On Fire

March 27, 2013 § 14 Comments


Yesterday I hardly even thought to check to see if the sap was running. After all, it wasn’t all that warm, and there was a steady breeze out of the north, a combination that doesn’t typically bode well for a good sap run. But by 2:30, I’d had about enough of listening to myself (this is one of the strange things about writing; it’s sort of like listening to yourself talk all friggin’ day. And even I can take only so much of that), and I needed a diversion. A quiet stroll down to the maples at the far reaches of Melvin’s hayfield seemed like just the ticket.

By gum, those buckets were nearly full. In fact, a few were overflowing, and the sap was running so hard that steady rivulets of sweet water rolled down the bucket sides to drip deep melt holes into the snow below. I humped it back to the house, grabbed the sled and a trio of 5-gallon buckets, and took off back down the field at a trot. It took three trips to complete the gather, and by the end I was down to a tee shirt and feeling that wonderful skin-tightening sensation of the high sun on my winter-white arms and face. Damn but I love that feeling.

Hell, I’ll just say it: I’m fired up. And if I’m fired up, you can only imagine how Penny’s feeling. That woman is a freakin’ inferno this time of year (well, most times of year, to be honest), plotting and planning and gumming up the whole damn kitchen with flats full of soil blocks and the implements of her trade. In fact, right now, in addition to Puck, an orphan lamb with a hurt foot who follows us around in her pathetically plaintive way, our kitchen is home to a split-open 55-gallon barrel full of potting soil, myriad bags of amendments and other potions, and enough seeds to grow enough food to feed an army. Or our boys, whichever eats more (my money’s on Fin and Rye). Not only that, but she’s got a list of tasks so long that I get dizzy just looking at it. “Don’t worry,” she told me this morning, “most of them are quick.” I looked at the list and saw, among other things, “build rocket mass heater,” “build outdoor bread oven,” “build new chicken coop,” “finish sawmill roof,” “finish firewood,” and “plant terrace orchard.” Well. Thank goodness they’re all quick. What will we do with all our free time this summer?

Truth is, not all of these things will happen, or at least, not all of these things will be completed over the next six months, and probably not over the next 12 months, either. We know this, and we know it well, having now passed better than 15 years on this little patch of dirt and grass and trees (oh, and rocks… can’t forget those). But we also know well that there’s a season for everything, and this is the season for indefatigable enthusiasm, even if said enthusiasm goads us into creating an entirely unconquerable list of tasks.

The other truth is, if there ever comes a spring when we don’t feel this enthusiasm, don’t feel the small fire of it in our bellies and our bones, don’t recognize it for the amazing gift it is… well, hell. That’s when I’ll start to really worry.

§ 14 Responses to On Fire

  • We’re fired up too, and I am laughing right out loud at Penny’s list, which is soooo similar to ours. We’ve started calling it our “2 year plan” Hell, it might be more of a 5 yearer… Our sons built a rocket heater prototype in the garage. Soon, they will start working on a “starts” greenhouse for us. (right now we use a friend’s greenhouse a few miles away…not convenient…my windowsills are full and there’s potting soil all over my living room!) They want to use the rocket heater and some sort of a cob arrangement inside the greenhouse. (I bet you are familiar since you’ve been researching the rocket heaters…) using straw and mud as a masonry heat sink formed around the flue pipe, which will extend the length of the greenhouse. The hope is to build one fire and then let the cobb do the rest…Our “boys” are 30 and 27. They’ve already knocked off replacing the rotten boards in the barn floor, and are now working on our new farmstand…This is (hopefully) what you have to look forward to with your two! Very competent do it yourselfers who can create anything from nothing on very little money!

    • Ben Hewitt says:

      Good to hear you’re having fun, too. Can’t wait until our boys start pulling their weight in full… it’s begun, but still in the foundling stages.

      Thanks for reposting on your blog, too.

  • Reblogged this on Mehaffey Farm Blog and commented:
    Had to share this. It encapsulates so much of what we’re about here!

    • Wendy says:

      Thanks for posting the article on your blog about the town in Maine – I’m circulating in our area too. I’m part of the transition town community here. We could do this too!

  • Sue says:

    The goal of modern world is to even out the seasons playing field. We can buy strawberries in February (course they aren’t real strawberries and they had to be trucked from God knows how many distribution centers). wear skimpy clothing when it’s below freezing out, and complain when the roads aren’t cleared of snow and ice so we can drive to Starbucks. But not everything can be controlled. When the sap rises in the trees, it’s rising in all flesh and blood creatures too. Those of us who choose to shun a lot of what this world has to offer welcome the energy after a quiet winter’s hibernation. Thank you for your insightful and inspiring post!

  • Jenn says:

    Oooh, I am familiar with that fire! My list of “quick” tasks grows every year and I am SO, SO ready to get out onto my land and get busy…now, if only the weather and the mud would see it my way and get out of the way!

  • jenny says:

    oh ben, your writing is such a gift. the way you write about your life, family, land…. it is so inspiring. i always leave this space of yours a bit more thoughtful in my day, more open to all the gifts around me that i do often overlook. thank you for your wonderful reminders about all the simple goodness that is right in front of us in this world.

  • Rachel T says:

    Love the fired up-ness of spring, which surely couldn’t come without the long, lolling indoor-fest of winter. yay, seasons!

    • Ben Hewitt says:

      Ain’t that the truth. Every winter, I go through a phase when I can’t imagine how I’ll possibly muster the enthusiasm spring and summer demand. But I suspect it’s precisely that phase that makes it all possible.

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  • Vonnie says:

    Spring is springing over here in NH as well. Still a ways to go, but we’re on our way. My list contains more then I could ever manage to complete on my own, but a new coop is on the short list, I do believe. Sounds as if you’re keeping it all busy there, and planning for a future harvest. Simply put, it’s the best, isn’t it?

  • Jocelyn says:

    Penny’s list sounds like my list. I’m glad to hear that spring fever is as contagious as I thought it was!

  • Don says:

    A “dream” list is stock and trade of living on a homestead. Heck, you had a couple of things on that list that I have on my list. Like a friend of mine says, “It’s only a 45 minute job”. I am soon to be 62 and my lists make that age look like the new 40. Supposed to be in the 50s here tomorrow, yeee haaa…… Retirement, Bah Humbug!

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