The Cruelest Month

Lest you think our life here on the farm is idyllic…..

T. S. Eliot declared April the cruelest month.  I disagree wholeheartedly.  March is the cruelest.  March is the month that is just too much for me.

In March, it is no longer winter, but certainly not yet spring.  It is a depressing chasm in between the frozen and the living.  There are just enough true spring moments to excite and panic the gardener with the promise of what is coming and the knowledge of the immense amount of work to be done.  Small Wonder Farm becomes a soggy debris field.  The blanket of white retreats and the melt and the rain turn the farm to mush.  Sometimes, it is the kind of mud that wants to keep your boot, and at other times it is a crusted, frozen moonscape of churned earth and composting plant matter.  The charms of winter are gone–no more pristine white blankets, no more crisp cold starry nights where you can hear your boot crunch in the snow, and no more feeling of time to spare.  The best of winter is in the long weekend feel of it when I can dig in to all the projects I can never get to in the height of growing season, make slowly simmered stews and cuddle Lily under a quilt.  In March, we have no more hoar-frost encrusted trees or any green vistas to rest our eyes on. The barn becomes a mucky, smelly disaster to be avoided if at all possible.

There are other reasons I dread March.  Taxes.  The slowest restaurant month.  Cabin fever at an all time high.  55 one day, 22 the next. During the cold, cold of winter we become sloppy–leaving softener salt on the porch, the generator there too in case we will need it.  Everything melts and I feel like we live in a junkyard.

I especially hate this March.  My Pepita is getting ready to leave us.  She has been going downhill for weeks now and we are within days of calling an end to it now.  I should not say we, it is I who will make the decision, I who will call the vet, and I who will hold her for the last time.  In my experience, men do not have the stomach for such things.  I really wanted her to have a last snooze under a warm sun.  She loves to sleep that way on her back–belly up to the warming rays, but I know that is not going to happen.  So,  I am spending as much of my weekend as I can holding her, thanking her, massaging her spent body, feeding her steak and carrots,. and letting her sleep on my lap.  I feel the heavy weight of knowing she spent 10 of her years devoted to me in every way.  I don’t feel worthy of that right now.  One of the greatest small wonders of this farm and this family is a homely little mutt named pumpkin seed who devoted herself to us with uncommon ferocity.

A MUCH younger Paco and Pepita. Circa 2002