Tuesday, March 6:

It begins to be light about six-thirty these mornings, so that while it is too dark to see the milker as he makes his way down to the big barn for the morning milking, anyone at the kitchen window can see him when he comes back up the hill, bucket in hand, accompanied by the younger two rat terriers.  The cowbell on the back door clangs loudly enough that, if the morning chore person has overslept, he will now spring out of bed with whatever exclamation is characteristic of him – only he’s a her – and streak downstairs to get yesterday’s milk skimmed and out of the way of the milker.

The air was cold and the ground was frozen when we headed up the hill for mass, but what sky can be seen from our hollow was completely clear except for a fishscale haze at the zenith.  The first moments of sunlight flooded through the neck of the hollow like a tide and washed the west hill.  Despite the cold, something in the air was expanded, as though, breathing it, one were liable to go up like a balloon, and a wren in the sweet cherry tree sounded like spring.  At seven-twenty the sun shone the color of a Charantais melon through the clerestory windows of the chapel of the Sisters of Penance of the Sorrowful Mother onto the dead face on the Twelfth station; at seven-twenty-two a grey stratospheric haze extended over the chapel like half of a mollusk shell over a rosy pearl, and by seven-thirty the shell had closed, and the chapel, and the bare hill from which it overlooks three states, was an island in a muted sea.

We thought perhaps we wouldn’t work outdoors today.

At two, however, we ventured out bundled in our fashionable farming clothes – muck boots, oversized coat once belonging to Grandpa, hat, and lined gloves – and took a wheelbarrow down to the garden to investigate the compost bins.  Some good discoveries were made, and when the sun emerged from its cotton-wool wrapping about three-thirty, our winter wear was on the bench in the yard and we were working six loads of compost into the top layer of soil in raised bed number two, the long one by the house.  Before the boys had hamburgers grilled for dinner we had five hoops over the bed and a layer of plastic over that.  The soil there will warm over the next few days, and next week, after the butchering marathon of this weekend is past, we’ll plant it to spinach, lettuce, carrots and beets.  The greens in the hoop house are almost all gone, and we will be wanting a change from cabbage by the time the spring plantings are big enough to thin.

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