Magnetic North: Moonstruck By Spring

Full Moon
Full Moon

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Welcome back to Magnetic North, where the color white still dominates the ground around us, reflecting the sun and moon even as it melts quietly into springtime.

Yes, as we slip-slide up to the first day of spring on the calendar, snow—albeit crusty, collapsing snow—still covers the meadow, all paths to the barn and coop and woodshed and—depending on the daytime high temperature—our deck. Friday, for instance, bunny-tail size flakes fell lazily, coating the cedar decking and railings that I’d finally chopped clean of ice and snow on Thursday.

But, truth be told, I was happy for the whitewash. Mid-March can be pretty ugly around a farmyard. And, with three adult white Chinese geese running around loose—very loose, unfortunately—the corral isn’t the only place one must tippy toe around the yucky stuff.

By and large, the geese are mudding right now. That’s their little rite of spring when the driveway first shows its gravely face and puddles begin to form all along the margins. The two adult geese and their offspring, Gosling, race out each morning to find the best mud wallows.

The taste of gritty water must be super good because the birds can’t seem to ingest enough of it before rubbing their silly heads in the puddles and throwing the brown water over their backs. Body scrubs are big in the bird world too, I guess, especially after a really long winter with no baths.

Dusk finds the soggy but sated trio at the door to the garage, ready for dinner and bed. They are a mess, a muddy mess, to my eyes. But my heart tells me these are three contented critters.

Contentment rules in the coop and barn as well. There, hens are setting new personal bests for egg laying. I count nine on a good day. And from the scruffy necks on my fertile ladies, most of those eggs could yield a new chick, given 28 days under a willing setter. Tempting to a baby chick lover like me.

But, I resist such urges, because I am still harvesting cashmere from the goats and angora from the bunnies. Peaches, my favorite lap bunny can’t seem to stop growing her gorgeous peach-colored fluff. I love it, but not in my food, something any Angora rabbit owner will tell you is inevitable, even if you never bring a bunny inside the house. I am trying to cultivate the attitude of considering my crop of cashmere and angora just another source of fiber in my diet. Or, as a judge for this year’s Westminster Dog Show remarked, “In my house we consider animal hair a condiment.”

For those of you who think me animal obsessed—which I don’t deny—know that I find much more than fur and eggs when I tend my beasties. Day or night reveal all sorts of treasures on the way to coop, barn, rabbitry and garage. The tiny tracks in the snow make me marvel on a forty below night. No roaring wood furnace to keep such an itty, bitty vole warm. And what to eat? Something even ittier?

Then there was the fearless flying squirrel encountered in the coop in January. She found her smorgasbord in the hatchway where I spread lay mash and scratch for the birds and was determined to fill her pouches with corn and grain even if I kept my big old flashlight trained on her pretty face. Those eyes! So huge and shining and trusting. I left the hatch open and left her to eat, returning an hour later to close up.

Speaking of ginormous orbs of light....as I write this piece we are creeping up on the biggest full moon anyone has seen on this earth since March of 1993. This March the perigee moon, so-called, appears on March 19. When I looked up the reason on the Internet, I found it: something about the moon’s orbit and one side being closer to earth than the other side. And, it is not an optical illusion. The moon really is bigger and brighter; brighter by 30 percent, according to NASA, than moons showing their lesser side.

Here on the farm, a full moon of any size while snow still coats the ground is cause for celebration. A moon dance or howl, at the very least. The reflection of heavenly light means I don’t even need a flashlight to see my way around, even inside the coop. And just standing on the path, taking in the beauty of the trees shadows on snow, the old barn’s familiar profile, the lone white pine all the way across the meadow, I long for even more perfection—a bale of straw or log to sit upon, a cup of cocoa to sip and my old sweetheart by my side.

And no, I do NOT mean my dog, Scout!

Here’s hoping you got to see that moon, or can conjure up some sight just as wondrous to warm the cockles of your heart until spring finally arrives.

Airdate: March 22, 2011

Photo courtesy of Kris H. via Flickr.

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