the night worrying and was partially grateful for it. People call anxiety free cocaine for a reason. I was up and working hard.
Since I couldn’t fall back asleep I plowed through ten clients worth of work. I prepped illustrations for mailing. I corresponded with logo clients and sent changes and emails. I tried my best to catch up with people who requested more information. I almost sold a share of pork. It was the usual punching under water that is self employment. That is not a complaint, for the record.
After morning chores and office work I loaded up some roosters for Common Sense Farm. They do poultry butchering on Tuesdays and for $3 a bird you can drop off any chickens alive and pick them up a few hours later weighed and bagged. I took advantage of this, since I don’t have a chicken plucker or scalded, the $9 to have three fat roosters readied for Freezer Camp seemed like an amazing deal. I didn’t want to waste the trip into town so I got laundry ready, too. By 12PM I had tended the farm, completed work on a dozen projects, did two loads of laundry, and was ready to pick up my chickens.
Back to that cold rain. It was now pouring. The gang at Common Sense was outside under a tarped area of trees in the woods. They had crates of chickens, turkeys, and ducks and were efficiently dispatching and preparing the birds for customers. Mine were almost ready, and I was told I could go wait in the seedling greenhouse. Othniel pointed to a small plastic poly tunnel that had a wooden shack attached to it. Out of the shack’s roof was a small smokestack of a wood stove. It looked like heaven.
Heaven was right. I walked into this small, bright, greenhouse and my mood changed so fast I got emotional whiplash. Outside was cold rain, blood, death, exhaustion, and anxiety. Inside was rows of green seedlings and the embrace of a wood stove so big I could crawl inside it. This was such an upper. The plants were so fat and happy; kale and lettuce starts on tables. In the center of the warm greenhouse was a wooden table with a crock pot of cheesy potatoes and some mugs of tea. This was the break room for the workers at the Poultry station. It was dry and around 65 degrees and I sat next to that stove on a cement block and closed my eyes and listened to the rain. It was like sitting with the hawk in the woods. Quiet and alone. But it had the added kick of being a refuge in a harsh few days. I spent a lot of time trying to take it all in. Appreciating the stove and the seedlings, but also the dirty jackets arranged nicely on makeshift hooks in a row. The used clear-doored mini-fridge that held coffee creamer and half-eaten sandwiches - running off one of the many extension cords. It was a club house. I felt safe, warm and suddenly very very tired. I would have slept in the corner happily if I didn’t have more work waiting at home.
Right now things are tiring. As much as I need to curl up into a ball there is still much to do for winter preparations. I will have a whole winter to curl up between farm chores. I can write in chunky sweaters and hock logos under the covers - but today there was more work to do.
My chickens were done. Othniel let me know as he warmed his hands by the stove. Back out into the rain and home.