The month of December is what would be regarded as a "slow" time on the farm.
That brief window of time between the end of harvest and the beginning of calving season. A time when the cold weather and snow forces us to take a break and simply enjoy our surroundings.
My parents' pond has always been a focal point of our winter fun, but as anyone who has ever had an outdoor rink will tell you, they do not shovel themselves. There were also countless loads of water hauled by my father to flood the pond surface this year as the ice did not freeze solid before the snow arrived, making it very rough.
Simply put, it takes a lot of effort to create these opportunities for fun, but they are more than worth it.
The kids can enjoy the fresh air as the cows pass by and take a moment to watch what the humans are up to now.
As we approach the solstice, our amount of daylight hours are waning. And so to avoid the trap of sitting in our homes all evening (it gets dark by 5 pm), certain arrangements must be made so that we can still enjoy time spent outside.
And this means lights. Not having a tall enough ladder is not an issue for my father, and at 62 years old and still able to shimmy up the loader of a tractor, I think there is something to this whole "committing to play" thing. (some might say it's taking it a little far)
We are able to come and enjoy the long winter evenings, which are often the nicest times of the day as the wind seems to disappear with the setting of the sun, and all is peaceful and quiet.
The cattails that border the pond make a comfortable resting place to sit and take a moment to stare up at the stars, pet the dogs, and catch your breath.
Something else that we've decided to add to the itinerary of "pond fun" this year is curling. After experimenting with old Currier and Ives tins filled with ice, we decided that we needed to get heavier duty if our curling rocks were going to last the holiday season. Thick, solid, oak log kind of heavy.
They didn't start out looking much like curling rocks, but after some bark removal, handles, and spray paint, we have ourselves some curling rocks that will be sure to last and take a beating for many seasons to come.
And with the holiday season fast approaching, this means that lots of company will be making their way to the farm for Christmas, and Christmas at the farm has always meant sleigh rides.
But of course the horses do not get themselves into shape either. So for weeks ahead of time, my parents try to take the team, Rico and Banjo, out for a drive at least once a day to prepare them for the holidays, which, ironically, is the only time of the year these 2 boys "work."
My mother just finished building this cutter herself (she has talents and tenacity that I will never possess) Her goal was to have it ready in time for the holidays and she succeeded. When I asked her how long it took, she couldn't really say, but she enjoyed making it for her family to enjoy, and that this would be the only one she would ever build. I do know that over the past couple of months, it seemed that whenever I went over to her place, she could be found in her workshop, cutting, sanding, or painting.
This is me giving a new coat of paint to the bob sleigh that my dad built and which has been the primary way of offering sleigh rides over the years. These rides are far less civilized to those in the cutter as we were brought up that you toss one another off on the soft trails of snow (or sometimes not so soft trails of hard- packed road)
There are no sides to this sleigh, and it isn't all that high off the ground, so the landings aren't harsh, and as much time is spent laughing and chasing the sleigh as there is riding on it.
So of course the push was on to have this sleigh painted and ready for the holiday season as well, which I am happy to say I succeeded, and will offer more pictures of our sleigh rides on my next blog.
There is much fun to be had in the wide open spaces of our home, and I am fortunate to have had parents that encouraged us to take advantage of all of the opportunities our farm provided, especially in the winter months.
Of course there is much prep that goes into providing these opportunities, as there are cross country ski trails to groom, ponds to clean, and horses to work, but that is also the fun part of it all. We are able to be outside in the fresh air and enjoying physical activity.
I always try to see what we could be enjoying within our home before looking elsewhere. I realize that it is difficult for those who do not live in areas where this is possible, and it is so nice to see people getting out and enjoying Nature in any way that they can.
The other evening as my daughter, Summer, and I were enjoying a ride in our pasture (it warmed considerably that day), I said to her, "Summer, please always remember that this is what life is really about. Connecting with Nature and enjoying simply being here. Always make time for this, make it a part of your life."
She replied, "Yes mom, I will. I know this. Nature is a part of me."
I am grateful to be offering my children the upbringing that I had as a child, and that these lessons, these gifts, are being learned symbiotically. As Summer wisely said, "Nature is a part of me." She will never know any different.
And as far as work and play are concerned, we try to blur the lines as often as we can. After all, our bodies are made to move. We are meant to be outside. Our minds are meant to be clear and our spirits nourished by Nature.
And maybe the old saying is right, "we do not stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing."