This story is by our 2nd daughter, Abby. She and her husband Ethan live near Alderspring. Both work here at the ranch while also raising their own pastured pork.
Weather is coming. All of us can feel it. I get up at 7:00 because, even on a Saturday, my 1 ½ year old daughter doesn’t believe in sleeping in. She ordinarily calls, “Mama!” “Dada!” from the other room until one of us comes to get her to snuggle with us. She won’t go back to sleep, though. Her green-hazel eyes (her Dad’s eyes, we’ve yet to have a blue-eyed child) are wide open.
Reluctantly, I pull on cold dirty jeans. It makes more laundry than sense to put on clean jeans every day when you’ll be doing the same outside work. Probably gardening today, on hands and knees, clearing the winter covering of hay from the perennials.
Leaving the one year-old in the living room with a book to read, I step outside to check on the pigs. At 8-10 weeks old, some of them are the size of house cats. A number are at the feeder when I come, and they run away, barking a warning, as soon as they see me. There’s no grass in the paddock now. In a few weeks, there will be enough to graze at the ranch, but for now they are here, in what you might call Piggy Boot Camp.
It’s a medium-sized paddock, with a hard wire-link fence, and a single strand of hotwire on the inside. This is their training ground to get them to respect hot wire before we take them to pasture, where our portable hotwire will be the only thing keeping them in as we move them slowly across the green fields.
On this morning, only a few of them are eating, the rest are nestled, stacked as neatly as Dixie cups into their hay-filled shelter. Even they know that weather is coming.
The last week has been unusual for April. It’ll get as warm as 60 degrees, and the sky is blue and blank. Not a cloud. It’s a mid-summer sky, or a winter one, but not a spring one.
This morning, the air felt different. Cool, heavy, and waiting. A big dark cloud was growing above the mountains behind our house.
This past week, we’d had an earthquake. I was in the house with the girls and Ethan was outside in his leather shop, not more than fifty yards away. At first I thought it was a strong gust of wind, rattling the house, shaking the winter covering of plastic on the door we mean to replace. Then I realized the whole house was moving, the floor rocking like a boat. It was so quiet except for the shaking. Wind is louder.
Ethan burst in the door shortly after the quake, saying, “Did you feel that?” I was still holding a dish towel. My legs were like jello. It’s unsettling when you realize that everything you take for granted shouldn’t be taken for granted at all.
A local friend later told me that her daughter had said, moments before the quake, “Mama, my stomach doesn’t feel well.” This same daughter is a barometer for storms and pressure. Some people feel the weather more strongly than others.
Ethan and I headed back outside this morning to do what our Aussie friends call, “Battening down the hatches”. Before big weather, you go outside and see if there’s anything that can be destroyed or blown away by wind or rain. They have told us tales of pieces of loose tin spinning so fast in an Australian Outback storm that it impaled trees.
In our case, I put some wood under cover to keep it dry and put the salt blocks away. Ethan took a caulk gun down to our grain bin and filled in a few pinprick holes.
Now, I’m going back to baking bread and writing this. Big clouds gather around May Mountain, hiding it from view. It looks like it’s either snowing or raining on the Hat Creek Allottment, it’s hard to tell from here (5 miles as the crow flies). I’m thinking about my grapevines. Thankfully, nothing has budded yet. I’ve planted spinach and I’m debating about covering it to spare it (there could be hail) or letting it harden off and toughen up. If there’s rain, I’d like it uncovered. Rain gives more life to plants than any well water ever could.
I like these storms. Lord knows we need any moisture we can get. There’s a song by the Claire Lynch Band that goes like this,
“Who knows what tomorrow may bring?
Could be the rain of spring?
A discouraging word, a buffalo herd?
Who knows what tomorrow may bring
So say your prayers to the Man Upstairs,
and in the meantime let’s just swing.
We have so little control over the world we live in. We build our houses, plant our trees, and trust that the frost and earthquakes won’t destroy what we’ve built. Sometimes it does. This place, this earth that we call our home, is constantly fluctuating and changing. As people, we can throw up our hands and curse God that it isn’t doing what we want, or we can adapt to it, observe it, and learn from it.