I got up this morning to 45 degrees. Several times when I’ve gotten home from Johnny’s the thermometer we have tacked to a 2×4 in the kitchen has read 42-degrees. When you’re heating exclusively with wood, if you’re away for 12 hours or you make the choice to get a good night’s sleep rather than get up and down all night to tend the fire, sometimes it gets cold. It’s January in Maine, we have 2 feet of snow on the ground, a coat of ice on every walkway, and it’s cold. That’s just the way it is, and that’s no “alternative fact”.
Don’t feel bad for me though. Paul asked me if I wanted him to install the forced hot-air heater that had once been in this old trailer, but I wanted to be able to cut oil out of my life. It feels good to be able to reduce my dependence on the finite resources of oil. To be able to snub the oil industry even the slightest gives me a sense of satisfaction, familiar as I am with that industry’s indifference for the Earth.
This winter Runamuk is heating itself with wood, a renewable resource. Yay!
The only problem with that plan is that with all the chaos of last summer and fall with the #greatfarmmove, we failed to stockpile enough firewood to heat ourselves. In addition, we’re living in an unfinished trailer with 70’s era windows, so the heat is hard to keep.
We’ve got a small stack of firewood that Paul had on hand, and we’ve made several forays into the woods for more, but we’re using it sparingly. Paul monitors the weather reports and some nights, if it’s not going to be super cold, and if my kids are at their fathers’, we may let the fire die and just accept the fact that we’ll have to start a fire when we get up. In the morning you get up and get dressed as quickly as you can, start the coffee brewing and put on a coat til the place warms up. It’s January in Maine. That’s the way it is.
I believe it’s ok to suffer a little. It makes you stronger, and yet humble at the same time; a little suffering in life makes you appreciate the easier times and engenders respect and gratitude. This summer we’ll make sure to get our firewood in line for next winter; right now I’m grateful just to have a roof and a place to keep my critters.
January may be cold, snowy, icy, brutal at times, but January is planning season on farms across the country, and that brings fresh hope. I love the start of the new year, when the months ahead are ripe with possibilities. Sitting at the kitchen table pouring over seed catalogs with a fire crackling in the woodstove while snow cascades from the sky outside is a special sort of magic.
Currently Paul and I are both working to pay down our debts and squirrel some money away so that we might farm full-time this summer. We’ve hashed out a plan that allows us to have 10 hives in honey production this year, brings us up to 30 production hives by the end of next year and 50 in 2019. To meet this goal I’ll raise my own Queens and overwinter them as nucleus colonies. This is the last year I will buy nucs from another beekeeper. I might buy Queens at some point to increase genetic diversity, but I will no longer buy nucs.
I’m really excited about that.
For customers what that means is─so long as the weather cooperates this summer─we will have honey available come August! For beekeepers who follow our story to learn, that means there are bound to be some new articles about raising your own Queens to look forward to.
I’m no stranger to living in a trailer, this is not my first rodeo. If you’ve never had the privilege, imagine long rectangular box set up off the ground, poorly constructed and ill-equipped for Maine living. Even though Paul has gutted this one, rebuilt the structure with solid lumber and reinforced the floor, the cold still emanates up through the floor and through the windows.
I am making the hard choices to live with less, to live a life in defiance of the system. I choose the Earth over money, over social acceptance, even over myself. I’ll live in this unfinished trailer on a ratty scrap of land if it means I can grow my apiary, be close to nature, and live a life true to my principles.
Farmers are a rugged and determined lot; we persevere and we care. More young people are turning to farming because they are inspired to connect with the land and with their communities. There is a revolution underway; people are waking up to the problems plaguing our societies, to the dilemmas our planet faces. The people want change and it’s getting to the point that they’re willing to take action, to take a stand and BE the change.
My feet are cold and so are my fingers as I type these words. Sleet pelts the window next to me as outside the landscape is coated in ice and snow alternately─another winter storm has descended upon us. I pray you don’t worry for me though; for deep inside me burns a fire that warms my spirit and compels me to keep going.
I am the change I want to see in the world, and you can be too.
A new year awaits us, thanks for following along!