Volume 2, Issue 4 (Spring/Hope)

Spring Equinox 2022

This is the issue of Farmer-ish that almost didn’t happen. I am so glad it did. 

For a variety of reasons, January was a hard month mentally. Recent winters here in Maine had been fairly mild, at least by Maine standards. This one wasn’t. I don’t mind the snow. It’s beautiful, but the ice wears on me. I fell in a fairly serious way a few years ago, and the event caused me some trauma. Now, the ice brings anxiety, and, of course, when you have animals to care for, you can’t just stay inside and avoid the ice. 

photo credit: Crystal Sands

I have also discovered that my empathy for our animals leads to mental struggles for me in the long winter months. We have a large coop for our chickens and a warm, sturdy house for our ducks, but the snow and ice lock them down to a great extent. Our chickens have a fenced ¾ of an acre with trees and bushes and so many things to explore in the Spring, Summer, and Fall. In the winter they must be stoic. I can see the weariness in their faces by February. My heart goes out to them, maybe too much, but it is who I am. And I long for more joyful days for both the chickens and ducks. Thankfully, with the first day of spring, those days are now upon us–and them.

But, it was also the pandemic. COVID was surging here in New England all winter. The National Guard had to be called in to help at our local hospital.

I was so down that I didn’t know if I had a Spring issue in me, as so much of the work happens during the winter, but thanks to the wisdom and support of the volunteer advisory board at Farmer-ish, I dug deep and wrote the call for submissions. I asked for hope. 

Hope is, indeed, what I found, and I didn’t know when I wrote that call just how important hope was going to be by the time this issue would be published. At the end of a long, cold winter and another season of surging COVID came a war. 

There are no words I can write that would not trivialize the events in the world in recent weeks. Thanks to social media, the truth of war is being broadcast into our homes. Beyond that tragedy and sorrow, there is the reality that a war in the “breadbasket” of Europe and the economic sanctions against Russia are going to change our lives no matter where we live, whether we are attuned to the tragedy in Ukraine right now or not. 

What can we do but hope? Hope so often leads to action, gives us motivation, helps us find our way. When I started reading the submissions for this Spring’s issue, I cried the good cry over and over. Humans are a complicated species, are we not? We are capable of such cruelty yet capable of kindness, of creating beauty, of honoring the good in the world. The writers in this issue have done just that—created beauty and a hope that will surely lift your spirits and add to your personal stores of hope.

We have essays about joyful cows, resilient pear trees, ducks, and listening to the Earth. We also have the first part in a special four-part series on potatoes from the wonderful Lauren Kessler. I am also so excited to offer a beautiful piece from Jj Starwalker on the cycles of our lives. And then we have the poetry. There is a gorgeous poem from Hope Miller about a chicken in a dog crate and my husband shares some words of wisdom in a poem about human endeavors that will surely make you smile at the end. More and more, the poetry submissions at Farmer-ish increase in number and quality. I don’t think there are many places that publish poetry so exclusive to these themes, and I am excited that so many poets are turning to us to share their art with the world. I hope to do something special with Farmer-ish poetry in the near future. 

In the meantime, let’s let hope lead us to action. My son, the cellist, recently landed a spot in a beautiful youth orchestra in our state, but we have a long drive every Tuesday to deliver him to his rehearsals. Right after we exit the highway, there is a church with a giant electronic sign out front. Every week, the sign reads the same letters and nothing else–HOPE–as if it is a simple but important command. So I try to obey.

The tumultuous world we live in just got a lot more tumultuous, and it’s a small world, whether we like it or not. Now is a good time to increase your sustainability, grow your gardening skills, learn how to care for chickens. And, if you are unable to become more self-sufficient due to your circumstances, find yourselves some farmers, keep them close, and support your local food economy as much as you possibly can. And don’t forget to hope.

In This Issue

“Saga of the Spud: Part 1” by Lauren Kessler

“The Yellow Cow” by Sandra Szalinski