Lying Fallow

Row after row of small, uniform white hillocks lay before me. Huffing and puffing from trying to keep up with my cousin Barb, blazing a trail through snow. I was grateful when she paused to wait for the rest to catch up. Donna and Alice quickly joined us. Silently, we examined the plowed field before us. A lock of Donna’s hair escaped her head scarf. The wind played with it, fluttering it this way and that, sometimes across her face, then again up in the air over her head.

Along the fence-line, small clumps of dead yellow quack grass peeked through the snow. Barb broke the silence. She stated, “Crossing this field is the shortest way back to the house, but walking through the plowed field will be hard.” We looked at each other. Did we want to attempt the field, or go the long way around? Alice’s face was red from our march through the snow and wind. Donna shivered, looking thoroughly chilled. Barb stamped her feet and rubbed her mitten-covered hands. I guessed her fingers and toes felt numb from the cold, like mine.

In the silence that followed, I heard the whispery sound of wind blowing snow across the drifts. One by one we volunteered, “I don’t want to walk around this field.” “Hard or not, it’s the fastest way back.” “If we step only on the tops of the furrows, it won’t be so bad.”

We knew, of course, that it was impossible to step only on the tops of the furrows. Our feet would slip off the small, icy humps, making most of our muddy steps feel as if we were climbing a mountain. To make matters worse, we were all carrying ice skates on our shoulders and were already tired from an afternoon of skating on the back-pasture pond.

Outdoor activities December through March can be cold, tiring and sometimes an unhappy ordeal. As children, my cousins and I didn’t mind an occasional trip to the woods or a long walk through snow to a distant pond. But as an adult, unless I have somewhere to go, I prefer to stay indoors.

Christmas preparations and holiday gatherings keep me busy for the first month of winter. The following three months are quiet as the farm lands lying fallow. While resting, the soil gathers the nutrients necessary for the next crop to thrive. Like soil busily gathering micro and macro nutrients for next summer’s crops, I recharge mentally by reading, crafting and spending quiet, low pressure time creatively thinking and planning things to do.

By the time I have put my garden to bed during the fall, I am thoroughly sick of green plants in general and weeds in particular. My memories of hot and dusty afternoons spent working in the dirt, small buzzing bugs tormenting me and sneaky weeds popping up everywhere slowly begin to fade. By the time I have applied yards of colorful Christmas wrapping paper and curly ribbons to dozens of packages, entertained family and friends and then pack all the decorations away again, I begin to yearn to see green, growing plants.

The weather holds me hostage. Instead of being able to jump immediately back into gardening, I am forced to sit quietly during these winter months and think about what I love; how the seeds sprout and grow, how the garden changes from one week to the next, the sweet flavor of homegrown vegetables. Mounting anticipation makes planting my next garden more appealing.

Being realistic, I know that when I finally get into my garden to plant again this spring, I will suffer achy muscles and joints as I battle annoying bugs, heat and dust, just as how Barb, Donna, Alice and I recognized the difficult path home many years ago. We had no illusions about what it takes to walk a snow-covered, plowed field, but we started across anyway.

My feet frequently slid between the ridges of dirt no matter how hard I tried to stay at the top, jumping from one hillock to the next. Clumps of snow and mud clung to my boots, making them increasingly heavy to lift. I struggled along, breaking into a sweat. The field was resting through the winter, but my Christmas vacation from school was hard work!






4 thoughts on “Lying Fallow

  1. About the hardest job I ever had was going through a field of field corn after the harvest and picking up the ears the machines missed. It was cold and tiring and I was about twelve years old.

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