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Identifying the Season: A Farmer’s Musings

Its spring right?! I think so, the month and calendar tell me so but what my window shows me is less convincing. It seems to be harder and harder to define the lines between seasons. With a cold start to winter followed by above average and lengthy thaws in January and February coupled with a recent snow and ice storm in April, one can make all kinds of sarcastic comments about the emotional or mental state of Mother Nature.

Farmers are always at the mercy of the our shared ‘Mother’ and for the most part, this stubborn crowd never gets too assured of anything until crops have been harvested and animals have been moved to their rightful yard/barn/home. There are no guarantees of what each season will look like no matter how carefully we comb the farmers Almanac or study the trending weather patterns as they swoop across this great country.

But farmers still have a knack for marking the turn of the seasons that depend less on a date or month but more on an activity that marks the shift from one to the other. No matter the weather outside, there is a move towards spring when there are plant trays in our windows and wispy seedlings reaching ever upwards. The harvest of the last carrot in late Fall means that the deep frost and blanket of snow is now welcome to sink over your gardens.

So in all of this slush, and dripping ice and snow I find myself on the brink of ‘woodchips in the socks’ season. This is the season of brooding chicks and it means that we are about to welcome our first flock to our farm. From now until mid July when we finish our last flock in the brooder, I will consistently have woodchips in every pair of socks and footwear I own. Wood chips will fling off laundry drying on the line and there will be a constant collection of shavings left on the doormat where outdoor shoes are removed.

But why you ask? What happens in the brooder that allows for such a problem to exist? Let me explain a little. One stipulation of raising chicken in the Artisanal Program through Chicken Farmers of Ontario (CFO) requires that we change our footwear each time we enter the space housing a flock of birds. This means that for me to feed, water and apply fresh bedding (aka shavings) I must step out of my regular boots into a set of “clean” shoes that are worn in and around the chickens, and we need a fresh pair for each flock on the property. This change can sometime be tedious and tricky if you are also carrying buckets or feed bags, so we use crocks – or at least the dollar store version of them. We have learned that if we buy a big enough pair then both Jarod and I can share the same shoes and that they are easy to slip on and off as we enter and exit. But herein lies our issue. Though they are highly convenient, crocks are not so great at keeping out unwanted items and thus the woodchip dispersion begins. But as I sit here considering the dawn of ‘woodchips in the socks’ season and my annoyance with it I am reminded that like each season it passes and not always for something better. If my memory serves me correctly, this season is followed closely by ‘flung chicken poo in the shoe’ season, and that makes wood chips seem not so bad.

So rain or snow, sunshine or clouds, I guess we will just take the season as it comes and try not get too worked up about what we expected and just enjoy the one we have while it’s here because, after all, Mother knows best.