I shuffled around the pine needles that filled up the farm yard. Everyone’s gone but me, they’ve gone north and south out of Hempstead and I asked to stay to finish up a few things.
The persistent wind out of the south, persistent for the last few weeks as la Nina has brought her changes to the Gulf Coast climate, is driving me crazy. My feet kick up a cloud of dust that flies away to the next yard. Everything is movement around me. It’s restless movement, like a hyper child who can’t stop. The leaves on my fruit trees point north rather than up and I wonder for the hundredth time if they are going to stay that way. I don’t want my trees to look like windswept plains trees, those steeled to the wind by offering no branches that face into the prevailing winds, just bent backwards ones, trailing tendrils of woody bark and limb, escaping the wind. Those trees look desperate for life, not peaceful, graceful boughs of trees in an Eden. The farm is my Eden. Go away la Nina.
I wonder for a moment if my Hell, if I wasn’t a believer, would be a constant, ferocious, nagging wind.
La Nina, that naughty girl, brought drought with her too, at least for those of us on the Texas Gulf Coast and along with her wind, it too is driving me crazy. The sky has been mostly cloudless for a month and whatever moisture has fallen from the sky, the wind has swept away before thirsty trees and plants could grab it. We have pumped from 300 feet underground, life sustaining water to everything that was important to us. What our hoses couldn’t reach has withered. The pastures are brittle with panicles of grass, seeding too early and the garden with its sandy loam just isn’t going to make my beautiful tomatoes like it did last year.
I pull the hose to the cherry tree, a young thing in my ground only since February, and as her leaves droop and crinkle to the north, I tell myself once more, I hate this wind.
I hate that I can do nothing about it except watch it dry up everything.
Moving towards the tackroom, I rake my hand through hair cemented in fine particles of sand from the yard. “This wind makes me anxious,” I say outloud, admitting to myself there is something wrong in weather being this unsettling to an individual. I move to the tack room and open the door and listen for peeps.
The men of the farm thought it would be a good activity for me to raise little turkey poults from eggs. After watching our rather fat Bourbon Red tom finally get down to his do-the-girls mating weight, it was obvious their spring eggs would be fertile.
In an eggshell, it’s been a beautiful disaster.
Humidity right, temperature right, I have diligently marked the eggs, and placed them in their Styrofoam nest with the tilting tray. A tilting tray is necessary, as birds know just how to nurture the turning of their eggs to promote subsequent embryology. The tilting tray simulated momma’s care. Looking through the tough shells of turkey eggs, we candled them to see which were progressing, the wind whistling through the tack room, culling the ones that failed. At each 28 day mark, I diligently waited and watched, as each on his or her own schedule, began its pippin.
Five never made it out of their pippin shell, three chilled and died, five I cooked in their shells under a too hot heat lamp and two broke their legs in the tilter before I could rescue them.
Standing there in the dark with feed smell around me, I am anxious with these turkey children of mine. I don’t want any more to die. I lift up the top and there, in a crevice, lies the latest one. I’ve had enough experience to know where this is going.
I wonder how you perform euthanasia on a turkey poult and as I cradle her in the palm of my hand, her little whispy body ugly and damp, I think about life.
Life on a farm holds no illusions. There is no running from the truth that nature insists you recognize and accept. You can’t stop the wind and you can’t make rain drip from the sky and lots of stuff never make it.
What you do is bury the dead, hope for the new, and rely that the cycle keeps going, because it does.
I move to stand, facing the wind and south, my fine crusted hair out of my eyes and behind me in whisps. The pines stand tall around me, swaying in concert with strong gusts. Twenty humming birds argue around my feeders and somewhere down deep in the pasture I am looking out at are roots of grass and flower, eking their living, biding time, till la Nina gives way to el Niño and rain comes again.
Me to God: I abide with you and in you, knowing that this is life and this is the plan, grateful that you, can teach me how to accept and hunker down, knowing life lasts, makes me like a plains tree, resilient against the wind, ready and faithful, bowed but unbroken, loving you.