Winter on the Farm

by Heather Hamilton

When winter arrives, with its lush monochrome nets cast over the sky, there is stillness and waiting between our garden rows. I see little change save the expanding cabbage heads, with their round and ruffled leaves a dusty green blended smoothly with purple; cauliflower passing through the chill before white flower heads will form; and garlic, planted as fall came in full force, braving green shoots through thick mulch, like solitary blades of grass. These transformations are small, noticed only in the gradual shift from week to week, month to month.

… the reactions below the ground are nothing but change…

Hidden in a different way, the reactions below ground are nothing but change, as layers of material transform. We’ve piled the garden rows with manure, leaves, and rough burlap, summoning worms and beetles and microorganisms we will never see to churn and devour, tiny bite by tiny bite, producing rich soil. This quiet, with the gardens covered and resting, brings the restoration of nutrients. Below a tired, brown scene is an invisible reclamation and dance, warmth and life shielded from the sharp edges of winter.

Our own flurry of activity resumes inside: dreaming of the next season of growth. Each day in the frost and foggy gloom, the tight drafts of light cutting through rain-logged air, is for maps and lists and reflection. We sketch the garden into its next incarnation: the flowers that will blush against the muzzy greens of the estuary; the peas that will climb as if to reach clouds; the tomatoes that will fill a palm, red and heavy with summer’s heat.

We sketch the garden into its next incarnation…

I wander the farm to catch sight of its wintery iterations, the cold spiraling in my lungs, my eyes reaching to receive the last tender rays of sun before nightfall, my feet resting as surely as the garlic bulbs press roots in sodden soil, waiting. I can pause too; and as I do, I spread and heal. Winter is a gathering, dreaming, a forward motion so slight you might miss it. I lean down and feel: below my hands a hidden realm replenishes, waiting to be made visible in the bloom of spring.