Three Buttons

img_4336I awoke early this morning, thrust groggily into the blue-black of pre-dawn by the dog’s restless pacing, the outside air cold as it’s been in many weeks. Later, after I’d milked and breakfasted, after the light had come, with Penny bustling over a simmering pot of pears from our top-secret roadside gleaning tree and the boys just emerging from their respective cocoons of sleep, I took the tractor to the other end of our property to retrieve a round bale for the cows. My breath streamed in the air, and I steered with one gloveless hand, the other tucked into the protective fold of my old wool jacket, the one that’s been missing three of its six buttons for at least four years now. For a time I thought I’d get around to sewing on some new fasteners, but it never happened, and now three seems the right number, anyway. I’m already anticipating getting by with two.

The foliage is spectacular, at peak or close enough to it, and since we’ve yet to have much wind or rain the trees have lost relatively few of their leaves. Right this very moment, the hardwood-forested hill across the mountain road is lit by a shaft of sunlight emerging from an otherwise socked-in sky, all yellows, oranges, reds, and golds. It’s an impressive sight, even for one born to this state, with more than four decades worth of Vermont autumns in his blood.

The cold always carries with it a certain urgency. I feel it now. There is still much to do before winter proper: Piles of softwood logs to be extracted and hauled, downed firewood logs to be skidded and bucked (the splitting is best saved for the colder months, when the moisture contained within the wood is frozen to expansive hardness, and the heat generated by the repeated swinging of the maul is a welcome respite rather than a burden to be borne), gardens to be put to bed, still a fat pig to leave this world, more piglets to procure. A living room window to be repositioned, one of those tasks I’m likely to put off until the day before first snow and maybe even longer.

Maybe even until a day so cold I’ll work bundled in that old woolen jacket, cursing how the wind blows through the openings where those three buttons used to be.



4 thoughts on “Three Buttons”

  1. Always thought it was a little nutty of you, spitting wood in a frozen Vermont winter, though you do have that penchant for testing your limits. Now I know. Or maybe it’s both?? We finally bought a splitter. It was enough that my husband agreed to heat with wood, but the purchase of a new toy (er, tool) was helpful in putting the whole idea into perspective. Now he loves it, of course.

  2. Awww….look at that sweet face. It’s the eyes, I think. Big and sweet. There really is nothing like looking straight into an animal’s eyes. Much easier to do than with human eyes, which can be overwhelming and sometimes uncomfortable. I should be getting the garlic beds ready, but fuck it I’m just going to stare at this cow.

  3. I know homesteading has secret difficulties. Well, maybe not so secret. You’re pretty darn honest. And I’ve been there, too, so I know it first hand. But today your description of the beauty of the world has me envious of your life. I took a part time day job to help make ends meet and I’m really resenting it right now. I’ll get over it in a minute because I know the job is serving my greater purpose.

    I have a jacket like that but I sewed the buttons. I should write an ode to that jacket.

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